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By Jacinta O'Hagan (auth.)

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These changes have forced students of world politics to reconsider their perceptions of political communities in world politics in order to understand, let alone explain, the role and influence of these processes and actors in world politics. These events have encouraged a more explicit interest in forces shaping political communities, their interests and their interactions. 40 Conceptualizing the West in International Relations This is increasingly demonstrated in specific subfields of the discipline, such as foreign policy (Hudson, 1997; Hudson and Sampson, 1999), strategic studies (Ball, 1993; Booth, 1979; Johnston, 1995) and political economy (Ward, 1998).

They challenge the faith of what they characterize as ‘modern culture’ in uncontested, coherent representations of communities and identities as homogeneous, fixed and authentic. They stress that power and received assumptions order perceptions and representations of reality (Ashley and Walker, 1990; Der Derian, 1989; Shapiro, 1989). This study does not engage in many of the deeper debates stemming from post-structuralist perspectives. However, it does draw on insights from some of these debates.

What has prompted this resurgence of interest? Why have cultural factors become so prominent and appealing in explaining and understanding world politics? Fritz Gaenslen (1997) suggests that when stable orders become unsettled and the grounds for collective identities are undermined or disturbed, issues relating to identity politics become more pronounced. These elements are certainly present in the current international political environment. In the last decade, world politics has been undergoing a period of rapid flux and uncertain transformation.

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