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The Healthy Trends of International Relations Research

Sara E. Davies
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-5687.2012.00166_2.x 316-320 First published online: 1 September 2012

As the end of the Cold War approached in 1989, Caroline Thomas argued: “It is important that the discipline [International Relations, IR] should address the issue of disease and more broadly, health, not simply to facilitate containment of disease transmission across international borders but also because central notions of justice, equity, efficiency and order are involved” (1989:273). Ten years later, Craig Murphy echoed these sentiments. Murphy (2001: 352) proposed that IR had yet to grapple with the political consequences of growing inequality between the world's rich and poor, and areas such as health—where these inequalities were most stark—should become the field's core business. How IR's theories and methods would approach these issues was less clear. Bettcher and Yach (1998) cautioned that IR would be unable to develop progressive research projects that explored global health diplomacy as a global public good without adopting new perspectives and methods. Others warned that the expansion of security studies into areas such as global health would weaken the intellectual coherency of the field (Walt 1991:213). Taking its cue from the recent Ng and Prah Ruger (2011) study, this paper returns to these concerns to briefly explore key trends and potential future concerns of research in IR on health.

A brief note on who is studying health in IR. A 2011 survey of IR scholars found that very few (0.21%) identified health as either their primary or secondary research area (Maliniak, Peterson and Tierney 2012:28–29). The reception of health as a legitimate area of study for IR obviously continues to vary according to location. For example, some of the US scholars most prolific in addressing health as an IR concern are not within the IR discipline. International legal scholars such as David Fidler and Frederick Abbott (2005), former journalist Laurie Garrett (2005), and …

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