Professor honors mentor and international relations icon

FIU students are used to having accomplished professors teaching their classes. Some have the privilege of calling them mentors.

Harry Gould MA ’97 found a mentor in Nicholas Onuf – a professor emeritus in the Department of Politics and International Relations, who also happens to be an icon in the field of international relations.

Gould, now an associate professor in the same department, recently edited and published “The Art of World-Making: Nicholas Onuf and his Critics,” to honor Onuf’s career and contributions to the study of international relations.

“After Nick retired, some mutual friends started talking about doing something to honor him and his career,” Gould says. “We started talking about contributing an edited volume, and, since he designated me as his successor, I very happily took it up.”

Onuf, who taught at FIU from 1994 to 2005, is renowned as one of the founders of the theory of constructivism, a term he coined.

One of the main schools of thought in international relations for more than two decades, constructivism stresses the social character of international relations as opposed to the political nature.

Onuf’s most famous work is the 1989 publication of “World of Our Making: Rules and Rule in Social Theory and International Relations.”

Gould’s book is a collection of essays analyzing and commenting on Onuf’s work, most written by Onuf’s former students, classmates and colleagues.

“I had far more people eager to contribute than I could ever imagine,” Gould says. “The contributors are all professionally and personally linked to Nick, either as former students, students of former students, long-ago classmates or former colleagues.”

While Gould was pursuing his master’s degree at FIU, Onuf was his advisor. They stayed in touch while he was working on his dissertation at Johns Hopkins University and even published together.

“Nick has been a big part of my life professionally and as a friend,” Gould says. “I had been thinking about doing this for a long time, and I’m definitely proud of organizing it. I’m happy to have done this for Nick.”

For each essay in the book, Onuf contributed a response, often referencing personal anecdotes from his relationship with the author, including former FIU international relations professor Paul Kowert, who Onuf described as having a “sympathetic spirit with which he deals with the world.’’

“Paul and I arrived in Miami at the same time and immediately developed a close relationship,’’ Onuf wrote. “Having encouraged his interest in Japan, my wife Sandy and I spent a great deal of time with him in Kyoto and roaming about the country.”

He further praised the “care, subtlety, sympathy and lucidity’’ with which Kowert wrote; he acknowledged his former student for tackling what he describes as the “most ambitious chapter” of his book.

Reviewers of “The Art of World-Making” praised its interactive and personal nature.

“While rich in social theory, the texts are simultaneously intimate and personal, providing almost a dialogue-in-print between the contributors and Onuf,’’ says political science professor Ann Towns, a Wallenberg Academy Fellow at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. “In short, a truly joyous and stimulating read.’’

Although the book is meant to celebrate Onuf’s work, Gould says it is also a tribute to his role as mentor to so many students.

“This is not just a book honoring Nick’s career and thought,” he says. “It serves as a token signifying the feelings the contributors share for Nick. Nick has been a dear friend to us all, a mentor to many of us, a professor to some of us, and a teacher to all of us. We love and celebrate him.”

To learn more about “The Art of World-Making,” click here.