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 2, 2014

Thursday 11 September 2014 - 12 - 2pm
Speaker: Alessandro Nai
University of Geneva
Title: The emotional underpinnings of opinion change and resistance to persuasive arguments. Evidence from a quasi-experimental survey
Abstract: Our contribution deals with the emotional foundations of opinion change when individuals face persuasive arguments. Starting from an original quasi-experimental survey protocol, able to simulate the flow of information and the reaction to persuasive arguments, our contribution will highlight that anxiety has a double effect on opinion change: in a direct way, it increases opinion change; indirectly, anxiety interacts with political sophistication and makes sophisticates more likely to change their opinion when facing persuasive arguments. Calm citizens, in turn, are less likely to change their opinion when their sophistication increases.
Venue: Room 397, Merewether building H04 [map]


Thursday 25 September 2014 - 12 - 2pm
Speaker: Dr Megan MacKenzie
Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney
Title: Beyond the Band of Brothers: the US Military and the Myth that Women Can’t Fight
Abstract: This presentation will include an overview of MacKenzie’s forthcoming book on women and combat. The combat exclusion is a policy that restricts women from serving in military roles that involve, or are in close proximity to, direct combat. Using the combat exclusion as a case study, this it is argued in the book that that emotions, fantasy, and mythology- including stories of ‘bands of brothers,’ ideals about ‘true’ war heroes, and perceptions about how women ‘naturally’ behave during war- are central to foreign policy in general and to the arguments for sustaining keeping women out of combat in particular. The presentation explores the following two objectives of the book: 1) to identify the three main arguments previously used to sustain the combat exclusion policy and assess their relevance and validity against current research; 2) to highlight the role of emotion, myth, and fantasy within these arguments and link this to broader discussions of the policy change, and national and military identity.
Venue: Room 397, Merewether building H04 [map]


Thursday 9 October 2014 - 12 - 2pm
Speaker: Norbert Kersting
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Title: Participatory Turn or Tyranny? Citizens’, politician’s and administrator’s perspectivse on democratic innovation
Abstract: A crisis of legitimacy triggered democratic innovation in the representative system (new electoral systems, new electoral infrastructure. In some countries €žDialogical deliberative instruments” such as participatory budgeting, mini publics and new advisory boards are implemented. Other countries focus on “direct democratic instruments” such as referendums and initiatives. Some forecast the century of participation; other claim tyranny of participation. What is the opinion regarding these new participatory instrument by the citizen, by the elected politicians and by the administration. What is accepted and what is dismissed? The paper presents a global overview of trends and survey data from Germany.
Venue: Room 397, Merewether building H04 [map]


Thursday 23 October 2014 - 12 - 2pm
Speaker: Assoc. Prof. Charlotte Epstein
Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney
Title: Habeas What Kind Of Corpus? Locating Privacy and the Body in the Making of the Modern Subject
Abstract: In this paper I consider how our experiences of bodily privacy are changing in the contemporary surveillance society. To this end I use biometric technologies as a lens for tracking the changing relationships between the body and privacy that underwrite our modern democratic polities. Adopting a broader genealogical perspective, however, I begin by retracing the role of the body in the constitution of the modern liberal political subject. I consider successively two quite different understandings of the subject, the political subject as theorised by Michel Foucault, followed by the subject of psychoanalysis analysed by Jacques Lacan. My genealogy of the modern political subject begins with the habeas corpus, and observes a classically Foucauldian periodization, the historical succession of a regime of sovereignty with a regime of governmentality within which our surveillance societies are currently taking shape. In the final part of the article, instead of the unidirectional Foucauldian gaze, I switch to a two-way scopic relationship, by way of Lacan¹s analysis of the mirror stage. I locate both the place of the body and the function of misrecognition in the constitution of the psychic subject. The psychoanalytic perspective, in which the powerful gaze is revealed as that of the Other, serves to appraise the effects upon the subject of excessive exposure. I conclude to the importance of the subject¹s being able to hide, even when she has nothing to hide. By considering these two facets of subjectivity, political and psychic, I hope to make sense of our enduring, and deeply political, passionate attachment to privacy, notwithstanding the increasing normalization of surveillance technologies and practices.
Venue: Room 397, Merewether building H04 [map]




Semester 1, 2014

Thursday 13 March 2014 - 12 - 2pm
Speaker: Dr Reed Wood
Assistant Professor, Arizona State University
Title: “Aiding Victims or Abetting Violence? A Disaggregated Examination of Aid and Insurgent Violence”
Abstract: Large-scale civil conflict often produces significant inflows of international aid, both to alleviate acute human suffering and as a counterinsurgency strategy. While the motives for international aid provision are often benign, aid can have perverse effects on the conflict environment. We argue that despite the good intentions of the donor community, the provision of aid to active conflict zones increases the severity of conflict violence. We contend that this occurs primarily because of the ability of aid—particularly fungible aid such as humanitarian assistance—to lower barriers to insurgent collection action. First, aid functions as an easily exploitable resource through which insurgents can attract and support larger numbers of recruits. Second, aid frequently flows to concentrated communities of displaced persons, which can serve as a ready source of recruits for insurgents. We investigate this hypothesized relationship using new, spatially disaggregated data on both international aid flows and conflict violence in post-Cold War African civil conflicts. Our results hold even after explicitly accounting for the endogenous relationship between aid and conflict events.
Venue: Room 397, Merewether building H04 [map]


Thursday 27 March 2014 - 12 - 2pm
Speaker: Dr Richard Shapcott
Senior Lecturer, University of Queensland
Title: “The responsible cosmopolitan state”
Abstract: The adoption of republican constitutions restraining the state in relationship to its own population was a revolutionary step in human freedom and the evolution of modern political communities. Contemporary conditions of enhanced interdependence suggest that this development needs to be extended to those beyond the state who may be subject to its domination. These conditions suggest the need for states to extend their republican accountability beyond their borders. This can be done by rewriting some of the clauses of their social contract via the means of a constitutional transformation which includes subjecting foreign policy to the rule of law and judicial oversight.
Click here to download the paper
Venue: Room 397, Merewether building H04 [map]


Thursday 3 April 2014 - 12 - 2pm
Speaker: Professor Lene Hansen
University of Copenhagen
Title: “Visual Securitization: Taking Security Studies from the Word to the Image”
Abstract: Images can generate international conflict and harm countries' reputation. The visual's trigger effect was illustrated by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten's publication of 12 cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in 2005 that culminated in 2006 with boycotts, riots, torching of embassies, and the death of 250 people. Or take the photographs from Abu Ghraib, or the images of the dying Iranian activist Neda Agha-Soltan from 2009 who became an icon of sacrifice and resistance. For those wanting to get new security issues onto the global agenda, the use of imagery has also turned out to be crucial - the campaigns to counter climate change would surely be worse off without the polar bears trapped on ice floes or the melting glaciers. Yet, the role of images in international relations remains understudied despite their important communicative, emotional and political features. This talk asks how we should theorize the particular form of security communication that visuals produce. What analytical and methodological challenges arise when we move from theorizing security as a speech act or linguistic discourse to an image act?
Venue: Room 397, Merewether building H04 [map]


Thursday 1 May 2014 - 12 - 2pm
Speaker: Dr Juliet Pietsch
Senior Lecturer, Australian National University, and
Professor Karthick Ramakrishna
University of California
Title: “Does National Context Matter? Comparing Political Behaviour among Asian Australians and Asian Americans”
Abstract: This article examines low political participation among first and second-generation Asian Americans and Asian Australians. This is despite both groups having high socioeconomic status, usually a reliable predictor of political behavior. The United States and Australia share a long history of Asian immigration, yet immigrants have arrived in both countries to face very different social, economic and political circumstances including different citizenship integration models, compulsory voting in Australia, and at times hostile public attitudes. Using data from the 2012 National Asian American Survey and the first 2013 National Survey of Asian Australians we compare the effect of these country-level factors and individual-level characteristics on political behavior in Australia and the United States. We argue that institutional discrimination at the national level may in fact encourage other forms of non-electoral civic participation, enhancing their sense of national identity and feelings of belonging.
Venue: Room 397, Merewether building H04 [map]


Thursday 22 May 2014 - 12 - 2pm
Speaker: Associate Professor Susan Park
University of Sydney
Title: “Hegemony for Good: The US, Coercive Isomorphism and External Accountability for the Multilateral Development Banks”
Abstract: Between 1994 and 2004 the Multilateral Development Banks all adopted “external” accountability mechanisms that provide recourse for people adversely affected by Multilateral Development Bank financed projects. Advancing the rights of individuals in relation to international organisations, the mechanisms were all created and overseen by the most powerful shareholder of the Banks, the US. The paper argues that the US used coercive isomorphism to pressure all of the Banks and their borrower member states to accept such mechanisms using its material power to promote liberal ideas for protecting people in international development. Yet the US was only able to do so with support from other donor member states, demonstrating multilateralism not unilateralism at work. While external accountability mechanisms have been institutionalised within the Banks’ over the last twenty years, US oversight continues. The article reveals not only how ideas shape how material power is used but how ideas are adopted and adapted by relatively autonomous bureaucracies dependent on powerful states’ resources.
Venue: Room 397, Merewether building H04 [map]


Thursday 5 June 2014 - 12 - 2pm
Speaker: Dr Chengxin Pan
Senior Lecturer, Deakin University
Title: “What Is ‘Chinese Power’? A Case for Shifting the Power Shift Debate”
Abstract: There has been increasing scholarly and political interest in an apparent power shift from the US to China. Similar power transitions in the past are said to have led to conflict and war that transformed not only great power relations but also the international order as a whole. Such historical precedents raise obvious questions such as: Will today’s power transition to China be any different? How does this transition affect the relationship between the current global superpower the US and the upcoming power China? And with both countries critical for Australia’s security and prosperity, what should Australia do in order to meet the unprecedented foreign policy challenge? Questions about what Chinese power can do are no doubt relevant and important, but perhaps more fundamental to the debate is the question of what Chinese power is. Notwithstanding the expanding literature on the rise of China and on the alleged power shift, there has been precise little systemic, critical study of the concept of Chinese power itself. Using interpretive and social constructivist approaches, this paper calls for shifting the term of the Chinese power debate towards a better understanding of how Chinese power is socially and intersubjectively constituted in the global political economy.
Venue: Room 397, Merewether building H04 [map]

Click here for Colloquium paper