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Interview – John A. Rees

This characteristic is a part of a collection of interviews with the contributing authors of Foundations of International Relations.

John A. Rees is a Professor of Politics and Worldwide Relations on the College of Notre Dame Australia. His analysis focuses on the intersection of faith, nationalism, and worldwide coverage, in addition to theories and strategies within the social scientific examine of faith. Dr Rees is the 2022 Milward L. Simpson Visiting Fulbright Professor on the College of Wyoming. He’s the writer of ‘Religion and Culture’, in McGlinchey, S. Foundations of Worldwide Relations (2022: Bloomsbury).

You chapter in Foundations of Worldwide Relations offers with faith and tradition – how did you first get entangled in occupied with this space of focus?

My curiosity in faith and tradition has many ‘origins’. Maybe the one most related to the textbook is that I labored for a number of years as an educator for a global improvement group. The event house is formed by engagements with cultural and spiritual practices and communities. I used to be confronted then, as now, with the necessity to grapple with these classes and the implications that completely different interpretations can have for our understanding of worldwide relations. 

When it comes to your journey from one-time pupil to educational, how did you discover your approach into this career, and might you give a short abstract of your profession to date?

My educational journey started in theology, then prolonged to historic historical past earlier than lastly touchdown within the self-discipline of IR. I used to be interested in IR due to its policy-orientation. I had a longstanding curiosity within the political theologies of various non secular traditions, from Shia Islam, to Catholic liberation theologies, to Buddhist resistance actions, and Shinto practices for post-atomic peace. As a result of I had the beginnings of what we now name non secular literacy, the put up 9/11 worldwide order turned a spot to discover questions of faith and politics in fairly particular methods. My instructing, analysis, and public talking – together with a latest Fulbright Fellowship in the USA – has been formed by these parts.

How has the way in which you perceive the world modified over time, and what (or who) prompted essentially the most vital shifts in your considering?

That could be a nice query. My considering has developed by the enter of many gifted students. I might say I’ve shifted from being a scholar to ‘show’ the significance of spiritual and cultural practices in world affairs, to at least one who now investigates how non secular and cultural traditions adapt to the dynamic political worlds round them (for higher and for worse). When it comes to technique, I describe my work as ‘integrative’ as a result of I are likely to be taught from the sides of a discourse and apply these insights to the center floor, each conceptually and within the coverage area. For instance, I be taught from these vital students who maintain that ‘faith’ is simply politics by one other identify, however translate this declare into extra of a vital realist view that preserves the reality and integrity of spiritual traditions.

On the conceptualisation of faith, I’m grateful for the foundational work of Scott M. Thomas, Jocelyne Cesari, R. Scott Appleby, Jeffrey Haynes and lots of others. On engagements with non secular custom, post-colonialism, and questions of globalisation, I’ve learnt from students similar to Robert Orsi, Atalia Omer, and Jose Casanova. On nationalism and beliefs, the work of Anthony D. Smith, Michael Freeden, and Sinisa Malesevic are very influential. I’ve left so many names out! For sure, I’m humbled by, and indebted to, the work of those and lots of others.              

Do you suppose it’s extra vital for teachers (and college students by extension) to dedicate most of their time to understanding the world, or as an alternative actively to working to alter it?

I believe I’m swimming in opposition to the tide to say that my instructing and analysis apply has at all times positioned a precedence on understanding earlier than motion. I’m actually not negating the crucial to behave, however I’m cautious of action-impulses that may make us impatient about first studying a number of sides of a difficulty (and the sources behind them) previous to critique and/or help for numerous positions within the public realm. Literacy is central. I learnt this throughout my doctorate, which focussed on the World Financial institution’s early engagements with non secular actors and communities. When explaining my analysis context I shortly found that many individuals had very agency views concerning the World Financial institution even when that they had an equally restricted data of its historical past, multi-organizational construction, and evolving packages. Spiritual custom is one other problem the place deepening literacy is crucial.

I believe many students (notably within the secular West) don’t stay in social worlds which can be usually formed by non secular concepts and communities. In consequence, media-informed responses on faith can too typically stifle tradition-informed studying in scholarly debate. If my scholarly views are merely the sum complete of views from my favorite podcasts, information shops and social media networks, then I’ve wasted the chance to domesticate and apply studying that results in extra grounded (and arguably, extra sustainable) motion.

The place do you see essentially the most thrilling analysis and debates taking place in and across the self-discipline of Worldwide Relations?

The put up/decolonial flip within the self-discipline could be very vital. It stays to be seen whether or not completely different colleges of thought emerge inside it, or whether or not it turns into a extra unified ideological motion. I favour the previous over the latter, which might result in a really wealthy custom inside IR.

I additionally suppose nationalism – lengthy rejected by globalisers and demanding college structuralists alike – will re-emerge as a subject of focus in lieu of Covid and the tectonic shifts brought on by the Russia-Ukraine battle. There may be a longtime literature going again 70 years that’s price reengaging along with the brand new forward-facing views that might be written.

My longstanding curiosity in non secular and cultural identities connects to put up/decolonialism and nationalism, so I’m very to see how each discourses evolve.

What’s a very powerful recommendation you can give to college students who’re beginning their journey with Worldwide Relations?

All the time evaluate – singular ideologies are the top of thought. Respect how concepts started after which developed over time. Keep in dialog with a number of views inside a discourse. Be as dedicated to the (complicating) particulars of historical past as to the ideas that drive your curiosity. Domesticate sluggish studying. Keep a large and (politically) various set of pals.

Those that learn your chapter in Foundations of Worldwide Relations will take away many concepts and ideas with them, however is there one thing particular you want to depart of their minds?

Cultural and spiritual traditions are by no means static. Search for how they evolve and adapt over time in response to world occasions.

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