Towards an East Asian IR Community?
Journal of East Asian Studies
The methodologies and assumptions that guide our acquisition of knowledge and interpretation of data are context and time bound. Academic disciplines, sub-disciplines, methodological approaches and research agendas are to a large degree conditioned by the 'real world,' and none more so than International Relations. Accordingly, it is important to consider the possible sociological foundations of different epistemologies and paradigms of International Relations. Surely there is more than one way
... s more than one way of looking at the world, unless one is steadfastly married to a positivist universal truth. Yet it is interesting that East Asian scholarship and teaching in IR has seemingly not developed strong 'indigenous' regional characteristics, perhaps with the exception of Japan with its large market, long tradition, political freedom and economic affluence. In fact IR has absorbed and closely followed Western and particularly North American social science. This introduction and the articles that follow will explore the fortunes of IR scholarship and regional studies in East Asia in the context of national and regional environments. It will consider how IR is taught and researched in various national settings, and examine the interaction between IR as a social science and national/regional historical experiences, cultural and pedagogical traditions, and politico-ideological values. The underlining problematique concerns the idea of an East Asian 'IR community': why has this tended to be comparatively weak? How can we envision the development of a more rigorous East Asian IR community, one that is not exclusively judged according to external — and particularly North American — terms of reference and standards? It goes without saying that we are not attempting to antagonize our American friends and colleagues, but simply to stimulate a 'sociology of science' reflection of the discipline in the East Asian regional setting. Two questions serve as the organizing themes of this special issue. The first concerns the primary characteristics of the regional IR community. Many of the papers in this collection point to the dominance of US-originated ideas and theories. The second question arises from the first question: whether these predominant approaches help us to understand the region in a time of change.