1st Edition

Fairy Tales and International Relations A Folklorist Reading of IR Textbooks

By Kathryn Starnes Copyright 2017
    200 Pages
    by Routledge

    198 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book offers a critical engagement with contemporary IR textbooks via a novel folklorist approach. Two parts of the folklorist approach are developed, addressing story structures via resemblances to two fairy tales, and engaging with the role of authors via framing gestures. The book not only looks at how the idea of ‘social science’ may persist in textbooks as many assumptions about what it means to study IR, but also at how these assumptions are written into the defining stories textbooks tell and the possibilities for (re)negotiating these stories and the boundaries of the discipline.

    This book will specifically engage with how the stories in textbooks constrain how it is possible to define IR through its (re)production as a social science discipline. In the first part, story structures are explored via Donkeyskin and Bluebeard stories which the book argues resemble some structures in textbooks that define how it is permissible to tell stories about IR. In the second part the role of authors is explored via their framing gestures within a text, drawing on a number of fairy tales. By approaching the stories in textbooks alongside fairy tales, Starnes reflects back onto IR the disciplining practices in the stories textbooks tell by rendering them unfamiliar.

    Aiming to spark a critical conversation about the role of textbooks in defining the boundaries of what counts as IR and by extension the boundaries of the IR canon, this book is of great interest to students and scholars of international relations.

    1 Introduction

    2 Canon as a link between fairy tales and textbooks

    3 A folklorist approach

    4 Donkeyskin stories: the permissible

    5 Bluebeard stories: the forbidden

    6 Author framing and canon negotiations

    7 Conclusion


    Kathryn Starnes completed a PhD in International Relations at the University of Manchester, UK. Her research interests include knowledge production in IR, practices that define and discipline IR, folklore, fairy tales and the politics of writing about and teaching IR.

    'Why has no one done this before? Kathryn Starnes reads International Relations textbooks through a folklorist’s lens. The result is a fresh evaluation of the narratives that define our field.'

    - Lucian M. Ashworth, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada

    'Stories that textbooks tell are disciplinary fantasies presented as foundations. They establish ‘givens’ that (literally) circumscribe what will (and can) be studied. Starnes exposes both the power at play in these framing practices and the political stakes of failing to notice. Read this book: it is not a fairy tale!'

    - V Spike Peterson, University of Arizona, USA