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The Italian Approach to International Relations

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22.04.2019

Despite being a relatively young discipline, International Relations (IR) have been continuously characterized by a lively debate among different epistemological, theoretical and methodological approaches (Smith 1987; Balzacq and Baele 2014). Moreover, each national IR community has produced several analyses of the state of the art of the discipline, the prevailing theoretical and methodological approaches, and the broader organizational culture of specific national and/or regional IR contexts (Knudsen and Jorgensen 2006; Breitenbauch 2013). The aim of this article is to contribute to this tradition of research by providing an overview of the IR discipline in Italy. This article, just published in an extended version on “European Political Science” (Calcara and Vittori 2019), summarizes the results that we collected from a database containing 340 articles written by Italian scholars between 2011 and 2017. Specifically, the more relevant results concern gender issues, geographical distribution, academic affiliation and the main topics covered by the Italian scholars in IR. We believe that both the article and the database, which is freely available online, may interest not only IR scholars and students, but may also attract a wider public interested in the complexities of the study of international affairs. Moreover, we present new avenues for research and we kindly encourage other students or scholars to contribute to this research strand in other national and/or regional contexts.

Critical Self-Reflections in IR

IR scholars have always produced numerous reflections on the state of the discipline. Besides the great epistemological, theoretical and methodological debates within IR, self-reflections on the IR discipline have mainly focused on either the western-dominated or global nature of the discipline.
In this regard, some scholars have emphasized that IR is a strictly American discipline (Hoffmann 1977) and they have noted that there is a centre-periphery relationship between the United States “centre of IR scholarly production” and the European “periphery” (Turton 2015). In contrast, other scholars have argued that each European national and/or regional context is actually characterized by its own epistemological, theoretical and methodological peculiarities (Knudsen and Jørgensen 2006; Bátora and Hynek 2009; Chillaud 2014).

Recently, the IR debate has mainly focused on the so-called “End of International Relations” (Dunne et al 2013). According to some IR pundits, the discipline is no longer based on the grand theories or “isms” that once constituted its intellectual core, but is instead based on more eclectic, middle-range theorizing (Rosenberg 2016). Other scholars view the same developments with a more positive outlook, lauding the turn towards mid-range theorizing focused on “real problems” or, at least, a more conciliatory and eclectic pluralism among the “isms” (Lake 2013). However, Kristensen (2018) has recently noted that traditional theoretical approaches (e.g. Realism, Liberalism, Constructivism) remain the cornerstones of the discipline.

In Italy, the debate on the IR discipline has been characterized by conflicting point of views. On the one hand, some scholars argued that the lack of “critical mass, influence and visibility” of the Italian IR discipline has negatively affected its impact and visibility both in the Italian and in the international academic context (Lucarelli and Menotti 2000:2). On the other hand, other scholars drew a more positive picture of Italian IR as a discipline (Andreatta and Zambernardi 2010). However, few studies have focused on the scientific publications of Italian scholars in IR, while most studies on the subject are based on anecdotal evidences or personal experiences. For this reason, we have decided to undertake this research.

The Database

In order to fill the just-mentioned gap in the Italian self-reflection on the IR discipline, we decided to focus our research on articles in peer-reviewed journals. Specifically, we selected 5 Italian journals and 25 international academic journals to assess who is publishing where. We selected 5 Italian journals that publish IR scholarly works so as to take into consideration the debate produced within the country and we have also selected 25 international........

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