Actor-networking the ‘failed state’: an enquiry into the life of concepts

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Concepts such as the ‘failed state’ are jointly produced by academics and political actors and hence connect academia and global politics. Little attention has been spent to study such concepts and the practices that create them and sustain their relevance. We develop an innovative framework for studying concepts. Relying on actor-network theory, we suggest studying concepts as effects of relations between different actors building an actor-network. We introduce actor-network theory and demonstrate its value for international relations (IR) research. Our empirical case study of the concept of failed states combines bibliometric analysis and qualitative text analysis. We show how various actors have brought the concept of failed states to life; analyse how actors transformed because of their participation; and investigate the persistent struggles to define and homogenise the concept. In summary, this is an article about the life of the failed state, the discipline of IR and its relations to other actors, and an introduction of the actor-network theory toolbox to the sociology of IR.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of International Relations and Development
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)30-60
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Social Sciences - actor-network theory, Bibliometry, Concept Formation, epistemic communities, failed state, practice theory

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