11 January 2013

Africa: In From the Margins? The Changing Place of Africa in International Relations


This article surveys recent literature on Africa and International Relations (IR) and reviews the current place of Africa within the discipline. It notes that critical debates continue around claims of a mismatch between Africa and 'mainstream' IR theories and concepts.

However, alongside this set of issues, there is in fact a burgeoning literature on many aspects of Africa's international relations. While some of these studies utilize existing IR theories, and others explore empirical cases that could deliver important lessons for the wider discipline, much of this promise goes unfulfilled.

The article reviews literature on China's role and on HIV/AIDS governance in Africa to illustrate how the study of African international relations, the wider IR discipline and international policy could all benefit from a closer engagement between Africa and IR.

The article concludes by setting out three challenges for a renewed agenda: a need to address the problematic relationship between universal analytical concepts and regional particularities; a need to give recognition to, and analyse, African agency in international politics; and a need to address inequalities in knowledge production in the field of Africa's international relations.

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