Institutional Racism in International Relations

55 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2022 Last revised: 19 Dec 2022

See all articles by Phillip Y. Lipscy

Phillip Y. Lipscy

University of Toronto

Jiajia Zhou

University of Toronto

Date Written: December 18, 2022


The role of race in international relations has received increasing attention, but it has been challenging to measure racism or its variation over time. We examine institutional racism in international relations by considering how international organizations structure and perpetuate racial hierarchies. We do so by examining racist language and membership patterns in international organizations. The data and case studies suggest a decline in formal racism but persistent informal racism. Based on our original data, racism expressed openly in the founding charters of international organizations has declined over time. However, membership patterns suggest a persistent bias in favor of white-majority countries: 1) such countries continue to be overrepresented as inception members of newly formed organizations; 2) even after controlling for a variety of potential confounders, organizations that overrepresent white-majority countries tend to disproportionately expand their membership among white-majority countries. The findings suggest that scholarship on international organizations, regime complexity, and institutional contestation need to pay greater attention to race.

Keywords: race, racism, international, relations, institution, organization, regime, complexity

Suggested Citation

Lipscy, Phillip Y. and Zhou, Jiajia, Institutional Racism in International Relations (December 18, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Phillip Y. Lipscy (Contact Author)

University of Toronto ( email )

1 Devonshire Pl
Toronto, OH ON M5S 3K7

Jiajia Zhou

University of Toronto ( email )


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