JHU Conference: Latin America and the liberal international order

LALIO event pic

Photo by AU CLALS

Given the strike, I have time for a few overdue updates on recent work…

In mid-November, I had the opportunity to participate in a conference and workshop at Johns Hopkins University on “Latin America in the liberal international order.” The event was a highlight of my first decade in academia. In part, that’s because it was an amazing group and a day-and-a-half of fascinating discussion. But it was a particular honor to be include because the agenda and call for the conference were explicitly connected to an article that I published a year ago in International Affairs. That article pointed out how minimal discussion of Latin America has been in one of IR’s current obsessions: the origins, development, and crises of “liberal international order.” My point was not just that Latin America’s experience was overlooked, but that it has some very important things to tell us about how international orders develop and relate to areas outside their geopolitical cores.


The organizing was led by the historian Dr. Christy Thornton of Johns Hopkins and PhD candidate Luis Rodríguez Aquino, along with Eric Hershberg of the American University Center for Latin American and Latino Studies. They put together a great group of scholars from IR, political science, history, and sociology, including people from Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and the United States.

LALIO event posterThe first night started with an all-star (plus me) panel. I found myself sitting between Daniel Deudney–who perhaps co-coined the term “liberal international order” in 1998 with John Ikenberry–and Margaret Keck, whose work with Kathryn Sikkink reshaped IR’s approach to human rights and transnational activism. Down the row, my mentor and friend, the brilliant and always eloquent Max Paul Friedman,  who followed Voltaire’s quip about the Holy Roman Empire but questioning whether the liberal international order was actually, liberal, international or orderly. Next to Max, Arlene Tickner of Colombia’s Universidad del Rosario, who is one of the most influential voices and advocates for IR scholarship that is inclusive of the Global South and its scholars. And Christy kept things moving with insightful questions.

The panel and the next day’s workshop, where we discussed in depth draft papers covering a range of related topics (see the list here) ranging from democracy to nuclear security to international law. Christy drew on her work on Mexican contributions to the international economic orders–she and I had been thinking along parallel lines. I am working on a paper with Carsten-Andreas Schulz on the history of multilateralism in the Americas during the nineteenth century, particularly regarding the emergence of multipurpose multilateral international organizations. It was a fascinating event, and way more than I expected when describing what I saw as an important gap (and opportunity) in the IR debate on liberal international order.

Having gotten such great feedback, we’re all working on revisions to our initial working papers. Hopefully, I’ll have updates about new research and a special journal issue dedicated to the topic before too long.

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