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School of Politics and International Relations

Professorial public lecture series

The School of Politics and International Relations is one of the UK’s leading research-intensive departments. It has expanded considerably over the past decade, and is now in the UK’s top 10 for the excellence of its published work and research intensity. The School ranked 7th overall in the UK 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) which means its research was considered world leading and internationally excellent.

Below, you can see details of previous lectures delivered by our Professors:

Professor Rainbow Murray

Why do certain men dominate politics? Is it really because they are the most talented and qualified to do the job? To answer this question we need to consider how we define and recognise merit and qualification. Part of the problem is that the definition of the job is shaped by those who do it. This reinforces and validates the status quo of privileged men from narrow, elite backgrounds. Restricting the talent pool to these men has repercussions for the overall quality of representation, and the quasi-exclusion of many social groups from the representative process has real consequences for policy outcomes and citizen satisfaction with democracy.

So we need to rethink what it means to be a good representative, and recognise the need for and benefits of diversity. We also need to consider the demands made on politicians – the financial costs of running for office, the negative impacts on family life, the constant scrutiny from (social) media – and consider how these present particular barriers to members of certain social groups. Unless we can level the playing field by making candidate selection criteria and working conditions more inclusive, we will all continue to suffer from sub-optimal representation.

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Professor Jef Huysmans

What do the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in the Ukraine, and climate change have in common? An understanding that politics, whether global, international, or planetary, are defined by struggles for survival. In each of these cases, delivering security intensely operates as the first and main objective of politics. Borders close to an unseen extend to protect human life from a global pandemic. European politics is being redefined through militarised geopolitical fears of threats to state survival. Calls for a planetary politics continue to intensify in reference to life on earth heading towards a catastrophic collapse. Security seems to truly be the baseline of contemporary political order. However tempting such a conception of politics is today, one of the defining challenges for critical engagements with security remains how to take war, environmental degradation and pandemics serious but without making security the defining point of view of social and political life.

‘Really? Is that a major challenge? Why would you want to be critical about security in these conditions that obviously call for a profound security response? And, even if you want to, how can you gain critical leverage on security in a world that seems saturated by insecurities of such international and planetary magnitude?’ The lecture will engage with these objections by revisiting developments in Critical Security Studies (CSS) since the 1990s and propose a post-critical analytic that fractures security by foregrounding a conception of life-in-motion rather than life-unto-death. In doing so, the lecture introduces an international political sociology of insecurity that seeks to challenge the grip that founding politics in death retains in contemporary politicisations of insecurity.

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Professor Kimberly Hutchings

Kimberly Hutchings profile photo

The last twenty years have seen a large increase in the amount of academic work dealing with the ethics of war and peace, as well as the amount of direct engagement of academics with states and militaries in trying to bring moral considerations into the conduct of war.

This lecture explored different ethical traditions of thinking about war and peace and their implications for understanding and judging the present in world politics. It argued that, too often, ethical theorists neglect the messy and complex interrelation of war and peace. Because of this, their arguments either lack purchase on the world or are too easily subsumed into the legitimation narratives of powerful state actors. This suggests that ethical theorists not only need to think differently about war and peace, but also to think differently about the nature of ethical judgment.

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