Narratives and Bodies: Culture Beyond the Cultural Turn

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This article offers a fresh assessment of the current condition of ‘culturalist’ international history, exploring its achievements and limitations, taxonomising its key threads and charting an agenda for the future. It argues that at its heart lie two core concerns, one with narratives and the other with bodies. Thinking in this way allows us both to tie together work which initially appears disparate - endowing a bewilderingly diverse mass of scholarship with coherence and shape - and to better grasp the project’s current trajectory. It analyses how these two issues rose to prominence, discussing not only the merits and failings of previous ‘culturalist’ work but also linkages with shifting debates in historical theory in the aftermath of the ‘postmodern’ turn. It explores the contours of the important work currently being conducted under these rubrics, drawing attention where appropriate to cognate scholarship in the discipline of International Relations (IR) with which international historians might profitably engage. Understanding the significance of these two core concepts provides vital orientation in contemporary intellectual debates within international history and enables us to push them on further.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)609-630
Number of pages22
JournalInternational History Review
Issue number3
Early online date27 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2018


  • cultural turn
  • culturalism
  • narratives
  • bodies
  • historical theory


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