Congress Theme

Politics in the Age of Transboundary Crises: Vulnerability and Resilience 

Domestic and international politics are notably challenged by complex transboundary problems that include climate change, cyber terrorism, global migration flows, financial instability and the COVID-19 pandemic, among others. These problems are transboundary in the sense that they traverse state boundaries in an era of intense global connectivity.  Disruptions in one part of the world quickly move around the globe through highly integrated global networks.

Transboundary issues expose the grave consequences of the tragedy of the commons as coordinated global responses are frequently inadequate and sometimes absent. Global collective action so urgently required to comprehensively manage transboundary issues is found wanting. States are challenged to manage effects on citizens and political institutions, often muddling through with vulnerabilities evident across the layers of political life.

But citizens, states and the global system are also resilient. The international order was briefly interrupted by the freezing of politics during the COVID-19 pandemic. States sought to respond to the immediate challenges of the pandemic, yet as the early waves passed through, global politics resumed along pre-pandemic fault lines. State capacity is a crucial focus in terms of collaborative approaches among both state and non-state actors to address the so-called ‘wicked’ problems in the age of transboundary crises. Many governments experience ‘rally around the flag’ effects with sharp increases in support following the political shocks of a transboundary problem (financial crisis, political violence, natural disaster, etc.) but these effects are temporal with normal politics through citizens, social movements, political parties and leaders inevitably reasserting itself. Transboundary dynamics also create opportunities. The diffusion of debates and action on human rights and specifically on matters relating to gender equality, anti-racism and LGBT rights have benefited from global coalitions of citizens and civil society organizations.

In order to investigate, understand and contribute to academic and public debates on these complex transboundary problems and opportunities, the discipline of political science needs conceptual lenses and theoretical approaches that span traditional disciplinary boundaries and cross over social, cultural, economic, religious, ethnic, sexual and linguistic delineations. Connecting theory and praxis is also important. Transboundary approaches are called for and these might include but are not limited to interdisciplinarity, sub-field pluralism and diversity of methodological approaches. We invite proposals for panels and roundtables on topics relevant to the theme using both domestic and international analytical lenses and focusing on multiple units of analysis that include citizens, social movements, political parties, leaders, public policies, states and IOs. We especially encourage international participation and collaboration by scholars across boundaries.

Euiyoung Kim (Seoul National University) and Theresa Reidy (University College Cork)