Traveling in paradox: Edward Said and critical international relations

Raymond Duvall, Latha Varadarajan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


In this article, we argue that those who aspire to 'critical' international relations would be well served by importing inspiration from Edward Said's work, particularly in drawing examples from his negotiation of intellectual paradoxes and tensions. While several scholars are sharply critical of Said for adopting apparently contradictory theoretical positions, we suggest, by contrast, that his negotiation of those apparent contradictions is one of the lasting contributions of his work, not least as a model that might productively 'travel' to critical international relations. Specifically, we develop two features of his treatment of paradox. First is his 'hermeneutic of "worldliness"', a spirit of 'secular' criticism that is socially, politically, morally situated, self-ironic, free from service to any 'God', any universal singularity, but expressive of a moral-political community. Second is an uncommon articulation of the postcolonial and the global, a suturing together of a global moment of humanism and a postcolonial moment of listening to and hearing - contrapuntally reading - the voices of/from alternative loci of enunciation. These should be constitutive principles for critical international relations, which currently often fails to acknowledge their importance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-99
Number of pages17
JournalMillennium: Journal of International Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2007


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