IR Theory as International Practice/Agency: A Clinical-Cynical Bourdieusian Perspective

Inanna Hamati-Ataya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (SciVal)


Adopting a reflexive, praxeological understanding of science that rejects the objectivist epistemic antinomy of theory and practice, this article offers two complementary Bourdieusian readings of International Relations theory that specifically aim to conceptualise the structural position of ‘periphery’ scholars, as well as their extant and potential ‘space of possibilities’ in the discipline. Grounded in a sociological appraisal of International Relations, the ‘clinical’ approach objectivates International Relations as a field of international practice wherein the production of theoretical knowledge results from the meeting of different socio-academic habitus and their associated positions with the objective structures of International Relations and the international system. It highlights the relation between International Relations theory and the structural (dis)positions of its authors, the conditions that allow some theories to be objectively possible, meaningful, structuring representations of the world, and the structural constraints imposed on International Relations theorists. The ‘cynical’ approach suggests how a ‘clinical’ understanding of International Relations can help marginalised, ‘periphery’ scholars make sense of their ‘space of possibilities’ within the discipline, and develop a praxeological, reflexive attitude that could turn them into efficient international agents capable of promoting different scholarly perspectives. More specifically, the article argues that their non-native habitus is a potentially subversive capital – and hence a potential agency of structural change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)625-646
JournalMillennium: Journal of International Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


  • Bourdieu
  • international relations theory
  • practice


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