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Race and International Organizations

Oksamytna, K. ORCID: 0000-0001-7725-3151 & von Billerbeck, S. (2024). Race and International Organizations. International Studies Quarterly, 68(2), article number sqae010. doi: 10.1093/isq/sqae010


While International Relations scholarship has increasingly addressed questions of race, the literature on international organizations (IOs) has been slower to do so. In particular, it has neglected how race functions within IO workforces. Building on sociological theories of racialized organizations, we develop the concept of racialized IOs. Like domestic organizations, IOs are characterized by enhanced or inhibited agency of racial groups, racialized distribution of resources, credentialing of whiteness, and decoupling of formal rules and informal practices along racial lines. However, IOs display two important differences. First, IOs rely on member states for resources, which requires accommodating powerful white-majority countries (macro-level pressures). Second, since IO workforces are diverse, their employees possess or develop a range of racial stereotypes (micro-level pressures). Using the case of UN peacekeeping, we demonstrate how the four features of racialized organizations operate in light of these macro- and micro-level pressures. We show how locally-hired peacekeeping staff in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean face constraints on exercising agency; how non-white peacekeepers perform more dangerous jobs than their white counterparts; how whiteness serves as a proxy for desirable skills, while non-white peacekeepers’ knowledge is devalued; and how peacekeepers from white-majority countries receive special treatment or deviate from UN-wide procedures.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © The Author(s) (2024). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Studies Association. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: race; international organization; peacekeeping
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > International Politics
SWORD Depositor:
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