by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Sumantra Maitra writes for the Martin Center about “the power of denunciation” in the field of political science.
A recent case of attempted silencing and censorship has roiled the field of political science.
Two gender studies professors, Allison Howell of Rutgers University and Melanie Richter-Montpetit of the University of Sussex in the UK, wrote an interdisciplinary paper titled “Is securitization theory racist? Civilizationism, methodological whiteness, and antiblack thought in the Copenhagen School,” published in the journal Security Dialogue. Howell and Richter-Montpetit argued a predictable view in interdisciplinary scholarship: Securitization theory is Eurocentric and, therefore, structurally racist, promoting the usual sins of “civilizationism, methodological whiteness, and antiblack racism.” Broadly, securitization theory divides the world as “(white) ‘civilized politics’ against (racialized) ‘primal anarchy.’”
The paper, a direct attack against the Copenhagen School of Securitization theory, naturally drew a tough response from the theorists Barry Buzan of the London School of Economics and Ole Waever of the University of Copenhagen. But that is where the fun started.
First, they were refused space to respond to the libelous paper—which accused them of racism and Eurocentrism—and eventually offered some small space which was clearly inadequate. Buzan and Waever then wrote a short reply, while linking to a more thorough dissection of the original scholarship and its methodological flaws. Howell and Richter-Montpetit then started, predictably, a Kafkaesque open letter campaign where they claimed that the critique of them amounted to intimidation against junior scholars, and therefore needed a public denouncement.
For the historical record, Buzan and Waever’s rebuttal is exemplary scholarship in picking apart scholarly libel and a shoddy, “at times, pernicious” methodology. Beyond their personal disappointment, they wrote that they are more concerned about the “implications for our discipline that an article of such poor academic quality and problematic political content can be published in one of our leading journals.”