Tragedy, Genealogy and Theories of International Relations

European Journal of International Relations

Author/s (editor/s):

Alister Wedderburn

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:

Alister Wedderburn, ‘Tragedy, Genealogy and Theories of International Relations’, European Journal of International Relations, 24(1) 2018: 177-97.

This article interrogates the role of tragedy within the work of International Relations theorists including Michael Dillon, Mervyn Frost, Richard Ned Lebow and Hans Morgenthau. It argues that a tragic sensibility is a constituent part of much thinking about politics and the international, and asks what the reasons for this preoccupation might be. Noting that a number of diverse theoretical appeals to tragedy in International Relations invoke analytically similar understandings of tragic-political subjectivity, the article problematises these by building on Michel Foucault’s intermittent concern with the genre in his Collège de France lecture series. It proposes that a genealogical consideration of tragedy enables an alertness to its political associations and implications that asks questions of the way in which it is commonly conceived within the discipline. The article concludes by suggesting that International Relations theorists seeking to invoke tragedy must think carefully about the ontological, epistemological, ethical and political claims associated with such a move.

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