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Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies seminars 2020/21

See the schedule of seminars taking place in the Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies.

February 2021 Seminars

All seminars will take place via Teams from 13.15-14.05.

Tuesday 2nd February 2021

  • Speaker: Prof Axel Goodbody
  • Time: 13.15-14.05

Title: Recalling the Past to Imagine the Future: History and Memory in Climate Fiction

Tuesday 9th February 2021

Title: Right-Wing Populism and the Normalization of Racism: Discursive Shifts, Immigration and Moral Panics

Abstract: This presentation draws on my long-term work on anti-immigration discourses of right-wing populist & far-right parties in Central-Eastern Europe and beyond (Krzyżanowski & Wodak 2009; Krzyżanowski 2012; Wodak & Krzyżanowski 2017). It takes a critical-analytical look at the case of Poland in the wider context of social, political and media responses to the recent ‘Refugee Crisis’ in Europe (Krzyżanowski 2018a & 2018b; Krzyżanowski, Triandafyllidou & Wodak 2018).

The paper shows that, in the Polish context, imaginaries of the ‘Refugee Crisis’ disseminated in political and media discourses have acted as very prominent catalysers and carriers of normalization of not only the unprecedented narratives of racism and hate but also of the deeper and wider change of public norms since 2015. I illustrate that the strategic and opportunistic introduction of anti-immigration rhetoric in/by the Polish political ‘mainstream’– and in particular by the Law and Justice Party (PiS) – has in the last few years contributed immensely to the dissemination as well as eventual acceptance of strongly discriminatory views in Poland.

This, as I show, often took place while conflating the newly introduced discourses of racism and Islamophobia with other and often indeed long-standing traits of such discriminatory practices as, e.g., sexism, homophobia or anti-Semitism. Through the presentation, I aim to depict that normalization processes in question have been part and parcel of a wider multistep process of strategically orchestrated discursive shifts (Krzyżanowski 2013, 2018a, 2019, 2020a). Therein, extremist discourses have been enacted, perpetuated and eventually normalised as elements of pronounced political strategies. However, the highlighted normalization processes have also entailed the creation of a specific, public borderline discourse (Krzyżanowski and Ledin 2017).

Within the latter, civil, rational and politically correct language has been increasingly used to pre-legitimise (Krzyżanowski 2014, 2016) uncivil, radical and extremist positions and ideologies thus contributing to the formation of a wider, and in effect explicitly exclusionary and nativist ‘common sense’.

Tuesday 16th February 2021

  • Speaker: Dr Malu Gatto, University College London
  • Time: 13.15-14.05

Title: Attitudes toward marginalized groups and preferences for electoral quotas

Tuesday 23rd February 2021

Title: Uneven and Combined (state) Capitalism

Abstract: This article contributes to the development of state capitalism as a reflexively critical project focusing on the morphology of present-day capitalism, and particularly on the changing role of the state. We bring analytical clarity to state capitalism studies by offering a rigorous definition of its object of investigation, and by demonstrating how the category state capitalism can be productively construed as a means of problematising the current aggregate expansion of the state’s role as promoter, supervisor, and owner of capital across the world economy. Noting some of the geographical shortcomings of the field, we outline an alternative research agenda – uneven and combined state capitalist development – which aims at spatialising the study of state capitalism and revitalising systemic explanations of the phenomenon.

We then offer a geographic reconstruction of the current advent of state capitalism. We identify the determinate historical-geographical capitalist transformations which underpin contemporary state capitalism. Such processes include: the accelerating unfolding of the new international division of labour; technological modernization and industrial upgrading culminating in the Fourth Industrial Revolution; an unprecedented concentration and centralisation of capital; and a secular shift in the centre of gravity of the global economy from the North Atlantic to the Pacific rim. The political mediation of these processes results in new geographies of intervention, which develop in combinatorial and cumulative forms, producing further state capitalist modalities. This is a particularly potent dynamic in contemporary state capitalism, and its tendency to develop in a spiral that both shapes and is shaped by world capitalist development

March 2021 Seminars

All seminars will take place via Teams from 13.15-14.05.

Tuesday 2nd March 2021

Title: Modernism in Trieste: Multicultural Patriotism and the Future of the Nation

Abstract: At the beginning of the twentieth century, literary modernism in the polyglot and multicultural port city of Habsburg Trieste—a city at the crossroads of Austrian, Italian, and Slovene cultures—produced a distinctly political aesthetics. Since the Habsburg Empire treated citizenship, ethnicity, and rights of residence as separate forms of civic participation, the many authors of the city were often engaged in imagining paradigms of belonging that challenged the rise of national affiliation.

The literary, cultural, and political histories of Trieste thus suggest that the age of nationalism was also an era of competing modes of identification that included an indifference to national feelings, a multilingual Europeanism, and a regionally inflected multicultural patriotism. Given how these taxonomies of cultural and political allegiances survived in literary and philosophical programs after 1945, I will ponder what these developments could mean for the future of the nation today.

Tuesday 9th March 2021

  • Speaker: Dr Ali Meghji, University of Cambridge
  • Time: 13.15-14.05

Title:Towards a theoretical synergy: interrogating critical race theory and decolonial thought

Abstract: There is a burgeoning interest in the differences between the sociology of race and decolonial thought. This talk develops such discussions by focusing on decolonial thought and a seemingly incongruous paradigm within the sociology of race – critical race theory (CRT). While decolonial thought stresses the continuity of colonial power relations, is committed to transnational and temporally connected analysis, and tends to use historical methods, CRT is based around the premise that contemporary racism must be analysed outside of colonial legacies, tends to analyse nation states outside of their global interlinkages, and methodologically commits to a ‘presentism’ by focusing on the contemporary day.

Nevertheless, despite these differences, in this talk I argue that CRT and decolonial thought can synergize to provide prescient analysis of contemporary crises. To display the efficacy of this synergy, I focus on two case studies: right-wing populism, and the coronavirus pandemic. In each of these cases, we see that neither CRT nor decolonial thought can analyse them sufficiently on their own, but that together they can address each other’s blindspots.

I therefore aim to synergize decolonial thought and CRT to open new avenues in the social sciences for globally oriented analysis that pays attention to national particularities.

Tuesday 16th March 2021

Title: Eating ‘saf’ in Dakar: Cooking, culinary change and the politics of taste

Abstract: Over the past decade in Senegal home cooking has come to be dominated by a single culinary value and practice: safle. A distinctive, savoury “saf” flavour profile is emblematic of pleasurable and meaningful urban eating, but it is also the object of critique and regulation. Cooks who create flavour through the supercharged properties of “ultraprocessed” or industrial food can be accused of vulgarity, cultural anarchy, and spreading chronic disease.

Drawing on long term, ethnographic research in households in the Dakar suburb of Pikine, this paper examines conflict over culinary change in Dakar and asks what the city’s flavour wars can tell us about the dilemmas and anxieties inherent in modern eating.

April 2021 Seminars

All seminars will take place via Teams from 13.15-14.05.

Tuesday 13th April 2021

Title: Populism in sport, leisure, and popular culture

Abstract: Based on the edited book of the same title w/ Alan Tomlinson (Routledge, 2021), this talk explores how sport, leisure, and popular culture become ideological expressions in socio-political populist strategies and dynamics. Populism as an academic construct is set in dialogue with cultural historical roots and application to cultural forms, notably sporting mega-events, reality television, and media. Contextualised within different national contexts, and with emphasis on the United States and Donald Trump, left and right expressions of populist leadership are explored.

In concert with emerging and increasingly diverse perspectives on populism—conceptually, methodologically, empirically, and in news media—I aim to encourage: a) further interdisciplinary engagement between social and political fields, notably theoretically, discursively, and ideologically; b) an understanding of the relationship between popular culture and populism; c) further instantiation of left and right iterations of populism; and d) racial and gendered articulations of populism in popular culture.

Tuesday 20th April 2021

Title: Populism, nationalism and the question of hegemony?

Abstract: In this talk, I will introduce my take on populism, and present the concept as a heuristic device for research – rather than a concept euphemous with racism and white supremacy. In an immanent reading of Ernesto Laclau, following Laclaudian tropological thinking and poststructuralist version of formalism, I define this as a form that can be operationalised in various contexts. Populism is a logic that entangles with nationalism and other ideologies having a similar structure (Palonen 2018). The democratic ethos of populism is that the space of “us” or “the people” in populism is empty, while in nationalism nation is seen as always there. The form of populism has been useful for our recent comparative analysis of Nordic populists – and their bases.

Furthermore, I hope to discuss how we are currently conducting social media research – with example of topic modelling – and how we might be able to analyse populism through this prism. Unfortunately, our UK analysis of the EP 2019 elections did not finalise for this piece, but it would be great if we had some space for collective thinking on this and some glimpses from other cases. The title of the talk refers to Laclau’s seminal piece – Universalism, particularism and the question of identity – which was helpful for nationalism research in that era of early 1990s. Recycled for our era with populism as universalism and nationalism as particularism, what I wanted to raise at the core of the talk is not “identity politics” (difference or identification) but the need to reflect on hegemonic transformations that also have some things to do with populism and nationalism – and limit the horizon of possible identities and their legitimacy. This is why research on not just the election results but what actually generates those, such as hybrid media environments is necessary for better grasping social and political transformation.

Tuesday 27th April 2021

Title: Where No Black Woman Has Gone Before: Subversive Portrayals in Speculative Film and TV

Abstract: This presentation provides an introduction to my book Where No Black Woman Has Gone Before: Subversive Portrayals in Speculative Film and TV (University of Texas Press, 2018), which examines representations of black womanhood and girlhood in new millennial British and American speculative film and television.

The movies and shows in question—28 Days Later (2002), AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004), Children of Men (2006), Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), Firefly (2002), and Doctor Who: Series 3 (2007)—have never been read together or primarily through their portrayals of black femininity. However, each case study includes a subversive black female character in its main cast. Although black women have a long cinematic history of being stereotyped or simply erased on screen, my book showcases twenty-first-century examples that challenge or complicate that history through the speculative genre. The book draws on critical race, postcolonial, and gender theories to explore each cinematic text and to place the black female characters at the center of the analysis. I will conclude this presentation with some reflections on films and television shows that came out after the book was completed, including Star Trek: Discovery (2017–present), Get Out (2017), and Black Panther (2018).

Given that this talk takes place two days after the 2021 Oscars, I will also briefly touch on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and its ongoing efforts to better represent the diversity of the American (and international) film industry.

May 2021 Seminars

All seminars will take place via Teams from 13.15-14.05.

Tuesday 11th May 2021

Title: Populist and Ethnonationalist Legal Innovations

Abstract: The surge in populism studies in the last decade came hand in hand with the conceptual stretching of the term. What current mainstream definitions of populism (as a strategy, a performance, a logic or a ‘thin ideology’) have in common is that they are meant to include ethnonationalist politics. This conceptual confusion in which populism and nationalism are seen as overlapping, originates in theoretical abstractions (populism as appealing to ‘the people’) as well as biased inductive reasoning (selecting on the dependent variable), and has helped not only to disconnect contemporary populism from historical populist experiences, but also to normalize fascist politics based on the supremacy of the nation as an ethnic group.

In previous work I have traced the history of populism—from the 19th century Russian Narodnics and the People’s Party in the United States, to the 2000s Pink Tide governments in Latin America and Podemos in Spain— and, using a radical republican theoretical lens, argued that it should be understood as a class-based inclusionary form of politics appealing to the plebeian people—de facto second class citizens. This longue durée populism that emerges from this analysis is different from the ethnic-based, exclusionary form of politics sponsored by the far right.

To further evidence the disparity between these two forms of politics, in this presentation I will offer a review of the most emblematic legal innovations by populist and ethnonationalist leaders in history as well as in contemporary politics —from populist measures such as the nationalization of railroads, equal access to higher education, recall elections, the cancelation of debt, and the wealth tax, to ethnonationalist discriminatory laws against internal religious, racial, sexual, and political minorities as well as xenophobic immigration and security laws targeting migrants and non-native residents.

Tuesday 25th May 2021

Title: Populism as the European condition

Abstract: It is often argued that there are better and worse forms of populism, most notably the differences between a reactionary right-wing populism and a progressive left-wing version are brought to the fore. Left-wing populists are said to base their identity-formations on a civic populism or on popular sovereignty. This should be seen in stark contrast to right-wing populists, who invoke an ethnic populism, or national sovereignty. Crucially, both versions of populism are seen as antithetical to European liberal democracies. This paper takes issue with this division, and argues that, in fact, the claims to sovereignty from right- and left-wing populists alike are steeped in a European idea of state formation, which is not very different between left and right populisms, and core to the European democratic project. The paper interrogates three aspects of the ideal European democratic subject: a capacity to rationality, whiteness, and masculinity, and argues that whilst these are rarely explicitly demanded by political actors, they are expected in institutional settings of European democracies. By doing this the paper shows that the distinction between right- and left-wing populism is less stark than previously imagined, but also that the distinction between populists and non-populists is fuzzier and more blurred. Importantly, the heritage of what it means to be a European citizen prevails over these distinctions.

June 2021 Seminars

All seminars will take place via Teams from 13.15-14.05.

Tuesday 1st June 2021

  • Speaker: Dr Ben Radley, Social and Policy Sciences, University of Bath
  • Time: 13:15-14:05

Title: Disrupted Development in the Congo: The Fragile Foundations of the African Mining Consensus

Abstract: Since the turn of the century, low-income African countries have undergone a process of mining industrialisation led by transnational corporations, theoretically sustained by an African Mining Consensus uniting international financial institutions, African governments, development agencies, and the academic literature. Through a detailed case study of gold mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Disrupted Development in the Congo reveals the fragile foundations on which this consensus rests, and argues for a shift towards more domestically embedded and oriented alternatives.

Tuesday 8th June 2021

  • Speaker: Dominic Casciani, BBC Home and Legal Correspondent and Dr Felia Allum Politics, Languages and International Studies, University of Bath
  • Time: 13:15-14:05

Title: From Textbook to TV: How to turn academic research into a BBC documentary

Abstract: Join us at this lunchtime event in conversation with the BBC’s Home Affairs Correspondent Dominic Casciani and the University of Bath’s Dr Felia Allum where we will explore the making of their 2020 BBC documentary ‘Confessions of a Mafia Killer’. Telling the incredible story of Gennaro Panzuto, a former Mafia boss who for years had played a key role in Naples’ Camorra and has now turned state witness, the documentary was a collaboration informed and inspired by Felia’s award-winning book ‘The Invisible Camorra: Neapolitan Crime Families Across Europe’. Registration is now open.

Tuesday 15th June 2021

Title: Analysing Gender in Healthcare: COVID-19 and the Service Recipient

Abstract: A person’s sexual and reproductive lifecycle places an inevitable biological demand on any clinical system that comes with a substantial price tag. These fiduciary concerns have long surpassed a one-dimensional child bearing function, however, and the intersection of developments in gender, sexuality and sex create a rich politics of fertility and oftentimes a site of policymaking conflict. The extent to which these progressive ideas disrupt policy outcomes in the UK, and how this power is manifested, is of central concern to my research.

To tackle this puzzle, the decisions of the healthcare community in four key moments - namely adolescent sexual health, reproductive rights, pregnancy and infertility – are explored. These case studies question the assumption of a passive healthcare user. Instead advancing a dialectical model of policy networks, attention is afforded to discourse as proxy of power for service recipients to build alliances and exploit conflicts within the conservative healthcare structure. Although traditional power continues to dominate sexual and reproductive health, the diffusion of innovative norms from patient focused groups have been evidenced. Further exacerbating the conflict between these structural forces, COVID’s exogenous shock to the system reconfigures the community further still, creating ripe moments for progressive change, albeit against the pandemic’s backdrop of disproportionate gendered impact.

Tuesday 22nd June 2021

Abstract: This paper discusses St Mary’s Refuge on the Bristol Road in Northfield, now a suburb of Birmingham. The 'refuge' has many of the hallmarks of what Irish scholars would call a 'Magdalene laundry'. The paper situates this institution in the carceral landscape of post-war Britain, focusing in particular on its relationship (and the relationships of other institutions like it) to the Irish community. It asks what the 'Magdalene laundry abroad' can tell us about Irish architectures of containment in the past, and our responses to them in the present.

Past seminars 2020-21.

Semester 1 seminars.

Tuesday 29 September

'The Political Economy of Urban Corruption in Spain' Javier Moreno Zacarés, University of Warwick

Tuesday 6 October

'Informed, Involved or Empowered? Three ideal types of autism policy design in Western Europe' Kate Precious, Postgraduate Research Student, PoLIS

Tuesday 13 October

'Understanding Women's Political Under-Representation: an experimental study on the prevalence of political gender stereotypes in Flanders (Belgium)' Dr Robin DeVroe, Ghent University

Tuesday 20 October

'(B)ordering Britain: law, race and empire' Dr Nadine El-Enany, Birbeck University of London

Tuesday 27 October

'Crypto Assets: catch me if you can' Robby Houben, University of Antwerp

Tuesday 3 November, 16.15pm

'The New Geopolitics of the Arctic'

Professor Caroline Kennedy-Pipe and Dr Duncan Depledge, Loughborough University

Tuesday 10 November

'Race and the Referendum: White and Ethnic Minority Voting in the 2016 EU Referendum’ Dr Neema Begum, University of Manchester

Tuesday 17 November

'Understanding Populist Foreign Policy: A comparative analysis' Prof Cameron Thies, Arizona State University

Tuesday 24 November

'Violence Against Women and Post-Conflict Policing in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire’ Dr Peace Medie, University of Bristol

Tuesday 1 December

'Placing the Mbembe debate: What does it tell us about developments in German memory?’ Professor Bill Niven, Institute for Contemporary History, Munich

Tuesday 8 December

'Great Powers' use of Religion: Obama, desecuritization and re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba' Dr Luke Cahill, University of Bath

Tuesday 15 December

'Terrorism in the Media' Christoph Weisser, Georg-August-Universitat Gottingen

Seminar enquires

For further information about our seminars, you can contact the organiser.