Public Forum


Thursday, 27 April 2017
6.00pm - 7.30pm
University of Sydney, Quadrangle, Philosophy Room S249

A spectre is haunting the world - the spectre of uncertainty - and we do not need to look far for a source. A Google search of ‘Trump and Uncertainty’ produces over 40,000,000 results clustered around the themes of economy, trade, politics and security. Simultaneously - and not coincidently - there has been a spike in uncertainty about what constitutes the truth. Many blame ‘fake news’, ‘alternative facts’ or 'scare quotes' for creating a ‘post-truth’ era. Some shoot the technology, finding the internet and new media to be at fault.

Uncertainty, like insecurity, is as much a subjective state of mind as it is an objective condition of reality, raising new and troubling questions for those trying to assess its global impact. Are uncertainty, volatility and precarity actually on the rise? Do repeated efforts to measure, record and represent uncertainty only amplify the condition? Is uncertainty the result of a single person or state, or more of a global trend in politics and the media? Who benefits from and who is harmed by the spread of uncertainty?

The Centre for International Security Studies at The University of Sydney responds to these complex challenges with the inaugural CISS Global Forum, ‘Peace and Security under Uncertainty’. Supported by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences with the School of Social and Political Science, Global Forums are designed as a rapid-response to new and pressing global issues. The public forum takes an interview format followed by debate and questions from the audience.

The Forum features a diverse group of leading international security scholars, who will address the topic from their own unique perspectives and research areas. The event will be moderated by James Der Derian (Director, CISS) and feature:

  • Rita Abrahamsen (University of Ottawa)
  • Thomas Biersteker (Graduate Institute of Geneva)
  • Lene Hansen (University of Copenhagen)
  • Michael Williams (University of Ottawa)

Full bios of the speakers are available below.

Featured Speakers

Rita Abrahamsen

Rita Abrahamsen is Professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and Director of the Centre for International Policy Studies (CIPS) at the University of Ottawa. She is the author (with M.C. Williams) of 'Security Beyond the State: Private Security in International Politics' (Cambridge University Press, 2011) and 'Disciplining Democracy: Development Discourse and the Good Governance Agenda in Africa' (Zed Books, 2000). Her articles have appeared in journals including African Affairs, Alternatives, International Political Sociology, Journal of Modern African Studies, Political Studies, Third World Quarterly and Review of African Political Economy. She was joint-editor of African Affairs, the highest ranked journal in African studies, from 2009 to 2014. Prior to joining the University of Ottawa, she was in the Department of International Politics at the University of Aberystwyth. She has been visiting fellow at the University of Cape Town, the European University Institute in Florence, the University of Queensland in Brisbane, the University of Copenhagen, the International Peace Research Institute (PRIO) in Oslo, and Queen Mary University of London.

Professor Abrahamsen is currently a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney.

Thomas Biersteker

Thomas Biersteker is Gasteyger Professor of International Security and Director of Policy Research and the Programme for the Study of International Governance at the Graduate Institute, Geneva. He previously directed the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University and has also taught at Yale University and the University of Southern California. He is the author/editor of ten books, including Targeted Sanctions: The Impacts and Effectiveness of UN Action (Cambridge 2016), The Emergence of Private Authority in Global Governance (Cambridge 2002), State Sovereignty as Social Construct (Cambridge 1996) and was principal developer of SanctionsApp, a mobile device with information about UN targeted sanctions. He received his PhD and MS from MIT and his BA from the University of Chicago.

Professor Biersteker is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney.

Lene Hansen

Lene Hansen is a Professor of International Relations in the Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen. Her research interests include International Relations Theory, particularly poststructuralist, constructivist and feminist approaches, the history and sociology of International Security Studies, and textual and visual engagements with world politics. Lene is the author of Security as Practice: Discourse Analysis and the Bosnian War (Routledge, 2006), and with Barry Buzan of The Evolution of International Security Studies (Cambridge University Press, 2009). Her current work centers on the politics of images and she is the director of "Images and International Security", a large research project funding by The Danish Council of Independent Research ( Lene is a 2011 recipient of The Elite Research Prize of The Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

Michael Williams

Michael C. Williams is Professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. His research interests are in International Relations theory, security studies, and political thought. His most recent book (with Rita Abrahamsen) is Security Beyond the State: Private Security in International Politics (Cambridge University Press, 2011). His previous publications include The Realist Tradition and the Limits of International Relations (Cambridge University Press, 2005) and Culture and Security: Symbolic Power and the Politics of International Security (Routledge, 2007) and the editor of several books, including most recently, Realism Reconsidered: The Legacy of Hans J. Morgenthau in International Relations (Oxford University Press, 2007). His articles have appeared in journals including the European Journal of International Relations, International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, Millennium, and the Review of International Studies. Prior to joining the University of Ottawa, he was Professor of International Politics in the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth, and has been a visiting fellow at the Universities of Cape Town, Copenhagen, and the European University Institute in Florence.

Michael Williams is a Visiting Scholar at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.