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Title: The power of words in international relations : birth of an anti-whaling discourse
Author: Epstein, C.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2005
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This thesis is a study of dominant global discourse. The whaling issue provides a discrete case for analysing a powerful discourse, that is, both traversed by relations of power, and conferring power upon the actors wielding it. The main line of enquiry is how discourses mark actors’ identities, and establish them as subjects of international relations. The actors implicated here are states and NGOs. Forty years ago, whaling was widely synonymous with national interest; it was the hallmark of ‘whaling nations’. The first global whale discourse, then, was a state discourse, entrenching states as the primary subjects of international co-operation. Today, whaling is banned by an international moratorium, and it attracts criticism worldwide. This owes to the rise of a new, anti-whaling discourse, that has posited NGOs, on par with states, as international policy-makers. How did this change come about? The thesis begins by exposing the theoretical entailments of (and reasons for) studying a discourse, including the importance of examining together the discursive and the non-discursive, as components of a broad ‘regime of practice’ (Part I). The two, opposite, ‘regimes of practice’ centred on whales, and their abrupt succession in the 1960s, are at the heart of the thesis. The thesis is structured around this rupture. Part II delves into a world where whaling was widespread and unquestioned (the ‘before’). An analysis of the economic importance of whaling (II.1), as well as it political significance (II.2), tease out the first global whale discourse, an inter-state, exploitative, discourse (III.3). The genealogical method is deployed to unearth the conditions of possibility that allowed for the irruption, and subsequent flourishing, of an anti-whaling discourse.  Part III (the ‘after’) identifies three broad sets of factors: the consolidation of the norm of endangered species protection in a budding UN environmental system (III.1); the evolving position of science (III.2); and the actions and strategies of NGOs themselves (III.3). The final part explores the configuration of forces locking in this global order (IV.2 and IV.3). It examines in detail how the anti-whaling discourse operates - through what constructions of meaning and processes of exclusion it perpetuates itself (IV.1). The thesis provides an analysed example of the centrality of discourse in the constitution of political subjects - from the individual to the international level.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available