‘Pandemic Internationalism: What is Internationalism in 2020?’


‘Pandemic Internationalism: What is Internationalism in 2020?’ Virtual Workshop! Scholars of internationalism respond to key questions about the study of internationalism – watch now! Live Q&A and workshop to follow on 26th June 2020


Pandemic Internationalism: What is Internationalism in 2020?

The last decades have seen a series of challenges to the international organisations and international arrangements many people had long taken for granted. In the wake of the 2007 financial crisis, and again during the refugee crisis in 2015, voters in many parts of the world expressed nostalgia for a less connected, less global age. The pandemic of Covid-19 has highlighted both just how little multilateral action is currently favoured by states across the world, but also how much the successful management of the coronavirus requires a degree of international cooperation and global strategy.

Here is a phenomenon that interests us: just when the desirability and feasibility of international cooperation was being increasingly questioned, global, international and transnational narratives began to occupy an ever more prominent place in many academic disciplines. The challenges in the world around them seem to have sharpened many scholars’ awareness of internationalism and its often fraught history.

But what does it mean to study internationalism today, in a world shaken by a pandemic and about to go into global recession? Internationalism has always been a protean concept. Some take it as a synonym for globalization; for others it means co-operation through multilateral institutions; and for the Left it is most often rooted in revolutionary, working-class and anti-imperialist traditions. In the context of ongoing changes to economies, national political consensuses and debates about the feasibility of international organisations, this is a pertinent moment to take stock of what internationalism means today, and how scholars can use it to make sense of the world and the big challenges of our time.

We asked scholars of internationalism to respond to one or more of the following key questions:

  • What does internationalism (in your field) mean today?
  • How can the study of internationalism make sense of our world today?
  • Is our existing toolkit for studying internationalism appropriate for thinking about today? Where are the blind spots?
  • What roles is the study of internationalism likely to play in academic discourse in the next 5, 10, 20 years?

Participants’ video responses are available to view below, and we will be hosting a zoom Q&A and discussion on Friday 26th June. To participate in the discussion, sign up here!


Tamson Pietsch

Tamson Pietsch is Senior Lecturer in Social & Political Sciences and Director of the Australian Centre for Public History at University of Technology Sydney. Tamson’s research focuses on the history of ideas and the global politics of knowledge in the 19th and 20th centuries. She is particularly interested in the relationship between the content and the contexts of knowledge production and consequently much of her work has focused on universities and their networks and structures. These were themes she explored in Empire of Scholars: universities, networks and the British academic world, 1850-1939 (Manchester, 2013).

Erez Manela

Erez Manela is professor of history at Harvard University. He is interested in the conceptual, methodological, and historiographical questions related to international history. Erez’s latest book, The Development Century: A Global History (2018), co-edited with Stephen Macekura, is a collection of cutting-edge essays that points the way toward a fully global, longue durée history of international development. Erez’s current research seeks to take a fresh look at US visions for international order during World War II, particularly with regard to the Global South.

Waqar Zaidi

Waqar is Associate Professor of History at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). His research focuses on the relationship(s) between technology and international relations in the twentieth century. Current research interests include scientific and technological internationalism, aviation, atomic energy, arms control, and A.I. His work explores the way science and technology have been imagined as key constituents of international affairs, warfare, and international organisations by internationalists and their opponents, and the role science and technology has played in internationalist ideologies and discourses through the century.

Alex Colas

Alex Colas is Reader in International Relations in the Department of Politics at Birkbeck, University of London, where he directs the MSc in International Security and Global Governance and MSc in Global Environmental Politics and Policy. Alex is interested in subjects ranging from piracy, Spanish responses to terrorism, imperialism, internationalism and global governance. He is currently completing a book with Liam Campling on Capitalism and the Sea.

Dora Vargha

Dora Vargha is Senior Lecturer in Medical Humanities at the University of Exeter. Her work focuses on questions of global health and biomedical research in the Cold War era, using the locality of Eastern Europe as a starting point. Dora’s research is informed by gender history, history of science and technology, history of childhood and disability history and is in conversation with medical anthropology, sociological approaches and political science. Dora’s interest spans from the politics of epidemic management to public health systems and access to therapeutics. Her book, Polio Across the Iron Curtain: Hungary’s Cold War with an Epidemic was published in 2018 with Cambridge University Press.

Daniel Laqua

Daniel Laqua is Associate Professor of European History at Northumbria University. His work explores the workings of transnational movements as well as the different manifestations of internationalism in 19th/20th-century Europe. He has written The Age of Internationalism and Belgium, 1880–1930: Peace, Progress and Prestige (Manchester, 2013), edited  Internationalism Reconfigured: Transnational Ideas and Movements between the World Wars (London, 2011), and co-edited International Organisations and Global Civil Societies: Histories of the Union of International Associations (London, 2019). Daniel’s current research deals with internationalism among university students.

David Brydan

David is Lecturer in the History of Modern International Relations at King’s College London. His work revolves around the history of international cooperation and exchange in the twentieth century, particularly the international history of modern Europe. Much of David’s research has focused on the history of modern Spain and the Franco era. He is also interested in the history of the Cold War, religion in international relations, and the history of medicine and global health.

Constance Bantman

Constance Bantman is Senior Lecturer in French at the University of Surrey. Her broad research area is French and British political and social history between 1880 and 1914. Constance’s research focuses on the history of French political exiles in Britain and anarchist transnationalism between 1880 and 1914, with a focus on ideological and political transfers, experiences of political exile, the asylum question in the long nineteenth century as well as the history of terrorism. These questions were the focus of her monograph, The French Anarchists in London (1880-1914): Exile and Transnationalism in the First Globalisation (LUP, 2013).

Alanna O’Malley

Alanna O’Malley is Chair of United Nations Studies in Peace and Justice at Leiden University. Alanna is a historian focusing on the United Nations, decolonization, Congo and the Cold War. Her current research focuses on recovering the invisible histories of the UN, investigating the role of the Global South challenging the liberal world order from 1945-1981.

James Koranyi

James Koranyi is Assistant Professor of Modern European History at Durham University. His research looks at the ways in which transnational and spatial history offer us particular lenses to rethink modern European history by shifting the focus to east-central Europe. James’ work covers the German minorities of east-central Europe, memory cultures, and travel writing in the Carpathians.

Bill Bowring

Bill Bowring is Professor of Law at Birkbeck, University of London. Bill’s research interests include human rights, minority rights, international law, and the law and practice of Russia and the countries of the Former Soviet Union, and Eastern and Central Europe.

Volker Prott

Volker Prott is a lecturer in Modern History at Aston University. His main fields of interest include the history of nationalism and borders in Europe, ethnic violence, and humanitarian politics in the twentieth century. His first monograph, The Politics of Self-determination: Remaking Territories and National Identities in Europe, 1917-1923, was published with Oxford University Press in 2016. Currently, Volker is working on a project on Foreign Intervention in the Cold War, which focuses on two case studies: the Congo Crisis in the early 1960s and the Indo-Pakistani conflict in 1947-48 and again in 1971. The project seeks to explore the conflicted rise of transnational politics before the ‘boom’ of foreign interventions since the 1990s.

Dionyssis Dimitrakopoulos

Dionyssis Dimitrakopoulos is Senior Lecturer in Politics at Birkbeck where he directs the MSc programme in European Politics & Policy. His research focuses on the politics of European integration both at the EU and the domestic level of government. He has particular interests in the institutional development and operation of the European Union (a political project partly built on internationalism), and the role of ideas and norms in political processes. He is currently working on the politics of emergency in Europe and its institutional consequences, especially the gradual move away from the ‘Community method’ as the central modus operandi of the EU, to the detriment of principles that include internationalism.

Jessica Pearson

Jessica Pearson is an Assistant Professor of European History at Macalaster College, Minnesota. Jessica’s research explores the history of European decolonization from a global vantage point. In her first book, The Colonial Politics of Global Health: France and the United Nations in Postwar Africa (Harvard University Press, 2018), Jessica uses global public health as a lens to explore the clash between internationalism and imperialism in French Africa in the 1940s and 1950s. Currently, Professor Pearson is working on a new book project, entitled  ‘Traveling to the End of Empire: Leisure Tourism in the Era of Decolonization’, which will be a global exploration of tourism and European decolonization in the second half of the twentieth century.

Ilaria Scaglia

Ilaria Scaglia is a lecturer in Modern History at Aston University. Her main fields of interest include the history of internationalism and the history of emotions. Ilaria has recently published a monograph: The Emotions of Internationalism: Feeling International Cooperation in the Alps in the Interwar Period (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020). Her previous publications dealt with the interplay of art and performative politics, nation branding and international cooperation, and the moral economy of internationalism.

Or Rosenboim

Or Rosenboim is a lecturer and Director of the Centre for Modern History at the department of International Politics at City, University of London. Her research is at the intersection of International Relations and the history of political thought. Her published work examines international thought in the twentieth century, focusing on the history of world orders. Or’s book, The emergence of globalism: Visions of World Order in Britain and the United States, 1939-1950, was published by Princeton University Press in 2017.

Heidi Tworek

Heidi Tworek is Assistant Professor of International History in the History Department of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. Heidi’s research addresses three major facets of internationalism: communications, international organisations, and health. She is currently completing her first book on the history of how German elites sought to control world communications in the first half of the twentieth century.

George Giannakopoulos

George Giannakopoulos is a historian of Modern Britain and Europe. He is interested in re-configurations of imperialism, nationalism and internationalism in late nineteenth and twentieth century Britain. He is currently working on a book monograph provisionally titled ‘Weather Men: British Thinkers, National Questions and Imperial Order in Europe’ (1880-1930). The monograph focuses on the regional impact of a group of British public intellectuals writing on the national questions in East-Central, South-Eastern Europe and the Near/Middle East in a period marking the transition from the empire to the nation-state.

Geert Somsen

Geert Somsen is a historian of science in the History Department at Maastricht University. He is Director of Studies of the MA ESST and editor-in-chief of the Journal for the History of Knowledge. Geert’s work moves between history of science, political history, and science and technology studies. He has published extensively on scientific internationalism, the belief that science can be a model for international relations.

Tomoko Akami

Tomoko Akami is Associate Professor/Reader at the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University. She is the author of Internationalizing the Pacific (2002), Japan’s News Propaganda and Reuters’ News Empire (2012), and Soft Power of Japan’s Total War State (2014). Her recent publications on empires and the League of National Health Organization in Asia include articles in Journal of Global History and International History Review. She now works on her new book project, ‘Towards a globalised history of IR’, funded by The Australian Research Council (2020-2023).

Want to ask a question or contribute to the discussion? Join us on Friday 26th June, 2.30pm UK time for zoom Q&A and discussion with all our contributors.

Don’t forget to sign up here! – we’ll email the zoom link to all registered participants on Friday morning.

See you on the 26th!