Politics and International Relations

Our Politics and International Relations list engages with today’s global challenges and with political change at domestic and international levels. It includes work from across the subdisciplines and reflects the variety of approaches and methods used in political analysis.

Book highlights include the Bristol Studies in East Asian International Relations and Bristol Studies in International Theory series, and work from prestigious authors such as Andrew Gamble, Andrew Linklater, Laura Shepherd and Keith Dowding.

Our journals in the area are Policy & Politics, ranked 7th of 49 in Public Administration, Global Discourse, the European Journal of Politics and Gender and Global Political Economy.

Politics and International Relations

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Debate on the need for more fairness in academic research collaborations between actors in Africa (or the ‘Global South’, broadly) and counterparts in the Global North has intensified in recent years, while practice-oriented frameworks and efforts to foster more equitable partnerships have proliferated. Important approaches to recognise and undo asymmetries in concrete collaboration arrangements – division of labour, decision making, access to rewards, capacity building – have been identified.

In this provocation we draw on African and other postcolonial, decolonial and feminist scholarship, as well as systems thinking and global science data to argue that such ‘equitable partnerships’ efforts at best sidestep the urgent need for a much more profound rebalancing of the positioning of Africa and ‘Global North’ in the worldwide science and research ecosystem as a whole. We consider why such wider rebalancing is an imperative for both Africa and the global community, propose that research collaborations must be understood as a key entry point for advancing such a systemic shift, and suggest a necessary transformative collaboration mode to this end. We conclude by positing an urgent need to think and act beyond ‘equitable’ partnerships and highlight where responsibilities for action must lie.

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Intentional communities around the world are experimenting with new paradigms for human society, including participatory political practices, cooperative economic arrangements and holistic educational modalities. As such, they are perhaps the most compelling contemporary exercise of utopianism and certainly have something to teach us about attempting to foster positive societal change. This book examines Auroville, the largest, most diverse and long-standing intentional community in the world, internationally recognized for its holistic, progressive and inclusive ideals and practices. Located in Tamil Nadu, South India, Auroville uniquely draws on spiritual ideals to enact a prefigurative utopian practice applicable to all aspects of human society; the author, a scholar native to Auroville, offers an in-depth autoethnographic analysis of how its ideals have been, and continue to be, articulated, embodied and developed in realms as wide-ranging as the community’s political and economic organization, as well as various cultural practices. Responding to critiques that spirituality discourages activism, this work is revelatory of the strategic role and influence of spirituality in inspiring, informing and sustaining prefigurative political practice, while providing an honest analysis of the challenges of direct democracy, as well as prefiguring an alternative form of economic organization within a mainstream capitalist context. It raises important considerations pertaining to the perpetuation of prefigurative experiments, drawn from Auroville’s singular longevity and development trajectory, providing both theoretical and pragmatic insights into how communal utopian practice is enabled, challenged and sustained that are relevant for scholars and activists of prefigurative and utopian experiments alike.

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The chapter outlines the key contribution of the book: an autoethnographic analysis of how communal utopian practice is enabled, challenged and sustained. It presents the overall structure of the book and the distinct theoretical and ethnographic foci of each chapter, distinguishing the research focus of this work from that of intentional community scholarship in general given that the latter tends to be limited to understanding and analysing alternative practices, rather than the processes that give life to these. The chapter introduces the intentional community of Auroville, its founding period and its development, challenges and achievements, and presents the community’s endemic understandings and practices of research. It discusses the author’s positionality as a native scholar, her autoethnographic research methods and how these are uniquely leveraged to offer a rich analysis of the process of engaging in utopian practice in an intentional community context.

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Rates of anxiety have been steadily increasing over the past 20 years, prompting commentators to warn that we are in the throes of a global mental health crisis that is ruining well-being, threatening lives and damaging the economy. By highlighting how a person’s mental health, while nuanced and distinct, is always situated in a larger socio-emotional context or ‘structure of feeling’, this article argues that the issue of rising anxiety is a direct consequence of a biomedical model of treatment and care beholden to a neoliberal economic system that objectifies and isolates people. Through a framework termed ‘liberation health modelling’, it explores the progressive potential of ‘anxious solidarities’ as a way to reframe the problem of anxiety by connecting personal struggles to wider social and economic injustices. At a time when it is becoming impossible to deny the collective and widespread nature of people’s anxieties, the point of anxious solidarity is not simply to recount pain and suffering but to ‘make sense’ of it in relation to overarching structures of social oppression – calling into question the status quo in solidarity with other subjugated groups. Since struggles with anxiety have the advantage of being familiar to most, anyone can be a potential provocateur so long as they disavow an entirely personalised framing of their mental health.

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This chapter revisits key findings and concepts that emerge from this work, and their relevance for the development of alternative societies in general. One is that of spiritually prefigurative utopianism: that a spiritual quest can underly, strategically articulate and sustain an evolving utopian project that engages with the challenges of human society. Another is that of prefigurative utopian practice: that utopianism can be engaged with as an evolutionary process, rather than as an attempt to realize a predetermined blueprint, and that this can be enacted by both spiritual or a-spiritual groups. In view of Auroville’s unique trajectory of prefigurative institutionalization, the chapter posits that such institutionalization may be key to the perpetuation of prefigurative projects.

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The chapter contextualizes and examines the Auroville community within various prevalent frameworks and possible definitions – those of an intentional community or ecovillage, utopian community or ashram, and government project or neocolonial enclave – discussing and drawing parallels with other contemporary or historical examples of these to best situate and understand the nature of this particular experiment. In so doing, it highlights Auroville’s unique success as the largest, most diverse and among the longest-standing intentional communities in the world, and how it is distinct from historical utopian communities given its experimental ethos and absence of a predetermined societal blueprint. While acknowledging its roots in the Indian ashram tradition and the presence of a spiritual founding figure, the chapter distinguishes Auroville from an ashram or other forms of guru-centric organizations and communities on the basis of it being a self-governed collective eschewing religious rites or doctrines. The role of the Indian government in the development of the project is also discussed, alongside the critique that Auroville is a neocolonial enclave. The chapter concludes by outlining the original theoretical lens of (spiritually) prefigurative utopianism that serves to analyse and understand Auroville’s praxis in this work.

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Intentional communities around the world are experimenting with new paradigms for human society, including participatory political practices, cooperative economic arrangements and holistic educational modalities. As such, they are perhaps the most compelling contemporary exercise of utopianism and certainly have something to teach us about attempting to foster positive societal change. This book examines Auroville, the largest, most diverse and long-standing intentional community in the world, internationally recognized for its holistic, progressive and inclusive ideals and practices. Located in Tamil Nadu, South India, Auroville uniquely draws on spiritual ideals to enact a prefigurative utopian practice applicable to all aspects of human society; the author, a scholar native to Auroville, offers an in-depth autoethnographic analysis of how its ideals have been, and continue to be, articulated, embodied and developed in realms as wide-ranging as the community’s political and economic organization, as well as various cultural practices. Responding to critiques that spirituality discourages activism, this work is revelatory of the strategic role and influence of spirituality in inspiring, informing and sustaining prefigurative political practice, while providing an honest analysis of the challenges of direct democracy, as well as prefiguring an alternative form of economic organization within a mainstream capitalist context. It raises important considerations pertaining to the perpetuation of prefigurative experiments, drawn from Auroville’s singular longevity and development trajectory, providing both theoretical and pragmatic insights into how communal utopian practice is enabled, challenged and sustained that are relevant for scholars and activists of prefigurative and utopian experiments alike.

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This chapter discusses the founding spiritual and anarchic ideals for Auroville as a polity, and how these are linked to its aspiration of prefiguring a spiritualized society. It examines the evolution of Auroville’s political organization and practices since its founding years, the modes and institutions of internal governance developed by the community, and its flexible and prefigurative process of institutionalization. In so doing, it provides a revelatory case study of this exceptionally durable example of a horizontal, self-governing polity, while also considering concerns with, and recent points of departure from, the community’s heretofore horizontal processes of political organization. The chapter further includes a critical discussion on Auroville’s relationship with the Indian government, reflecting on how this historically enabled the community’s internal anarchic practice, while also addressing concerns of government co-optation.

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Intentional communities around the world are experimenting with new paradigms for human society, including participatory political practices, cooperative economic arrangements and holistic educational modalities. As such, they are perhaps the most compelling contemporary exercise of utopianism and certainly have something to teach us about attempting to foster positive societal change. This book examines Auroville, the largest, most diverse and long-standing intentional community in the world, internationally recognized for its holistic, progressive and inclusive ideals and practices. Located in Tamil Nadu, South India, Auroville uniquely draws on spiritual ideals to enact a prefigurative utopian practice applicable to all aspects of human society; the author, a scholar native to Auroville, offers an in-depth autoethnographic analysis of how its ideals have been, and continue to be, articulated, embodied and developed in realms as wide-ranging as the community’s political and economic organization, as well as various cultural practices. Responding to critiques that spirituality discourages activism, this work is revelatory of the strategic role and influence of spirituality in inspiring, informing and sustaining prefigurative political practice, while providing an honest analysis of the challenges of direct democracy, as well as prefiguring an alternative form of economic organization within a mainstream capitalist context. It raises important considerations pertaining to the perpetuation of prefigurative experiments, drawn from Auroville’s singular longevity and development trajectory, providing both theoretical and pragmatic insights into how communal utopian practice is enabled, challenged and sustained that are relevant for scholars and activists of prefigurative and utopian experiments alike.

Restricted access