Government and International Relations Colloquium Series

The Department of Government and International Relations Colloquium Series aims to showcase recent research by members of the Department, visiting scholars and international and interstate guests in an informal setting, conducive to lively debate. It is an open event and everyone is welcome to attend. If you would like to be informed of future events then please contact who will add your name to our email list. The Series is coordinated by .

Semester 1, 2015

Wednesday 18 March 2015 - 4 - 6pm
Speaker: Professor Charles Shipan
University of Michigan
Topic: Top-Down Federalism: State Policy Responses to National Government Discussions

Prof Charles SipanThe national government can influence state-level policymaking by adopting laws that specifically direct the states to take certain actions or by providing financial incentives. But can national institutions also influence state-level policy change by drawing attention to an issue and by providing information about it, even when these activities do not produce new national laws? In other words, do policy ideas diffuse from the national government to the states? In this paper we examine whether hearings and the introduction of bills in Congress about antismoking restrictions influence state-level adoptions between 1975 and 2000. Our findings reveal that national policy activities do stimulate state policy adoptions, but only for states with professional legislatures and strong policy advocates.

Venue: Room 397 Merewether building, H04 [map]


Wednesday 1 April 2015 - 4 - 6pm
Speaker: Dr Jennifer Hunt
Centre for International Security Studies, University of Sydney
Topic: Energy security and the Gulf - new theoretical frameworks and developments

Energy security has traditionally been constructed as the national security imperative to secure access to reliable, affordable energy supplies, particularly hydrocarbons. Recently, the conceptual boundaries have been expanded beyond the consumer-state paradigm to encompass supplier countries, whose security is vulnerable to changing demand, market prices and resource exhaustion. To the extent that energy insecurity threatens the structural integrity and prosperity-generating capabilities of the state itself, it is inexorably linked to economic security, particularly in the rentier states of the Gulf.

This presentation explores two emerging trends in this nexus with regards to current events in the US and Saudi Arabia: first, the re-emergence of the US as an oil export producer, and second, the politico-economic implications of the Arab Spring. It concludes by examining the potential flow-on effects of these trends for the strategic alliance between the US and Saudi Arabia in other areas of mutual cooperation such as terrorism.

Venue: Room 397 Merewether building, H04 [map]


Wednesday 29 April 2015 * - 4.30 - 6.30pm
Speaker: Professor Jason Ralph
University of Leeds
Topic: Applying a constructivist informed ethic to assess the liberal state’s response to the Syrian crisis: A preliminary step

Prof Jason RalphThe purpose of this paper is to build on the recent work of those constructivists who responded to Richard Price’s call for a more normatively driven research agenda. More specifically, the aim is to develop an ethical framework that can be used to make a normative assessment of the liberal state’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria. It argues that constructivism can inform a ‘pragmatic’ cosmopolitan ethic of human protection. This is necessarily embedded in complex communities that are historically and socially contingent. Because a constructivist cosmopolitan position is only ‘anchored’ in these ‘weak’ foundations it encourages a degree of ‘fallibalism’, an appreciation of the moral claims of other communities (national and international), and a recognition of the moral value contained in honest attempts to reconcile normative dilemmas, as well as attempts to reduce the necessity of tragic choice. It is not unrealistic to expect the liberal state to act in this way because the responsibility that emerges at the point where moral communities intersect mirrors the state’s ontological imperative to sustain its Self (in the Wendtian sense) by reconciling multiple social identities. This is done through discursive practices that facilitate the production of coherent ethical narratives. Constructivists can make a normative assessment of the liberal state by examining these narratives, the deliberative processes used to write them and how open they are to the moral complexity of the situation.

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Venue: Room 397 Merewether building, H04 [map]


Wednesday 6 May 2015 - 4 - 6pm
Speaker: Professor Stephan Haggard
University of California San Diego
Topic: Engaging North Korea

Prof Stephan HaggardA central debate about appropriate policy toward North Korea - and other adversaries - centers on the efficacy of inducements vs. constraints, including the role of sanctions. In this seminar, I report on the results of a book-length study (with Marcus Noland) of the political economy of North Korea since the onset of the second nuclear crisis in 2002-3 into the Kim Jong Un era. We consider how North Korea's external economic relations have evolved, including with China and Russia, and the implications of these changes for both economic reform and security issues on the peninsula.

Venue: Room 397 Merewether building, H04 [map]


Wednesday 20 May 2015 - 4 - 6pm
Speaker: Professor Peter Rutland
Wesleyan University
Topic: Contestation, Identity and the Failure of Democracy in Russia

Prof Peter RutlandThe failure of democracy in Russia is a complicated question, but Western political scientists usually explain it in terms of institutional failures (not enough fair elections or property rights) rather than cultural norms. But at no point in Russian history, including the years since 1991, have Russian political actors, both in government and in opposition, ever really accepted the legitimacy of the rival politicians. It is always argued that the person on the other side of the debate is corrupt, a traitor, etc. This phenomenon of intolerance seems to have deep roots in Russian society and in the Orthodox religion. It is also connected to the deep ambiguities in the definition of who belongs to the Russian nation, the collective subject of democratic deliberation and decision making.

Venue: Room 397 Merewether building, H04 [map]