In recent years there has been growing recognition of the need to ‘take small states seriously’ within International Relations, for which the traditional focus on ‘great powers’ has increasingly been challenged on the grounds that states should be explored in all their diversity. Yet, despite this growing interest in this field, there seems to be no real forum for scholars working on small states to share their empirical and conceptual findings. Instead, research into small states tends to be rather fragmented across a variety of literatures (such as international political economy and political geography) and area studies (such as Central and Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, West Africa and the Middle East). As such, there is little dialogue between researchers from different sub-fields and working on different regions, in turn meaning that opportunities for the cross-fertilisation of ideas are often lost. This is a great pity, for it might be argued that it is through the interaction of diverse perspectives that truly cutting-edge research can take place.
The new Small States Working Group aims to provide an arena within which scholars of international studies working on small states from a variety of disciplines can engage in ongoing dialogue and reflection. In so doing, we seek to encourage the cross-fertilisation of ideas by bringing together research communities from a variety of theoretical perspectives and empirical backgrounds in international studies. As such, the Working Group's theme of ‘small states’ will be treated in broad rather than narrow terms, for its aim is to bring together scholars working on small states from across the world whether or not the focus of their research is on issues of size.
As stated, the Small States Working Group aims to bring together scholars working on small states from a variety of different disciplines and perspectives. In order to do so, it will involve a number of workshops and seminars each year based around a variety of themes regarding the economics, governance and society of small states and the interaction of small states with the international. Such activities are already planned. In April 2007 we will host a workshop on ‘Capacity Building in Small States’ at the University of Birmingham and in September 2007 we will host a Section on 'Small States in International Affairs' at an ECPR conference organised by the Standing Group on International Relations. For further details please contact the Working Group convenors (details below).
Dr Donna Lee and Dr Nicola Smith University of Birmingham