In the current situation of the so-called ‘war on terror’ the question of political activism in the face of an oppressive hegemony becomes acutely important. The role of academics and intellectuals in this context is the particular focus of this forum. Questions of agency, subjectivity and activism more broadly are raised, but the specific location of the international relations scholar needs to be considered too. Are scholars inevitably already politically located, as everyone is, or is there a sense in which they have a particular responsibility to discharge? How might one begin to imagine a different, perhaps oppositional, form of engagement, and what can this lead to in practice? Contributions engage with questions of normative consciousness, the specificity of cosmopolitanism and its disregard of the postcolonial experience, and forms of activism and contestation that exist already, as well as considering in more theoretical terms what possibilities for a different and more thoroughly ethico-political mode of engagement there might be.