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International Relations, Politics and Sociology annual postgraduate day proves to be a great success

003The International Relations, Politics and Sociology Programme held its Annual Postgraduate Day on 22 June 2016. This mini-conference was a showcase for work being done both by research students and the current MA International Studies cohort. Prospective MA students and online viewers were able to take part via livestream.

Dr Stephen Hurt, course lead for MA International Relations (formerly International Studies), reports that he was delighted to welcome Dr Juanita Elias (pictured, being introduced by Dr Molly Cohran) from the University of Warwick, where she is an Associate Professor in International Political Economy, for a lecture on ‘Gender, IPE and Labour Migration: Perspectives from South-East Asia’. Her lecture covered some of the key findings of her recent academic publications. Starting from the key feminist claim that a focus on social reproduction is vital, Juanita convincingly demonstrated how the role played by domestic workers is central to an understanding of the political economy of South-East Asia. In doing so she argued that social reproduction is becoming increasingly marketised, with states like Malaysia and Singapore encouraging inflows of migration to this effect.

“We are very grateful to Dr Elias for joining us and for prompting a very lively and interesting Q&A session after her lecture”

After the session broke for lunch, guests heard from three current doctoral research students from the department. Kian Pourkemani outlined some of the themes of his project, which is looking at the right of self-determination within international law. Huw Houssemayne Du Boulay set out the design of his research, which seeks to explore the ‘idea’ of Crimea and how this has varied over time in relation to notions of Russian national identity. Emily Cousens then spoke to some of the work she is doing on an interdisciplinary project with Philosophy on the concept of vulnerability within the history of feminist thought.

The International Relations, Politics and Sociology annual postgraduate day concluded with two sets of parallel panels where current MA students gave short presentations on their summer dissertation projects.

These presentations demonstrated the fascinating range of topics that our MA students are conducting research on. The following projects are just a sample to demonstrate the breadth of their interests:

  • ‘To what extent will the continued automation of labour impact social stratification in the global political economy?’.
  • ‘The relationship between scientific knowledge and political ecology in correcting environmental justice’.
  • ‘How a civil society organisation – Pelitit – is promoting food sovereignty and agro-ecological farming practices in Greece’.
  • ‘Producing in/security and its objects: discourse analysis of the reproduction of French citizen after the Charlie Hebdo attacks’.

Find out more about MA International Relations, or research at Oxford Brookes. Keep an eye on the Department of Social Sciences events page to take part in the next postgraduate day in June 2017.

Oxford Brookes lecturers to convene 2017 British Academy Conference

Carrying child news sizeAn interdisciplinary team of lecturers from the Department of Social Sciences at Oxford Brookes University has been selected to convene one of the prestigious British Academy Conferences, to take place in London in 2017. The theme of the conference will be ‘Vulnerability and the Politics of Care’, a subject that has broad academic and public appeal.

Over the course of the two-day conference speakers will present research and engage in discussions about vulnerability in contexts ranging from eldercare to the war on terror, from epigenetics to phenomenology.

The organisers are Doerthe Rosenow (Senior Lecturer, International Relations), Victoria Browne (Lecturer, Politics), Tina Managhan (Senior Lecturer, International Relations), and Jason Danely (Senior Lecturer, Anthropology) – all of whom are first-time applicants to organise the event. They decided to move forward with their British Academy proposal after a successful two-day workshop on the same topic held at Oxford Brookes University in January 2016, which included participants from across the UK and Italy.

For the British Academy Conference, the four organisers have built upon the success of January’s event and invited even more world-class speakers – not only from the UK, but also the US, Germany, Australia, The Netherlands, Switzerland, and Lebanon. One highlight of the conference will be a talk by Professor Judith Butler (University of California Berkeley), widely recognized as one of the most influential voices in contemporary social theory today. Butler, who is best known for her work on politics, gender and queer theory, has been at the center of developing a politics of vulnerability over the past decade, and was a key supporter of the conference proposal. More information on the conference will be available later in the year.

Oxford Brookes history professor speaks about British business and its relations with the European Union

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Professor Glen O’Hara spoke at the British Academy last week about British business’ relations with the European Union. This was the week that the UK Prime Minister issued the four main demands he wants met if he is to recommend staying in the EU in a referendum. Politicians, think tanks, advisers, businesspeople gathered, in an event organised by Queen Mary University of London’s Mile End Institute, to consider the past and future of the British role in Europe.

Professor O’Hara spoke about British companies’ increasing enthusiasm for Europe in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, as they perceived ‘Europe’ to be a fast-growing, dynamic and above all huge market for their goods and services. He suggested that British business will be much more divided on the question in the forthcoming referendum campaign, as the Eurozone crisis and perceived European economic ‘sclerosis’ is now dividing opinion as to whether Britain’s best interests lie.

British politics is heading back to 1974

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Professor Glen O’Hara, of the Department of History, Philosophy and Religion, has contributed another of his semi-regular pieces on politics and history to The Independent’s online edition. This time he has focused on the prospects for the next General Election, noting that no one party is likely to gain a majority, and even the two largest parties together might not be able to command the confidence of the House of Commons. This, he argues, is a situation just like that which arose in 1974, when a lacklustre Labour Opposition defeated a less-than-popular Conservative Government by a very small margin. As he notes, there had to be two elections in 1974, and ‘if the numbers are anything like what we’re expecting at the moment, Parliament’s mandate and ability to function will have to be renewed at some point long before 2020 – the planned date of the election after next’.

 

Theories of Globalization Workshop

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

Brookes’ Expert on current Ukraine Crisis

Last Thursday, Dr Sarah Whitmore, Oxford Brookes University was invited to brief Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Simon Smith, on the escalating political crisis in Ukraine.

Photography copyright Dmytro Sanin

Photography copyright Dmytro Sanin

Sarah, a Senior Lecturer in Politics, attended the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to discuss with Simon Smith how the UK and the EU can best promote free and fair elections in Ukraine. The Ambassador was on a 2-day visit to the UK to attend a round-table discussion with experts and FCO analysts.

On my seventh such invitation, I attended a discussion with the Ambassador along with Dr Kataryna Wolczuk, University of Birmingham, Orysia Lutsevich, Chatham House (home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs) and Dame Audrey Glover, OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe).

Dr Sarah Whitmore’s research focuses on the significance of political institutions in structuring and reproducing power in post-Soviet states, with a particular focus on Ukraine and Russia. Her current research project examines the meanings of disruptive protests in Ukraine’s parliament. She has given briefings to the FCO and the US Department of State on Ukrainian politics, as well as giving regular media interviews.

The political crisis in Ukraine is the most serious challenge facing Europe now. We are now in the third month of deadlock between anti-regime protesters and President Yanukovych, whose actions prompted the protests, and there is no sign of a resolution.

Photography copyright Dmytro Sanin

Photography copyright Dmytro Sanin

The Ambassador was interested to discuss the treatment of protesters, the current and prospective actions of the president and his closest supporters and how the EU could promote free and fair elections.

Dr Sarah Whitmore offers her perspective saying;

…repressive actions have increased, including kidnappings and torture, while the concessions offered have been minimal and aimed at sowing discord among the protesters. At the same time, there are steps available to the EU against those responsible for illegal actions, but the EU needs to seek to restrain Russian involvement and come up with meaningful and substantial support for Ukraine to help offset Russian punitive measures.

Since the briefing;

…negotiations between the president and opposition have collapsed, the EU has begun to talk publicly about support and even the potential of membership for Ukraine, while the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for member states to impose sanctions, but Russian rhetoric has also escalated, so a peaceful resolution seems as far away as ever at this point.

Sarah began her career as a teacher and taught in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital between 1994-96. There she learned Russian, which led on to her specialising in Ukrainian politics for her PhD and learning Ukrainian.

 

Senior Lecturer in Politics, Sarah Whitmore, publishes article about the political situation in Ukraine

Senior Lecturer in Politics, Dr Sarah Whitmore, has published an article on the Political Studies Association blog about the political situation in Ukraine.

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The article, published on 6 December, is intended for a wide audience who perhaps don’t know too much about Ukraine but are interested in understanding why hundreds of thousands of people have been out on the streets demonstrating for almost two weeks.

Sarah Whitmore is a Senior Lecturer in Politics at Oxford Brookes University and an honorary research fellow at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Birmingham.

 

 

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.

Centre for Global Politics, Economy and Society Launch event

To celebrate its launch the Centre for Global Politics, Economy and Society (GPES) will hold a workshop on January 17-18, 2013 on the theme of “The Borders of Global Theory: views from within and without”

The workshop will be held in the University’s Buckley Building, on its Gipsy Lane campus and will commence at 1:45pm on Thursday January 17; finishing on Friday, January 18 at 2pm.

There is no charge for the workshop, but if you would like to attend so that we can estimate seating and refreshments, please contact Dr David Hughes on david.hughes-2010@brookes.ac.uk

The Centre is an interdisciplinary body with a remit to encourage reflection on and research into social transformations of global scope, which are impacting on the world today. For further information visit www.social-sciences.brookes.ac.uk/research/centres/gpes/

The workshop will examine the current state of global theory, assess its contribution to the transformation or modification of social-scientific knowledge and reflect on its future. A body of work with the idea of the global at its core can be traced back to the 1980s and despite the narrowing of the research focus seen in the shift from broad-brush and often ideologically – inflected tracts, to projects with a rather middle-range cast, arguably there remains the promise of a two-way transformation immanent in global scholarship. The first is a transformation in the ways in which the world is ordered and lives conducted; the second a transformation in how knowledge about the world is garnered and evaluated. In both cases, our frames of reference either have changed, or may be changing.  Nearly 3 decades on it is apposite to take stock and look forward; all with a critical eye.
The final programme for the workshop will be published on January 5 at: www.social-sciences.brookes.ac.uk/research/centres/gpes/

Speakers include:

Roland Roberston: “Beyond the Global? Potential Directions for ‘Global Studies'”

Chris Rumford: “Strangeness: theorizing a particular experience of globalization”

Jan-Aart Scholte: “Global Democracy Research: A Methodological Reflection”

Grahame Thompson: “Should we be worried about global quasi-constitutionalization?”

Heather Widdows: “Public Goods and the Possibility of Theories of Can theories of Justice ever being Global?”

Gillian Youngs: “Virtual Globalization: Directions in Digital Thinking”