Dr Xavier Mathieu

Alumni Postdoc Fellow

Research Project at the Centre

Creating Difference in the International Society: The Construction of the 'Local' as Different in the Context of State-building Interventions

The concept of 'difference' is at the basis of some of the most fundamental problems our world society is now facing, from the exclusion of the non-West to the understanding of the legitimacy of 'universal' norms. Yet 'difference' itself is rarely interrogated and is usually taken as a given or a natural feature of international life. In contrast, this project will ask how difference is created in the context of state-building interventions. Thanks to an in-depth theoretical discussion combined with an empirical exploration of a contemporary intervention this project questions the assumption of difference that characterises most of the literature on state-building. As such, it offers new answers to the problematique of inclusiveness and pluralism by revealing how international encounters generate difference and what form(s) this difference can take.

This project can thus make a significant contribution to the question of the construction of difference at the international level while also participating in the on-going academic debate around state-building interventions. In order to do so, this project brings together the contemporary literature on the problematic aspects of including the 'local' in state-building interventions with historical and conceptual studies of difference and Otherness in international relations. What I propose is an analysis of the cultural narratives of difference through which actors draw lines between the similar and the Other. Such an exploration, I argue, can inform the problématiques of international cooperation, inequality and diversity. It can also provide innovative answers to the peace- and state-building literature recent 'local turn'.


October 2016 – August 2017