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Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies postgraduate research showcase 2024

Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies (PoLIS) PhD students will present their research at an in-person seminar series in April/May 2024.


The aim of this event is to share doctoral research with staff and other Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies (PoLIS) students, opening up discussions around their work.

Each presenter will have 15 minutes to present their work. This will be followed by a Q&A and discussion.

The showcase will be split into two separate panel events.


Panel 1: Theory and Technologies

Panel 2: People and the Elite

  • Date: Wednesday 1 May 2024
  • Time: 2.15pm – 4:05pm
  • Location: 1 West, Room 3.103

Book your tickets

The PoLIS postgraduate research showcase events are for University of Bath staff and students only.

They are free to attend, but please book your place using the links below.


Panel 1: Theory and Technologies

The following papers will be presented during this session.

Examining how, when, and why classification systems develop using a multidisciplinary approach

Presenter: Alice Parfett

About this paper

This project investigates how, when, and why classification systems that categorise people according to race and/or ethnicity emerge, evolve, are used, and have certain outcomes. Existing literature on classification systems tends to focus on theories of knowledge, power, and key operational features of systems, or wider historical events in which classification systems are used. This talk focuses on one historical case: Apartheid in South Africa, to see how actors’ sentiments and discourses vary through classification system emergence and evolution. To do this, sentiment analysis will be applied to primary textual data from the Apartheid period. It is hypothesised that groups in support will have distinctly different sentiments and language themes to those opposed, despite the continued use of the classification system and its terms, especially if the form of text differs e.g. newspaper article versus party paper. Thus, this work will contribute to understanding the classification system used during Apartheid, also the lifecycle of other classification systems. The use of sentiment analysis on historical texts also provides important contributions for Digital Humanities and NLP.

Meme-in Waves: Unpacking Political Narratives in the Romanian context

Presenter: Mimi Mihailescu

About this paper

In the ever-evolving landscape of online communication, memes have emerged as influential tools for shaping public opinion. This qualitative study explores the motivations, intentions, and strategies of six meme creators, revealing how these creators challenge mainstream narratives and influence political behaviour. Through in-depth interviews and a comprehensive thematic analysis, this research positions meme creators as emerging political actors, exploring their perspectives on contribution, responsibility and ethical considerations in their evolving role in shaping public discourse. Going beyond humour, meme creators actively redefine participation by creating and maintaining the concept of the “third place” within meme communities, painting a vivid picture of the dynamic interplay between memes, and persuasion. The findings peel back the layers of meme culture, contributing to a nuanced understanding of their role in reshaping political engagement.

Bodies of Disappearance

Presenter: Jess Mezo

About this paper

From Jean Baudrillard to Paul Virilio and Mark Fisher, prominent thinkers of the recent past came to address the question of disappearance not as a relic of the 20th century but as an emerging theme linked to the crisis of becoming that continues to quietly unfold in contemporary societies. However, while most approaches focused on speed, acceleration, and (hyper)capitalist production as potential drivers of this phenomenon, the impact of technological and spatio-ideological factors merits more consideration. This is especially so if one is to account for the profound melancholia, disorientation, and crisis of (political) agency that has emerged over the last decade, with images of an ever-accelerating future decoupling from relentlessly rebooting moments of a horizontally expanding now - an experience of temporality Frederick Jameson called the “perpetual present”.

And while the zeitgeist is increasingly permeated by the themes of obsolescence and being left behind — finding resonances, for example, in the breakout series The Last of Us — it must be acknowledged that it is not only the figure of the unenhanced human that is subjected to the forces of disappearance but also the built, spatio-ideological environment that he inhabits. As such, in an effort to uncover potential lines of flight, this inquiry explores how contemporary experiences of disappearance, of inhabiting ‘lost futures’ where feelings of fernweh and anemoia reign supreme, lock us into a space of apocalyptic liminality and immobility where one is either captured by the gravity of a Body of Disappearance or is forced to become one.

Panel 2: People and the Elite

The following papers will be presented during this session.

Vietnam War, Nixon Doctrine, and Partial Withdrawal: Principal-Agent Analysis of US Troop Withdrawal from Korea, 1964-1971

Presenter: Juhong Park

About this paper

During the Vietnam War, the United States attempted to remove the number of US ground forces from Korea, which was perceived as a crisis in the ROK-US alliance. However, the Nixon administration's withdrawal of the US 7th Division was successfully completed, and interest in the issue was limited. Although the Nixon administration's withdrawal of the 7th Division was the largest withdrawal of US troops in the history of the ROK-US alliance, little in-depth research has been done on it. In particular, little is known about the conflicts over policy preferences between civilian leaders and military elites during policy decision- making. This paper examines why civil-military preferences clashed and how Nixon's withdrawal of the 7th Division was successfully completed. Indeed, civil- military relations are an essential factor in the study of foreign policy, where the military is the implementing institution. Even in mature democracies such as the United States, the foreign and national security policy preferences of civilian leaders and military elites can differ significantly. In such cases, the strategic actions and complex interactions between civilian and military actors and the nature of the relevant institutions lead to different outcomes. In this paper, I develop a dual principal-agent model to trace the strategic interactions between the president, Congress, and military elites. In doing so, this paper demonstrates how the US military elite influenced Nixon's decision to withdraw US ground forces from Korea.

Get off your high horse and vote for us: the anti-populist construction of the elite and the people

Presenter: Alex Yates

About this paper

Research on anti-populism has grown significantly in recent years and shed some much-needed light on the political nature of such trends. In particular, research has shown how anti-populist politics have served to discredit alternatives to the status quo by constructing them as threats to democracy, creating false equivalences between vastly different political projects all subsumed under the banner of ‘populism’. Yet, while the people of populism are often represented as a threat, it would be a mistake to conclude that anti-populist discourse is equivalent, in contradistinction, to faith in the elite. As such, this paper seeks to tease out more precisely the ways in which elites and peoples are constructed in anti-populist discourses and politics. Building loosely on the British and US-contexts, we argue that in anti-populist discourse, supporters of the left are constructed as active agents in their political choices, even though these choices are often blamed on their youth and/or minority status and thus radical naivety. Supporters of the (far-)right are instead presented as having legitimate concerns around migration and nationhood, but manipulated by a crass ‘populist’ elite. In contrast, a good people is simultaneously constructed to justify the presence and leadership of the good elite who rules for them (if not by and of them). Where the misguided people of the right and left, led by populist demagogues, are presented as the thief of democratic enjoyment, the combination of the good people and responsible elite act as its hero-guarantor.

Investigating the potential for social collaboration to overcome barriers to the accessibility of environmental citizenship in Bristol

Presenter: Jeremy Halsey

About this paper

It is understood that behavioural change is a prerequisite for environmental sustainability. Decades of research has theorised the practice of pro-environmental behaviour, environmental citizenship, however, it does not consider the potential for collaboration between different social systems. Building upon the scholarships of environmental citizenship and social movement theory, this research will employ transformative grounded theory to identify barriers to the accessibility of environmental citizenship. First, focus groups of individuals living in Bristol will generate data explaining the various problems they encounter when trying to practice environmental citizenship. After analysing and coding this data, it will contribute to the development of strategies for interviewing local councillors and organisations. These subsequent collections will generate data explaining the limitations faced by entities who have power to shape avenues for environmental citizenship. Once data is saturated, its entirety will be analysed to identify patterns and concepts. Memos kept throughout this process will then be used to connect concepts, generating a theory to explain the potential for collaboration between individuals, government and organisations to promote the accessibility of environmental citizenship.

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