Political Aesthetics

Exploring the social and political place of aesthetics in world politics is core to my research and cuts across many of the other aspects of my research agenda. Political aesthetics refers, essentially, to the co-imbrication of the aesthetic, artistic, and sensual with political decision making processes, intersubjective forms of sense-making relevant to world politics, and beyond. At present, the following projects form a part of my focus on political aesthetics:

World Political Compositions

The World Political Compositions project asks how we make visceral, real, and lived sense of the International? It does so by theoretically developing the concept of ‘composition’ in the aesthetic, architectural, technological, and philosophical (principally Deleuzian) senses of the term. The goal is to draw out composition in relation to the five traditional senses of human perception in order to explore how we make ‘lived’ sense of the International more creatively, affectively, and – so – ‘objectively’ (in Sandra Harding’s sense) than has previously been possible. Contributors to the overall project thus ask how simple sounds, sights, touches, smells, and tastes form the core of world political phenomena in terms of their manifestation of scale, their construction of systems of signification, their working to ‘make things happen’ around us, and ultimately their standing as the main building blocks of both everyday and academic sensemaking. Finally, our goal is to explore how the world is composed both as an object of individual apprehension and, more than that, how this object gains a collective and coherent understanding through our mutual embededness in its diverse sensing: how individual sounds, sights, touches, smells, and tastes carry across borders (mis)understandings of what the world is, could be, and means.

Full Project Platform:


Project Outputs:
  • A 2019 (Forthcoming) article in International Political Sociology (Jonathan Luke Austin) that introduces the concept of composition to discussions of researcher subjectivity and the ontologies of IPS (Austin, J.L. ‘A Parasitic Critique for IR,’ Forthcoming International Political Sociology).
  • A 2019 (4-1) special issue of European Journal of International Security exploring composition in relation to global security dynamics (Composing Global Security). Contributors including Roland Bleiker, Michael J. Shapiro, Anna Leander, Rune Saugmann, Elspeth Van Veeren, Raymond ‘Bud’ Duvall, and Elif Kalaycioglu.
  • A 2019 ‘collective discussion’ piece to be published (proposal accepted, under development) in International Political Sociology and collaboratively laying out the importance of the concept of composition for both IR and IPS. Contributors (TBC) including Anna Leander, Roland Bleiker, Charmaine Chua, Charlotte Epstein, Kevin Gaines, Aida Hozic, Naeem Inayatullah, Stephanie Perazzone, Michael J. Shapiro, Ana Clara Telles, and others.
  • A 2018 workshop in San Francisco drawing together project participants in a photographic exhibition space for a series of innovative presentations and discussions.
  • A forthcoming edited volume (under review) based on the project, including many of the contributors listed above.
  • A 2019 workshop to be held in Rio de Janeiro.
  • A series of panels and roundtables focused on the project (EISA 2018, ISA 2018).