IIS represents an interdisciplinary arena of scholarship characterized by the analysis of connective and systemic dynamics in global politics and economics. International or global studies is distinct from area studies, which tends to focus on understanding individual countries, societies, or regions. International studies is primarily concerned with interactions among states and non-state actors across a multitude of arenas—from security and governance to economic and cultural exchange. It includes the study of cross border movements of people, ideas, money, goods, diseases, pollution, information as well as international institutions, international law, and global governance more generally. The addition of transnational problems that affect the world as a whole, esp. since the 1970s, has expanded the horizons of IIS, and includes phenomena that take place within the borders of one country but are studied across regions, such as migration, civil war, democracy, authoritarianism, humanitarian crises, human rights abuses, globalization, and climate change.
The Institute conceives of its multidisciplinary and international mission across three general activities:
IIS most important aim is to support faculty-driven research initiatives across a wide range of topics in international studies. It does so by providing a physical and intellectual space for public lectures and events pertaining to international studies on campus, often in collaboration with other institutes, centers, and departments. It supports research by faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates in a variety of ways, including bringing academic and policy experts to campus, hosting visiting scholars, and supporting community-building initiatives including regular seminar series and colloquia. IIS-supported series provide a venue for Berkeley faculty and students to engage policymakers and practitioners as well as visiting scholars across a variety of functional and regional domains in global and international affairs.
The Institute facilitates dialogue by sponsoring ongoing monthly or weekly seminars and workshops. Currently, these seminars and workshops include: Global History, Political Economy, and International Relations. Similar sponsorship encourages conversations among graduate students in diverse areas and working across regions.
The Institute addresses its public mission by coordinating public lectures and events. IIS-supported series provide a venue for Berkeley faculty and students to engage policymakers and practitioners as well as visiting scholars across a variety of functional and regional domains in global and international affairs. IIS lecture series and public forums have explored challenges confronting US foreign policy, including the annual Elberg Lecture.