Tag Archives: GPES

Sociology Lecturer receives funding award from the British Academy

DSC_0018 news cropDr Tamsin Barber, senior lecturer in Sociology, has been successful in receiving a grant from the British Academy for her project: Becoming East Asian: Race, Ethnicity and Youth Politics of Belonging in Superdiverse Britain (with Dr. Diana Yeh, City University, London).

Tamsin’s research project examines emerging East Asian youth identities and social spaces in urban Britain to investigate the changing significance of race and ethnicity in superdiverse contexts (a mix of ethnic and migrant minorities).

The concept of superdiversity has become widely adopted to describe and analyse the ordinary multiculture of everyday urban life in the context of new migrations, but it has been criticised for neglecting issues of power, inequality, exclusion and racism . Her project addresses these absences by examining the significance of race and racism for invisible minorities.

Due to migration, East Asians in Britain are now one of the fastest growing ‘ethnic’ groupings, with the highest percentage of international students; yet they remain invisible in both academic and policy debates on citizenship, integration and multiculturalism. This project investigates how and why young people in London and Birmingham are engaging in racial and pan-ethnic ‘Oriental’ group-making when recent social surveys suggest that race is losing its significance as a dominant identity.

The research will be divided between London and Birmingham, two cities with significant East Asian populations, to allow for a comparative analysis. The research team will conduct in-depth interviews with young Japanese, Thai, Filipino, Korean and Malaysian men and women who use East Asian social spaces, such as events aimed specifically at East Asian youth as well as research on social networking sites.It will provide rich multifaceted data to show how and why young people are ‘becoming East Asian’, as they negotiate the politics of belonging in superdiverse Britain.

Her work will contribute to debates on how political mobilization and belonging are changing under superdiversity, and lead to a research agenda on emerging East Asian youth politics in Britain whilst contributing significant new knowledge on the hitherto ‘uncharted territories’ of invisible youth, who until the 2011 Census were classified as a subcategory of ‘Chinese’, as ‘Chinese: Other’. 


If you’d like to find out more about studying Sociology at Oxford Brookes University, take a look at the subject page.

Elites, Legality and Inequalities of Power: State Capture in Comparative Perspective

Francisco Durand's paper on state capture in Peru

Francisco Durand’s paper on state capture in Peru

On 7 October the Centre for Global Politics, Economy and Society at Brookes staged a one-day comparative workshop on state capture across the developing world, with papers on Latin America (Bolivia and Peru), the Balkans (Montenegro), the Central Asian Republics, India and South Africa. The conference sought to provide a definition for what is meant by ‘state capture’ and to provide links between a range of different sorts of regimes which, in one way or another, have been characterised in this way.

Those giving papers included researchers at Oxford Brookes as well as other invited participants. The keynote address was given by Professor Neil Robinson from the University of Limerick, and the concluding remarks were provided by Laurence Whitehead, Official Fellow in Politics at Nuffield College, University of Oxford.

Robinson sought to go beyond the definition of state capture provided in 1998 by Joel Hellman from the World Bank with relation to elite corruption in the countries of the former Soviet Union which he considered limited in its use. Indeed, he sought to go beyond simple institutional explanations (such as presidentialism as opposed to parliamentarism) in fostering state capture. Institutions, on their own, he maintained, failed to promote the liberal virtuous circle so desired by proponents of the Washington Consensus. Taking Russia as an example, he argued that state capture is not a permanent feature of a political system, since under President Putin it was more a case of the state recapturing business after the oligarchic capture witnessed under President Yeltsin.

Robinson saw the need therefore to distinguish different types of state capture and different stages of market reform, and for these to be placed in their historical context. He also pointed to the need to highlight degrees of state autonomy and the extent to which elites can appropriate rents through their influence over state decisions. In Eastern Europe, liberalisation had been essentially technocratic, focusing on how to get the state out of the way, though this was less evident in some countries than others. A paper by Alex Finnen (Ministry of Defence/Oxford Brookes) on Montenegro highlighted a society in which clans and smuggling mafias (often foreign) had effectively seized power.

Two papers – one by Chris Hesketh (Oxford Brookes) and one by Jeffrey Webber (Queen Mary University) stressed class domination of contemporary states and the limited autonomy of state action. Both highlighted the contribution of Gramscian thought to understanding the processes of state capture. Looking at the case of Peru, Francisco Durand (Catholic University, Lima) concentrated more on mechanisms of state capture, both at national as well as local levels, and going beyond analysis of the executive to reflect on other nuclei of power. Both Alex Beresford (Leeds) and Rico Isaacs (Oxford Brookes) stressed neopatrimonialism as their preferred analytical framework for looking at elite control in South Africa and the Central Asian Republics respectively. Prittam Singh (Oxford Brookes) looked at India since Independence, stressing the role of nationalism in limiting the remit of business elites, at least until recent times.

Summing up the proceedings, Laurence Whitehead came back to the need to historicise experiences of state capture, recognise limitations and to focus attention on those parts of the state most readily captured by modern business elites. In reviewing the Bolivian experience, he showed that state capture is an unstable and unpredictable process. Successful state capture tends to happen when an economic model combines with a connected political project and an effective discourse combining the two. However, similarities between case studies make it possible to make meaningful comparison across geographies and over time. Depending on levels of abstraction, what we need to focus on is (i) what parts of the state? (ii) capture by whom? (iii) for what purpose? and (iv) to what degree?

Panelists for the morning session

Panelists for the morning session

Theories of Globalization Workshop


Panelists reflected on the book’s contribution to global studies and research on the global. A recurrent theme was the extent to which globalization scholarship has yet to fully embrace the promise of global theory as a game changer in how the world is understood and knowledge about it accrued. In this regard Theories of Globalization was seen as providing a very welcome forensic critique of existing scholarship and some important, if tantalizing, pointers to how a theory of the global can embrace interdisciplinarity and multidimensionality when describing and explaining new worlds.

Each panelist applauded the book’s scholarship and its contribution to a more theoretically refined global scholarship. All agreed that a book with this scope and ambition would always suffer from the “not invented here” kind of critique and from charges that such-and-such a theme or topic ought to have been included. As such their reviews of the book picked up on different facets of the analysis and highlighted a number of interesting issues about coverage and whether and how these might be addressed in subsequent editions.

Darren O’Byrne noted that what is particularly striking about Axford’s efforts is that they demonstrate a respect for the complexity of globalization theory. It is no easy task to start from a position of such complexity and translate that into a clear and understandable text. Global change is clearly not one-dimensional or one-directional. Multiple processes occur at multiple levels. They co-exist and sometimes collide. They are both happening and not-happening at the same time. From the standpoint of organizing a work of exposition and critique this makes for a daunting task.

O’Byrne stated that Axford presents us with a framework for mapping theories of globalization that distinguishes (for analytical but not empirical purposes) between five core logics (his term) of globalization. Axford does not seem to be attempting to ‘compare and contrast’ these five logics (in the way that one can compare and contrast hyper-globalizers, transformationalists and sceptics, or long-term and short-term theorists, or Marxists and non-Marxists). This is an understandable strategy, given his concern with the complexity of global change. Axford’s five dimensions of globalization – spatial, cultural, historical, political, economic – are akin to Bourdieu’s ‘fields’, each driven by its own logic, disagreements over which produce the rich theoretical debates captured in these chapters. Finally, O’Bryne pointed to the absence of any real engagement with the gendered dimensions of globalization.- an omission acknowledged by the author. He suggested that perhaps this is an unfortunate reflection of the state of globalization theory, rather than a deliberate omission from an author obviously sensitive to such dynamics.

David Inglis also pointed to the danger of adopting a “not invented here” mentality to any critique of this book. He extolled the virtues of the book for teaching and research purposes. In particular the book was not neglectful of the need for a historical dimension in all studies of globalization to balance the overweening presentism of much early theory and empirical research. At the same time he suggested that, in any future edition, Axford might afford more attention to the ways in which classical theory and classical thinkers have much more to say about contemporary forms of globalization than is often credited.  He posed the question “what makes good globalization theory?” and how should that inform the making of intellectually challenging and socially useful global studies?

Ray Kiely applauded a hugely impressive critique of a wide range of literature from across the disciplines – Political Science, IR, Sociology, Cultural Studies, geography, Political economy. This is testimony to the notion that Globalisation studies is at its best when it is interdisciplinary and he agreed that Axford does an excellent job discussing global issues across and between these disciplines.

He also suggested that the work needs to be seen, in part at least, as an extended response to Rosenberg’s post-mortem. Rosenberg argued that globalisation theory was guilty of circular reasoning, so that a set of processes called globalisation (global governance, migration capital flows etc) were explained by something called globalisation – thus conflating description with explanation. like Axford, Kiely think Rosenberg lumps too much diverse work into the globalisation mix and overstates the issue of causality. Taking up Axford’s approbation of complexity theory as a relatively uncontaminated way of thinking about globalization, Kiely offered some support for that view, but expressed the reservation that complexity theory might be stuck at the level of appearances, with the result that anti-reductionism simply becomes non-explanation and/or description. All of which reintroduces Rosenberg’s structures about globalization theory.

Barrie Axford thanked the panellists for their considered and supportive comments. He acknowledged the challenge and the difficulties of writing “a” book about the vagaries of globalization theory and reiterated his hopes that the approach adopted does 3 things. First, it identifies the strengths and weaknesses of global scholarship; second, it highlights similarities and differences in approach to what are often the same puzzles as these appear in scholarship out of various intellectual traditions; third, it points to a jobbing interdisciplinarity in some areas of research and theorizing and thus, fourth, goes some way to demarcate a social science of globality that has always implied the absence of boundaries, but needs a scholarship that is dedicated to the same ends.  He noted the qualifiers offered by the panellists and promised to bear these in mind when (if) a second edition is on the cards.


The rest of the session was taken up with a lively Q+A session led by the audience in which issues as diverse as the treatment of colonialism in globalization theory, the continued Euro-centrism of many accounts and the still powerful grip of disciplinary traditions and concerns were rehearsed.

The workshop which took place on Tuesday 18 February at Oxford Brookes University. It brought together a panel of leading academics of globalization to discuss Barrie Axford’s recently published book Theories of Globalization (Polity, 2013). The workshop was chaired by Chris Rumford (Royal Holloway, University of London) and the panel was made up of Darren O’Byrne (University of Roehampton), David Inglis (Exeter University) and Ray Kiely (Queen Mary, University of London). The audience was made up of members of the GSA, GPES and graduate students at Brookes.

Organized by the Global Studies Association (GSA) and the Centre for Global Politics, Economy and Society (GPES), Oxford Brookes University






Internet security and Big Data considered by panel of experts during seminar hosted by Oxford Brookes University

In the third of a series of three seminars on ‘Networks and Society’ organised by Brunel University and the Centre for Global Politics, Economy and Society at Oxford Brookes University, the theme was ‘Data-bases and surveillance’.


The proceedings were opened by Professor Barrie Axford (Oxford Brookes) who reminded participants that while everyone knows that the Internet has changed how we live, are governed and conduct business, a new, perhaps less visible technological trend promises or threatens greater transformation.  It is known as “big data.” Big data is not coterminous with the Internet, although the Web makes it much easier to collect and share data. Big data is about more than just communication:  we can learn from a large body of information things that we could not grasp, or even conceive, when we had access to and used only smaller amounts.  Big data is also characterized by the ability to turn into data many aspects of the world and everyday life that have never been quantified before. Some call this process  “datafication.”, and unlovely as that term is, it does service. As we all know, even friendships and “likes” can be datafied, most obviously on Facebook and other social media platforms.

Lest this appear as rather benign, or merely descriptive, arguably, it is increasingly clear that citizens are, or may be, vulnerable to the increasingly routine use of big data, and thus in need of protection.  Big data in the guise of Big Brother sounds rather clichéd, but is far from impossible. In all countries, but particularly in non-democratic ones, big data can exacerbate the existing asymmetry of power between the state and the people and between powerful corporate interests and citizens. This asymmetry could well become so great that it leads to what has been described as big-data authoritarianism.

He ended by saying that the seminar affords insights into the aims and mechanics of big data construction and use, into the costs and benefits so visited and the propriety – the democratic propriety – of everything being “datafied”.

In his paper Stephen Coulson stressed that the UK Government in fact has a long track record of successfully implementing Big Data projects. This record extends back at least to 1086 with the compilation of the Doomsday Book. More recently, the first regular, national census in 1801 was launched with the aim of collecting reliable data for social and defence planning as well as to inform the private sector by making the information available to life insurance companies. That the information in the Doomsday Book and the 1801 census is still being actively used today is testament to the success of both these projects.  It may be no coincidence that both projects occurred before the advent of IT and the term Big Data. Delays and lack of clarity of purpose in current Big Data projects have created the impression that the concept of using large data sets for predictive modelling is at best inaccurate and at worst a danger. Attempts to investigate the truth of this impression by studying current Big Data projects are complicated by the fact that the projects that use Big Data such as the human genotype and NHS Patient Records tend to be large, high-profile projects. The size and duration of these projects (both examples are still running) makes it difficult to assess the future benefits of their work and their impacts on the perceptions (sense of threat, predisposition to resist) and behaviour of citizens.

Alex Finnen gave a detailed comparative analysis of the vicissitudes in implementing systems of population movement control by way of biometric ID cards, digital passports and other state-of-the-art population management technologies. His paper outlined the current state of affairs from the point of view of managers attempting to effectively use ICTs in these areas. Most population management control mechanisms are subject to rigorous national and international legislative control, but in order to work effectively in a mobile world they require international agreements on the formats in which data is to be stored and presented.  Nowhere is this more so than in Europe where it is possible for a citizen to move by car between five or six different states in one day.  Such agreements are not in place and are not likely to be so in the near future.  While this remains the case, the United Kingdom and the EU have a brief window to introduce appropriate legislation to manage these still nascent technologies. His basic premise is that “big brother is not here yet” in global terms but that we should use this window of opportunity to develop the national and international legislative framework for the day when it is a real global prospect.

Karl Harrison gave a close-grained portrayal of the ways in which the capacity to gather large quantities of data from numerous types of mobile devices has become a commonplace of major crime investigation in the UK. Such ‘high-tech’ sources of intelligence have become progressively more established and systematised within major crime investigation. He argued that There is an implicit challenge for police in recognising the distinction between ‘data’ and ‘intelligence’ in the context of the interrogation of mobile devices; this is not dissimilar to the conflation the persists between concepts of forensic intelligence and evidence, and the tendency to regard only certain specific forensic evidence types as being suitable providers of intelligence (most specifically PACE DNA samples). As a consequence, complex enquiries that might be led in some part by forensic intelligence, are sometimes hamstrung by a syndrome of tunnel vision that directly equates the term ‘intelligence’ with biometric identification.

Jonathan Joseph, spoke to the wider and contested theme of ‘resilience’ applied to a host of policy areas and bearing on the ways in which systems and actors react to, manage and ‘bounce back’ from external shocks.  A resilience approach to development, security and disaster protection focuses on risk awareness, preparedness and assessment. Using EU policy on monitoring crisis situations in the Horn of Africa, he revealed how the resilience discourse allows actors such as the EU to portray itself in a way that is consistent with its image as a facilitator of better governance and normative forms of power. It also allows the EU to project itself as a strong actor in a complex and uncertain global environment.  His position is that while resilience encourages a view of the bigger picture as more complex, uncertain and yet inter-dependent, this in fact legitimates more mundane practices at the micro level that relate to monitoring and evaluation of performance of individuals and institutions, including forms of data gathering and storage. Here, under the resilience motif, routine surveillance of individuals and populations can be parlayed into a a cost-effective way of dealing with interdependency crises.

In the final paper of the day, Anthony Barnett turned directly to the potential and actual consequences for democracy carried in the routinisation of big data generation and usage. Big data is a wonderfully powerful tool in many areas, in the sciences in particular, but also in surveillance, because it changes the way the intelligence services work and the way citizens – and journalists – must relate to them. Where there were once specific targets, everyone is now under automatic surveillance, the information ready to be accessed by an agent if so desired. Where suspects where once placed under surveillance by human judgment, computers looking for patterns of behaviour will flag most suspects for the intelligence services in the future, most of which will be false positives. The copious amount of metadata we leave by living normal 21st Century lives mean we can be mapped in the smallest detail with a minimum of effort. Activists, journalists and their sources will need to be much more careful and courageous than ever before, and a self-censorship mentality is a likely outcome. These changes should be problematic also to those who place much trust in the state’s intentions – with the huge size of the intelligence services in Britain and its allies, and the information sharing amongst them, leaks for profit and other motifs is inevitable. How are we to deal with this brave new world?

The day closed with a lively discussion on the propriety of big data generation and usage; on its liberating and oppressive effects. In this, and throughout the day, a number of themes and issue-areas were apparent:

  1. In what could otherwise be presented as a managerial or simply technical solution to, for example, crime investigation, population movement or consumer marketing, underlying principles are at stake; not least the legitimate extent and appropriateness of state and private-corporate surveillance or monitoring in a democratic polity and society?
  2. At heart we are dealing with the changing nature of power in contemporary societies and whether the digital revolution is entrenching or fundamentally altering past configurations.
  3. So, rather than trade only in discussions on the technical capacity of states and other actors to carry out such surveillance / monitoring, or on their relative efficiency when doing so, we should be examining the objectives of data gathering in the first place.
  4. Insistence on clarity of purpose is essential to ensure democratic accountability, along with the expectation that the institutions charged with oversight of intelligence and other kinds of data gathering are fit for purpose.
  5. Clarity of purpose also bears on the sensitive area of data sharing. Where this occurs – as it frequently does – lists of “customers” for shared data must be publicly available and their intended uses made known.
  6. At the same time, it is necessary to distinguish between data willingly and knowingly surrendered by individuals and data – perhaps metadata – gathered from individuals and populations ‘behind their backs’, as it were, as a result of them going on line to further a line of inquiry or personal connection.
  7. This is a tricky area for students of democracy weighted, as it is, with matters of trust and / or a sense that in a highly digitized and interconnected world, citizens and consumers may be relatively uncaring – rather than ill-informed – about the possible dangers of identifying and revealing themselves online.
  8. As such, the different motivations underlying citizen/consumer resistance to data gathering have to be canvassed and understood. The world is not  ordered, or is not just ordered, by principled or ideological cyber-enthusiasts or sceptics.

Details of the outputs from this and the first 2 seminars in the series will be advertised on these pages in the coming months, along with notices about future events.

  • The panel of expert speakers comprised:  Dr Stephen Coulson (Buckingham University and Apsley Analytics), Dr Alex Finnen (Ministry of Defence), Dr Karl Harrison (Cranfield), Professor Jonathan Joseph (Sheffield) and Anthony Barnett (openDemocracy).

Professor Tina Miller publishes paper on father’s involvment in parental leave

Tina MillerProfessor Tina Miller has been invited to write a piece for Juncture the journal for the The Institute for Public Policy Research. The piece is on policy and parental leave (Volume 19, Issue 4).

It has just been published online and is available as hard copy.

Professor Barrie Axford to give keynote address about the digital revolution and global society

Axford_B_p0054569Professor Barrie Axford has been invited to give a keynote address at the Institute for Humanities and Social Science Research (IHSSR) at Manchester Metropolitan University. He will give the 3rd lecture in a series devoted to  ‘Making Global Society’ and will talk on the theme ‘The digital revolution and the making of global society: limits and possibilities’. The lecture will take place on 18 November 2013.

Professor Barrie Axford to be international reviewer for Hawaii International Conference on Information and System Sciences

Axford_B_p0054569Professor Barrie Axford has been invited to be a member of the international reviewer panel for the E-Government Track at the 47th Hawaii International Conference on Information and System Sciences (HICSS-47). The conference, the largest and most prestigious in Information Sciences, will be held on the Big Island Hawaii in March 2014

Professor Math Noortmann presents papers at national and international conferences

Noortmann_M_p0075910Professor Math Noortmann’s paper,  ASEAN’s Counter-terrorism after Bali: a critical realist approach to security community theory, was presented at the 2nd Annual Southeast Asian Studies Symposium, Oxford, 9 March 201.

He will present  a paper, Humanitarian Actors and Climate Change: a Critical Realist Perspective at the Conference on Human Rights and Climate Change, Utrecht, 10 October 2013.

He will also present a paper, Non-Governmental Organizations: roles, rules and responsibilities, at the International Conference on Non-State Actor Responsibilities: Empirical Findings and Theoretical Considerations, Vancouver 27 June 20.

He will also give a paper at a seminar series on non-state actors and education, British Institute of International and Comparative Law, London, 22 May 2013