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February 10, 2012

The Small Powers in World Politics: Asian and African Perspectives

Department of Applied Social Studies, City University of Hong Kong,
Hong Kong SAR, China

In collaboration with the international journal:
African and Asian Studies (http://www.brill.nl/african-and-asian-studies)
Date of conference: Friday 22 June 2012

Conference rationale
Situated at the eastern and western edges of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the post-WWII states in Africa and Asia have witnessed the decline of the Soviet Union and the rise of the U.S. Empire. Since the 1990s, driven by the state-led agenda for fostering national economic development and industrialization, China has gradually extended its reaches not just to its Asian neighbors, but also to the states in Africa. Most scholarly works have been established for us to understand the different post-WWII trajectories for the great powers (e.g. Britain, China, European states, Japan, Soviet Union/Russia and U.S.A.) to emerge. However, very little works have been done so far for us to understand how the post-WWII small powers in Africa and Asia reacted to and participated in these critical junctures and changes, and even constituted the great powers and the present global system. Furthermore, the consolidation of economic and political relations between these countries, which are located in world politics of the global south, would support the current dynamics of economic development.

The power of the small powers
A small power refers to any state which, apart from interacting with its society, has been conducting external relations with foreign countries and enjoyed memberships in international institutions. As a result, apart from the post-colonial African and Asian sovereign nation-states, we also qualify the post-colonial Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau as small powers, though within the sovereign territories of the People’s Republic of China.
Small powers can also be the states that occupy the bottom stratum in the international division of power based on the composite of their power capabilities – military, economic, cultural and political, etc. Without the participation of the small powers, the great powers and the global system would not be possible. Moreover, the small powers’ impacts on the great powers and world politics have been greatly underestimated in scholarly and journalistic works, which have inhibited the policy-makers to realize the potential of the small powers in designing and crafting their endeavors of external relations and foreign policies.

Small powers are defined here in terms of the nature of their political influences in the global system and their relative weight, their demographics and many social and economic indicators to effect the direction of major politics by themselves and the relative size of their individual trades. However, the impact of their collective efforts to progress cannot be underestimated even from power-politics perspective. The studies of small powers have generally been neglected when compared to midsize political powers in the broader scholarship of world politics. This situation has led policymakers to rely on too many generalizations with consequence of leaving out relevant and detailed accounts needed for making policy more relevant.
Studying small powers is instructive in several senses. First, we can be able to determine the context-specific formation processes and characters as well as the natures of the small powers. Second, we can be able to determine the different context-specific formation process and characters as well as the natures of the great powers. Third, we can be able to map out the global political, economic and cultural structures that have been shaping, either enabling or constraining the state actions of the great and small powers, which in turn re-constituted the global system. Fourth, we can be able to identify and determine the key concepts and analytical logics that will be relevant for the policy-makers of the small powers to disentangle human security challenges in domestic and foreign arenas.

Conference objectives
To gather interested local and international scholars to interrogate the theoretical, conceptual, methodological and empirical issues pertaining to “small power politics” in comparative politics and international relations.
To gather interested local and international scholars to prepare and present original research papers.
Excellent papers will be published in the journal African and Asian Studies (http://www.brill.nl/african-and-asian-studies) in 2013.

Conference themes and questions
Although many states in Asia and Africa have gained independence from western colonial rules since WWII, in parallel with their various post-colonial state-building projects, they have been actively interacting with the former colonial masters and post-colonial states and therefore contributing to the formation of the post-WWII global system. By geo-politically focusing on the state affairs in Asia-Pacific and African regions where the U.S. Empire has been consolidating its reaches, we are proposing to organize this conference to address the following themes and questions:

Theoretical and conceptual issues: What can we learn from the existing theoretical paradigms in international relations? What are the promises and pitfalls of the existing paradigms? How could we conceptualize “small power politics”?
Methodological issues: How could we methodologically approach “small power politics”? What are the major methodological issues for studying “small power politics”? How could we address these issues?
Linkages between domestic politics and external/foreign relations: How could we effectively conceptualize the links between the small powers’ domestic politics and foreign relations? How are these two realms constituted by internal, external and transnational forces? What would be major analytical concepts and logics for us to understand the complex interplays between domestic politics and external/foreign relations?
Comparing small powers in African and Asian regionalism: How could we conceptualize the relationships between the small powers and the great powers as well as the emerging regional institutions in Africa and Asia? How could we conceptualize the emergence and consolidation of post-WWII regional institutions such as Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Economic Community of the West African States (ECOWAS) against larger background?
Public policy implications: What would be the major concepts and analytical logics that could we propose for the security practitioners and policy-makers to conceive the complex interplays between domestic politics and foreign relations of the contemporary small powers? What could we advise them to properly position their organizations along the volatile interface between domestic politics and foreign relations? What are the major aspects that the small powers’ policy-makers should consider in their crafting of policies of external relations or foreign relations? What factors should be counted in the external/foreign policy-making process? How should the small powers’ external/foreign policy process be conducted?

Extensive literature review from this work will produce new knowledge. In short, political actors, scholars and international and regional organizations can comparatively learn a lot from political practices and policy formulation and implementation in these countries, which can provide more data and information about them. Against this background, the papers to be presented at the conference will focus on:

a) Thematic issues surrounding human security in the transnational and developmental contexts, which may include but not limited to:
* Conflict and violence
* Food and water security
* Energy and resource politics
* Natural disasters
* Democratization and state-building
* Crisis coping and management
* Epidemics and public health
* Crime and corruption
* Economic, trade and financial governance
* Transnational labor relations
* Environment and sustainable development
* External relations with big powers and international institutions
* Insurgency, riot and secessionism
* Public and security policy making process analysis
* Civil-military relations
* Reception of foreign investments

b) Case studies of Asian and African states: either single country-based case study or comparative case analysis is desirable.

Submission of abstracts and papers
Interested individuals may submit a 250-word abstract to the conference secretary and editor Dr. Pak Nung WONG’s email address: pnwong@cityu.edu.hk by Friday 9 March 2012 for consideration.
Once an abstract will be accepted, the participant will be invited to submit a full paper of 7,000-10,000 words (including references and notes) by Friday 1 June 2012. Citation and referencing styles should be prepared in accordance with the following document: http://www.brill.nl/files/brill.nl/specific/authors_instructions/AAS.pdf

Reimbursement of traveling and/or accommodation expenses
Participants who will be able to submit their full papers may be entitled to reimburse their traveling and/or accommodation expenses, subject to funding availability.

Posted by katemw at February 10, 2012 10:30 AM


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