BISA Conference CFP: Forget International Studies?

December 19, 2020

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British International Studies Association (BISA) June 2021 Conference Panel Proposal


Proposed Panel: (Structural) Forgetting? Secrecy, Ignorance and Power in International Studies


Submissions: Please submit your abstracts to Clare Stevens at


Deadline: 14th January 2021


This panel sets out to explore the empirical and theoretical interconnections between cultures and practices of secrecy/ignorance/forgetting and ways of knowing in International Studies. While International Studies has attended to knowledge-making practices as connected to power, the extent to which secrecy and ignorance are part of knowledge-making and unmaking remains underexplored. This panel therefore proposes to bring into conversation insights from secrecy and ignorance studies to bear on the production of knowledge within International Studies, particularly in relation to the gendered, raced and queered ways in which knowledge is (un)made.


Contributors are invited to reflect on the ways that secrecy and forgetting function as essential parts of the structures of power/knowledge in state and security-making, including through resistant and dissenting practices, and as connected to practices of forgetting, concealing, deceiving, faking, lying, obfuscating, ignoring, de-sensing and structural ignorance. In particular, with reference to a growing body of work within secrecy studies and critical security studies, including on absence, disappearance, on the limits of visibility, on the materialisation of secrets, on ignorance and on silence; and the work of Marxist, queer, feminist and postcolonial scholars, this panel therefore aims to ‘thicken’ the understanding of secrecy within security discourses and International Studies, disrupting and overturning binaries that continue to reproduce secrecy as absent and unproductive, that continue to focus on state level secrecy practices, that reproduce the association of knowledge with vision and virtue, and that ignore the contributions of feminist, critical race and queer theorists and their contributions to understanding power/knowledge as connected to secrecy.


In particular, papers that engage with the following areas of investigation that include, but are not limited to:


  • Studies of secrecy practices from physical and rhetorical strategies of deception to the cultural and ideological, such as the generation of willful or structural ignorance and cultural commonsense.
  • Accounts of how secrecy, security and state-making intersect with racial, gendered, ableist and queer discourses.
  • Work focused on representations and materialities of the secret in order to understand how they form part of security and state-making discourses.
  • Explorations of the spatial, temporal, and imaginary relations of secrecy and forgetting.
  • Arguments for secrecy as resistance and dissent, in addition to secrecy as control and domination.
  • Investigations into the interconnections between personal and intimate forms of secrecy and the national, state, international and/or global in security discourses.
  • Explorations of the intersection between the concept(s) of secrecy and, for example, the uncanny, mystery, invisibility, or the converse, revelation, transparency.
  • Examinations of the (dis)continuities in discourses between state, secrecy and security across time.


For more information on the upcoming BISA 2021 conference, please visit the BISA site here.


Please submit your abstracts, and address any questions you might have, to Clare Stevens at

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