Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Group Identity: In School and in Life

I had a nice life imitating art (or science) today.  I was lecturing about identity and the stuff we political scientists have borrowed from social psychology to explain ethnic conflict today.  The idea is to get my IR of Ethnic Conflict class exposed to the basics before we move on to the international relations issues that are the heart of this course.

So, today, I am quite aware of my identity and how my self-esteem depends on how I see my group and how others see my group.  Then I notice a blog about Teaching Political Science which links to an article that focuses almost entirely on American Politics and a smidge on Comparative Politics.  I would not mind it if the article was not entitled "Ten Things Political Scientists Know ..."  But since it entirely ignores International Relations, I have a pretty gut level emotional response of the marginalization of the group with which I identify (even if some narrow-minded colleagues think that civil war is just for Compartivists).

One of the upsides of residing in Canada has been that the border pretty much does away with imperialist Americanists trying to define the field only in terms of their narrow subfield (one that would be considered a sub-subfield of Comparative Politics in other countries).*  Sure, I have long since realized that Americanists are pretty handy since they tend to insist that the grad students have strong quant skills which make them useful to those of us who are falling further behind on high tech skills.
* Canadian Politics is the parallel subfield up here (with Americanists considered to be Comparativists, which is really quite amusing), but Canadianists tend not to be so forceful and tend not to seek dominance (we are what we study?).
 But moments like this make me realize:
  1. Americanists might still be pretty damned narrow-minded about what Political Science is, more so than the other subfields.
  2. My lecture today about the logic of invidious comparisons (explicating Horowitz 1985) is not just for my class but also for understanding why I am so provoked right now.

No comments: