There are a number of debates on International Relations (IR, hereinafter to refer the scientific discipline of International Relations) from the context of IR to the where it flourished.  Even this “debate culture” has been so penetrated within the discipline that the history of the discipline has always explained by some uncertain and imperceptible debates, so called great debates.”   Yet, as one of the youngest social science disciplines, IR has expanded its scope widely by covering many other contexts and complexities than once it used to cover. In this sense, IR is a child of early 1900s as a scientific discipline beginning in 1919 just after the First World War. The first Department of International Politics was founded at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom in the early 1910s. A similar development was taking place in the United States, in 1919, just months after the establishment of the first department of IR in UK, Georgetown University founded the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, the oldest program in International Relations in this country, whose initial aim was actually to provide education for the prospective diplomats.  Literally, almost every first attempt of IR institutes around the world were about to give a prospective education for diplomats and service men and women in foreign affairs.  Later, as globalization makes the borders more porous, IR scholars started covering many different subjects form environment to rare species and from classic security to cyber space. In a similar way, IR scholars extended their material box to teach and think about international relations. One of interesting developments in IR’s coverage, in this sense, is the way in which IR scholars use the literature, movies, TV series, stories, etc. Here today, I will share some of these works that use this kinds of arts and literatures in understanding IR. I am especially interested in the strange titles in the sense of making international relations more (kind of) outspoken by using arts and literatures.


One of the best books on the topic is the Literature and International Relations by Paul Shareen. Shareen is concerned with the use of literature as a vehicle to make sense of international relations. It is suggested that the use of literature — a literature that speaks through the various voices of fiction, music and art informs actions that may have dramatic consequences in the relations between states. Another must read book is A Novel Approach to Politics: Introducing Political Science through Books, Movies and Popular Culture by Dougles Van Belle. In this book, Van Belle is interested in mostly providing materials to student of IR to study world politics in a more joyful way. In this sense, one of the best books available to study theory of international relations is Cynthia Weber’s book International Relations Theory: A Critical Introduction, in which each theory is illustrated using the example of a popular film. The last book is Greenberg and Olander’s International relations through science fiction.

Now after this general analysis, let’s move into more strange versions.  One of the strangest is Daniel W. Drezner’s book, Theories of International Politics and Zombies. Drezner tries to answer what would happen to international politics if the dead rose from the grave and started to eat the living. Beside this, there are many books and articles on popular movies and TV series and IR. Harry Potter and IR is one of these. I have found even a course on the subject, in which student use Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Other attention-grabbing writings take place extensively around the title of Game of Thrones and International Relations: International Relations Theory in Game of Thrones, Game of Thrones as Theory, The Game of Thrones and Popular Understandings of International Relations, What can Game of Thrones tell us about our world’s politics?, and Realpolitik in a Fantasy World are just some of them. Another popular one is Breaking Bad and IR: International Relations Theory In “Breaking Bad”, Breaking Bad And International Relations Theory, Overdosing on ‘Breaking Bad’ are just very few of them available on the net. (see this article on Teaching Critical Evaluative Skills through Fictional Television). The same goes for Lord of Rings series and Star Warstoo.

Indeed, these types of materials are pretty much on the market of IR scholars nowadays. For instance, on info of a course titled, “International Politics in this World and Beyond Wizards, Fiction and Political Fact in a Global Age”,lecturer says that: “From Hogwarts and The Shire, to a Galaxy Far Far Away—you’ll explore spellbinding political themes of widely popular fantasy fiction and their relationship to international issues confronting our world today in this 8-week course. Each unit starts with themes in the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars series and connects them with three critical topics: identity, violence and social control.” From my experience, as someone who has extensively studied deterrence and coercive diplomacy for the past years, I can easily offer numbers of movies and other art pieces for understanding the subject. (The best one is Kubrick’s movie: “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”) The materials are not limited to movies, TV series or novels, but it consists of other arts production such sculptures, posters, art articles etc. (of course maps). One of the most exiting works on this, I think, Sylvester’s Art/Museums: International Relations Where We Least Expect It.  (see this  and this too.)

Note: Please share your suggestions for the use of literature and arts in IR.

Photo: Ibnlive