Rituals and the Making of International Society

Hosted by the Department of International Relations

Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building


Professor Thierry Balzacq

Professor Thierry Balzacq


Professor Jeffrey Chwieroth

Professor Jeffrey Chwieroth

Diplomatic apologies, joint military exercises, gift giving, and global summits, are assumed to be some of the most iconic rituals of world politics. However, many actions that are achieved by means of rituals can be enacted otherwise. What criteria, then, do scholars employ to say that an action or an event is a ritual, and what difference (if any) does it make to its character as well as to its efficacy?

To answer this question, Thierry Balzacq will in this lecture develop a grammar of ritual and contrasts it to alternative theories of action in world politics. Ritual is not a residual category of a phenomenon or an event, but is a qualitatively transformed way of going about acting, which, less frequently noticed, entails moral commitments. In this respect, it is posited that ritual enacts a social order as much as it enhances the salience of the action it involves. He will show how, and examine the theoretical implications of a ritual analysis by revisiting four dominant approaches to action in international relations: discourse, performance, practice and habitus, and strategic views. It is argued that while ritual intersects with each account, it does not extend wholesale.

Meet our speaker and chair

Thierry Balzacq is the Susan Strange Visiting Professor 2022-23 at LSE. A former Visiting Fellow at the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy (APCD) - the Australian National University, Balzacq was awarded a Francqui Research Chair (Belgium’s highest academic title) at the University of Namur, and elected Visiting Professor at LSE, in 2016. He was formerly the Scientific Director of the French Ministry of Defense’s research center. Balzacq held a Honorary Professorial Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh (2012-2015).

Jeffrey Chwieroth is Head of the Department of International Relations.

More about this event

This event is the Susan Strange Lecture.

The Department of International Relations (@LSEIRDept) at LSE is now in it's 95th year - one of the oldest as well as largest IR departments in the world, with a truly international reputation. We are ranked 2nd in the UK and 4th in the world in the QS World University Ranking by Subject 2022 tables for Politics and International Studies.

Twitter Hashtag for this event: #LSERituals

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