Maritime Piracy & Global Governance: New Perspectives on an Old Problem

(March 2011)

Workshop at the International Studies Association Conference, March 15, 2011, Montreal, Canada, organized by Jon Carlson,Michael Struett and Donna Nincic.

Workshop Summary:

While the pirate has been romanticized in modern pop culture (everyone likes pirates!), modern maritime piracy occupies a challenging intellectual space for scholars.  As such, maritime piracy is an exemplar of many of the challenges implicit in global governance.  Accordingly, this workshop brings together scholars operating in three overlapping intellectual spaces or areas of IR. First, many

scholars approach the topic from an international organization or international regime perspective, recognizing the many layers of obligations and authorities that arise from UNCLOS, the International Maritime Organization, international human rights law, fisheries agreements, shipboard security regimes, anti-terrorism treaties or freedom of the seas doctrine.  Subsidiary to this are legal questions more explicitly linked to the prosecution and punishment of pirates, historically drawing on the principal of universal jurisdiction, though it also opens up questions of local jurisdiction, territorial waters or national sovereignty.  A separate set of scholars tend to treat piracy through the lens of security studies, focusing on interdiction, use of force, possible deterrence, and the pursuit of pirates as little more than aquatic terrorists.  Finally, piracy exposes some shaky foundations for IR theorists: how do we conceive of sovereignty and legitimacy when they are delinked from the territorial aspect of the modern nation-state? What happens to prospects for cooperation when we get to the nitty-gritty questions of practice related to paying for trials, imprisoning and maintaining captured pirates, bearing the burden of policing sea-lanes, or even determining what constitutes a pirate?  Does anyone have a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, and how is this determined? These approaches have tended to compete with each other along sub-disciplinary conceptual-theoretical boundaries, and this workshop seeks to explore a more holistic, comprehensive conceptualization of the multiple challenges posed by maritime piracy.

Broader Impacts — This workshop brings together a number of junior scholars working within these traditions from around the world, with the opportunity to interact with senior, established scholars including experts in the field of maritime security, piracy and international law. Several junior scholars and advanced junior scholars focusing on regime studies, international organizational approaches, international law, security and international relations theory allow for a multi-perspective approach to the understanding of piracy.  We believe that meaningful international partnerships can arise from this workshop, including the possibility of co-authorships developing between junior and senior faculty from the US, Asia and Europe.  Furthermore, we include both academic participants and think-tank or research-center participants.  The proposers have undertaken the workshop as an ‘author’s workshop’ with the plan of publishing an edited volume on the topic of maritime piracy and IR.  The University of California Press has expressed initial interest in the volume for their new series on International Governance, and the edited volume would also be suitable for a press such as Routledge, which has a more international distribution.

This workshop offers a unique opportunity for the participants, many of whom are junior scholars or rising PhDs.  It brings together many different perspectives on maritime piracy and how piracy as a phenomenon “fits” in various sub-fields of IR. The workshop offers the opportunity to interact with prominent and rising scholars in the fields of maritime security, international law, and international relations.  The purpose of the workshop is to allow scholars who are contributing to the book project an opportunity to more fully explore their differences and build research relationships that bridge both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Workshop Participants (tentative):

  • Eamon Aloyo, University of Colorado
  • Christian Bueger, European University Institute
  • Jon Carlson, University of California, Merced
  • Harry Gould, Florida International University
  • Eric Heinze, University of Oklahoma
  • Ingrid Kvalvik, Nordland Research Institute
  • Terence Lee, National University of Singapore
  • Kevin McGahan, National University of Singapore
  • Mark Nance, North Carolina State University
  • Donna Nincic, California State University
  • Brent Steele, University of Kansas
  • Michael Struett, North Carolina State University