How do we know? Making sense of ‘voids’ in global politics

This event will be in Cardiff University, UK

From the perspective of a working group on Interpretivism in International Relations, that is founded on discussing, developing, and reflecting on different epistemological strategies, a thought-experiment built on not-knowing represents an existential challenge: What do we – as individuals or as a society – do when we are facing what was once referred to as “unknown unknowns”?

In order to abstract from the context in which this concept was mentioned, for the purpose of the workshop this uncertainty will be referred to as a “void”. As the Oxford English Dictionary reminds us, voids can come in different forms, signifying emptiness and absences of various kinds. A void can refer to vacant spaces, for example, which include unoccupied places and unfilled parts in a building structure. As a concept of time, voids designate what we would nowadays refer to as leisure but which used to be distinguished from work. And voids can also refer to the absence of legal validity when something has been annulled or cancelled.

In their own ways, questions of space, time, and law are the bread and butter of global politics, and a reflection about them has been taking place since at least the 1990s. But reformulating these as voids should give a working group plenty of room for exploration and the chance to address holistically more fundamental issues about knowledge creation: how does one deal with what is not there and what are social and political implications?


Thursday 18 May

14:00-15:30  Panel 1

Welcome and Introduction

  • Hannes Hansen-Magnusson “Making Sense of Voids in Global Politics” 
  • Ingrid Medby “Sensing and sense-making of voids: Maps, metaphors, and sensory similes” 
  • Christoph Laucht “Visualizing Armageddon: Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the Imagined Effects of Nuclear War in the Cold War” 

15:30-16:00  Break

16:00-17:30  Panel 2

  • Elke Schwarz “Techno-eschatology of the void” 
  • Stephan Engelkamp “The empty coffin. Mourning voids” 
  • Amin Samman “The Void in Finance” 

Friday 19 May

09:00-10:30  Panel 3

  • Felix Berenskoetter “The Absence of Friendship in IR Theory” 
  • Victoria Basham, Jamie Johnson, Owen Thomas “Voids as disorder: making sense through tragedy, scandal, and crisis” 
  • Maximilian Guarini “Visual Politics: a bridge over the ‘void’ between International Relations and British Politics” 

10:30-11:00  Break

11:00-12:30  Panel 4

  • Aniruddha Saha “Reasoning Stigmatised Identity and Behaviour in Nuclear Governance” 
  • Leah Kimber “The Women’s Group Fight for Recognizing “Women in their Diversity” in UN Policy:  An organizational analysis on the limits encountered in intergovernmental negotiations at the United Nations “ 
  • Maja Davidovic “Ontological Security Encounters and the Epistemic Violence of Genocide Denial” 

12:30-13:00  Closing Remarks

Registration closes on Monday 15 May.

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