Liberty Chee

Hello, and welcome to my portfolio site. Here you will find information about my research, teaching, and work in the non-profit sector.

Works in progress

An Ethical Practice of Truth-telling in Post-Cartesian IR

If there were no way to accurately mirror the real, the focus of inquiry will shift from the accuracy of representation to the practice of representing itself, its consequent effects and conditions of possibility. This paper outlines principles that address two problems in IR theory – the limits of reflexivity (i.e. the impossibility of objectively representing ourselves to ourselves) and the critique that those who study IR as a ‘science’ or domain of knowledge pay insufficient attention to how power conditions knowledge production.

“The Filipino is No Slave to Anyone, Anywhere and Everywhere”: Theatre, Performance and Power in International Practice Theory

This paper takes seriously Clifford Geertz’ claim that ‘power served pomp, not pomp power,’ where a staged spectacle is not a means to an end, but an end in itself. I engage his critique of political theory, in which power is understood as a property possessed by an agent to compel the actions of another. In this alternative account, power is enacted in performances which reimagine reality in what Geertz calls a ‘metaphysical theatre.’ Through performances, an ontology is presented without necessarily mirroring what is ‘true’. I build on Erik Ringmar’s insight, that theatre is “part of the mechanics of communal deliberation”, where the audience and performers co-create what is ‘real.’ To demonstrate how this process unfolds, I take the case of a series of performances at the height of a diplomatic crisis in 2018 between the Philippines and Kuwait over the death of a migrant domestic worker, Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer. President Rodrigo Duterte declared that “The Filipino is No Slave to Anyone, Anywhere and Everywhere,” a claim which, following this crisis, proved not to be true, and which the Philippines has little conventional power to ever realise. The state has no coercive powers, weak institutional and enforcement capacity and limited tools with which to exert leverage. Nonetheless, I argue that these performances enact power. Performances do not necessarily demand recognition as ‘competent’ to become powerful, i.e. having effects. They need not demonstrate mastery of rules. Instead, the metaphysical theatre need only demand attention from audiences and become powerful by eliciting a response, making what is being imagined real. This paper contributes to theoretical debates over performances in international practice theory.

'SUPERMAIDS': Hyper-resilient subjects in neoliberal migration governance


Resilience is a concept in world politics that emerged as a way to respond to the impossibility of guaranteeing security in an era of complexity. Without a central authority to provide security, risk is devolved to the individual. Those who cannot secure themselves are enjoined to constantly adapt to the unknown. Where control over complex systems is now thought to be impossible, the path to managing risks is through self-control. This paper demonstrates how such a subject is produced, and indeed whose production, I argue, is crucial to the functioning of a global labor market that is governed “without government.” Migrant domestic workers acutely instantiate the kind of human subjectivity called forth by neoliberalism—a “resilient subject.” The paper describes how this ideal worker is produced through resilience training in various stages of the migration trajectory—during recruitment, training prior to deployment, and while on their overseas residency. This paper demonstrates how managing the insecurities of migrant domestic work means working on the “self” rather than addressing gaps in legal or regulatory mechanisms. In resilience training, the worker becomes the necessary component of neoliberalism as a governmental rationality, one that is enjoined to transform risk into opportunity.

Women in natural disasters: indicative findings in unraveling gender in institutional responses

An ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) Thematic Study.

A project undertaken with colleagues at the Department of Political Science, Ateneo de Manila University.

being feeble: on portrayals of competence and control in the recounting of fieldwork

This is a paper I wrote for an early career workshop at the European International Studies Association annual conference in 2018. This paper talks about the embodied experience of doing fieldwork. It reflects on what insights we might gain by employing experience-near methods in IR.

Bigkis ng Lahi (Ties that Bind)

A documentary on the impact of large-scale mining on indigenous peoples of Mindoro island. A project for Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme for South and Southeast Asia, funded by Dutch foundation CordAid. Co-production with director and cinematographer Butch Maddul.

Does ‘Decolonizing IR’ need to Decolonize?

Does ‘decolonizing IR’ need to decolonize? A conversation with Early Career Scholars

(Recorded June 2020, hosted at the Youtube channel of the Nepal Institute for International Cooperation and Engagement)

In this chat, we discuss several issues that have been raised by recent debates around decolonizing IR. Does the Decolonizing IR scholarship reflect enough on its representation bias against scholarship from the Global South? What are the actual problems scholars in the Global South face which are different from the scholars working in the Global North? How do we address accusations about ‘weak methodology’ in Global South scholarship? What are the ways in which bullying, exploitation and precarity affect scholarship? And finally, how do young scholars view their own responsibility to their fellow scholars in the Global South?