This reading class takes you on a journey through the vibrant field of norms research in International Relations (IR). We explore the theoretical-conceptual foundations and the dynamic development of the research field through close reading of and critical reflection on key texts.
We will start by uncovering how norms have found their way into IR and what kind of arguments have been put forward to demonstrate that they “matter” (constructivist-rationalist debate in IR). What constitutes an international norm and how does it affect the behavior of actors? Why would actors comply with norms? We will then discuss different phases of norm evolution and models that have been developed to explain how international norms are established, spread, change or decay. In doing so, we will read "classical" texts that have shaped the contours of IR norm scholarship and contrast them with critical appraisal or counter-models that have been put forward in later phases of norms research. A particular focus will be on recent developments in the context of “critical” norms research, such as the power-laden nature of norm politics, the role of norm contestation and appropriation as well as dynamic interrelations between norms, including norm collisions and the role of norm challengers. We will see how over time norms research has diversified and how norm conceptions have changed over time. By reading original research articles, we will touch a whole range of empirical case studies, ranging from women’s and children’s rights, the anti-torture convention, norms banning the spread or use of nuclear weapons to the global “responsibility to protect”.
This reading class invites students to critically engage with the literature on norms. For this purpose, a thorough preparation of the readings is required. Throughout the course, students will acquire reading skills and techniques. In class, we will work in parallel or complementary study groups to elaborate the structure of the respective text, analyze the course of argumentation, and check for plausibility. Active participation in discussions, group works, and plenary sessions is required.
The seminar will be held in English and is meant as a safe space for practicing English in an academic context.
Course work (Studienleistung): Critical response paper (discussant-Beitrag) and oral presentation of it in class
Examination (Prüfungsleistung): term paper (4000 -4500 words), including brief commented outline (max. 2 pages)
Börkdahl, Annika 2002: Norms in International Relations: Some Conceptual and Methodological Reflections, in: Cambridge Review of International Affairs 15(1): 9-23.
Rosert , Elvira 2022: Normenforschung in den Internationalen Beziehungen, in: Sauer, Frank/von Hauff, Luba/Masala, Carlo (Hrsg.): Handbuch Internationale Beziehungen, Wiesbaden: Springer VS.
Wunderlich, Carmen (2013): Theoretical Approaches in Norm Dynamics, in: Müller, Harald/Wunderlich, Carmen (Eds.): Norm Dynamics in Multilateral Arms Control: Interests, Conflicts, and Justice, Athens: University of Georgia Press, 20-48.