Imagining World Politics: Sihar & Shenya, A Fable for Our Times, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Imagining World Politics

Sihar & Shenya, A Fable for Our Times, 1st Edition

By L.H.M. Ling


204 pages | 1 B/W Illus.

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This book offers a non-Western feminist perspective on world politics and international relations. Creative, innovative, and challenging, it seeks completely to transform contemporary Eurocentric and masculinist IR by re-presenting it in non-Western, non-masculinist, and non-academic terms. Drawing on Daoist dialectics, the stories of Sihar and Shenya aim to redress such hegemonic imbalance by completing the IR story. To the yang of power politics, this book offers a yin of fairy-tale. (Both are equally fantastical but to different purposes.) To the yang of binary categories like Self vs Other, West vs Rest, hypermasculinity vs hyperfemininity, Sihar and Shenya show their yin complementarities and complicities, inside and out, top and bottom, center and periphery. And to the yang of intransigent hegemony, Sihar & Shenya explores the yin of emancipation through porous, water-like thought and behavior through venues like aesthetics and emotions. From this basis, we begin to see another world with another kind of politics.

Written with students of IR and world politics in mind, this book offers a postcolonial bridge for IR/WP. Following an academic introduction to assist the reader, Ling moves away from traditional scholarship and into three interlocking fables:

  • Book I shows what an alternative world could look and feel like.
  • Book II makes the implications for IR/WP more explicit. It draws on the traditional Chinese notion of the five movements (wu xing) -- fire, metal, earth, wood, and water -- to illustrate iconic elements of IR/WP -- power, wealth, security, love, and knowledge -- and how they could change according to circumstance and context.
  • Epilogue/Introduction: The Return brings the reader back into the Western world and focuses on modern-day PhD student Wanda who is troubled by what she is learning, and searches for a different perspective.

Engaging with the substantive problematiques at the heart of international relations studies, this work is a unique and innovative resource for all students and scholars of international relations and world politics.


In her fabulous way, L.H.M. Ling brings fable, fairy tale, and magical realism into International Relations, and makes of the discipline a set of alternatives to one-dimensional, concrete realism. She has become a master story-teller and this book is both art and scholarship. Stephen Chan, School of oriental & African Studies, UK.

The wonderful thing about this book is that it is not concerned in speaking back to the West. Rather, its stories facilitate an apprehension of thought systems and sensibilities that are other-wise to the provincial vocabulary and imagination of International Relations. Don’t just read it, inhabit it. Robbie Shilliam, Queen Mary, University of London, UK.

At once fairy-tale and feminist/postcolonial critique, this highly unusual book rewards the open-minded reader with a creative new vision for world politics.Roland Bleiker, Professor of International Relations, University of Queensland.

Ling's book is both a provocation and a mindful meditation on the play of wealth, power, love, security and knowledge in politics; it disorients in a good way, suggesting new possibilities for understanding and changing world politics. Neta C. Crawford, Professor of Political Science, Boston University.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction - Why do we need Sihar & Shenya in IR? 2. Book I: "The Orchid and The Tree"3. Book II 4. Book III: “The Return.”

About the Author

L.H.M. Ling is Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs at the New School for Public Engagement (NSPE) and Associate Professor of International Affairs, The New School. She is also author of The Dao of World Politics: Towards a Post-Westphalian, Worldist International Relations (Routledge, 2014).

About the Series


The Series provides a forum for innovative and interdisciplinary work that engages with alternative critical, post-structural, feminist, postcolonial, psychoanalytic and cultural approaches to international relations and global politics. In our first 5 years we have published 60 volumes.

We aim to advance understanding of the key areas in which scholars working within broad critical post-structural traditions have chosen to make their interventions, and to present innovative analyses of important topics. Titles in the series engage with critical thinkers in philosophy, sociology, politics and other disciplines and provide situated historical, empirical and textual studies in international politics.


We are very happy to discuss your ideas at any stage of the project: just contact us for advice or proposal guidelines. Proposals should be submitted directly to the Series Editors:

  • Jenny Edkins ( and
  • Nick Vaughan-Williams (

‘As Michel Foucault has famously stated, "knowledge is not made for understanding; it is made for cutting" In this spirit The Edkins - Vaughan-Williams Interventions series solicits cutting edge, critical works that challenge mainstream understandings in international relations. It is the best place to contribute post disciplinary works that think rather than merely recognize and affirm the world recycled in IR's traditional geopolitical imaginary.’

Michael J. Shapiro, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, USA


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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General