Congratulations to Alasia Nuti, who has been selected as the 2016 winner of the Lisa Smirl Prize for her fantastic work towards her PhD and thesis, "Historical structural injustice: on the normative significance of the unjust"
"This is an excellent thesis that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. It is ambitious in its objectives... it is a beautifully presented piece of work and written with an impressive command of language." - Internal Examiner, Dr Jude Browne
Alasia became a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Frankfurt upon completion of her PhD programme here at POLIS, and is now currently a lecturer in Political Theory at the University of York.
The Prize is named in memory of Lisa Smirl, who gained her PhD in the Department in 2010 but who sadly died of cancer in February 2013. A full list of winners since the creation of the prize can be found here.
As we reach the very end of the 2015/2016 academic year, we have some people to thank for their input to the Department over the past year and, in some cases, for a lot longer.
Professor Hill joined the University in 2004, first as Director of the Centre for International Studies (CIS). He later became Head of Department of the newly merged POLIS, serving between 2012 and 2014. In his final year Chris has taught the large Part I International Relations paper, an MPhil course on Foreign Policy Analysis and has carried an heroic administrative load as one of the senior members of the Department.
Professor Hill gave his valedictory lecture in May 2016: ‘What’s left of the international?’ He retires on 30th September 2016 but we hope to see him around the Department for many years to come.
Professor David Howarth’s secondment as Director of the MPhil in Public Policy (MPP) comes to an end this year and he returns to the Department of Land Economy to enjoy a year’s sabbatical. Prof Howarth created and oversaw the first three years of the MPP in POLIS.
Dr Nikitas Konstantinidis leaves us after three years as a temporary lecturer to take up a tenure-track post in Spain.
Dr Lior Erez departs for Italy after two years as a Teaching Associate in POLIS, giving numerous supervisions to undergraduates taking the second-year international relations paper.
Dr Payam Ghalehdar has spent the past year teaching US Foreign Policy: History and Theory to our MPhil students and is returning to life as a postdoc in Germany.
Dr Julian Huppert’s secondment to the Department has also come to an end and he returns to the Department of Physics. Dr Huppert has just been re-selected by the Liberal Democrats to stand for election as MP for Cambridge in the next election.
Dr Nazia Mintz Habib has been lecturing on the MPP over the past two years as well as undertaking research on development and policy.
We wish all our colleagues well as they move on from POLIS: thank you for everything and all the best for the future.
Dr Lauren Wilcox awarded International Studies Association, Theory Section's Best Book Award for 2016
Congratulations to Dr Lauren Wilcox, Deputy Director of UCCGS, for winning the International Studies Association Theory Section's Best Book Award for 2016 at the recent ISA Annual Meeting in Atlanta, GA. Dr Wilcox's recent book, Bodies of Violence: Theorizing Embodied Subjects in International Relations, engages with feminist and queer theory to provide a re-reading of several contemporary modes of political violence and its management, which aims at moving from bodies being an 'absent presence' in studies of war and security (such as torture, force-feeding, suicide bombing, drones and more) to considering a political analysis of bodies and embodiment as both shaped by, and productive of, practices of violence.
Our undergraduates have now completed their end of year assessments and prizes have been duly awarded.
The John Dunn Prize for the best dissertation by a final year student has been awarded to Eleni Courea (King’s College), whose dissertation “Society, government and political obligation: The role of war in the political thought of David Hume and Adam Ferguson” was the stand-out work submitted this year. In the dissertation, Eleni showed the different ways in which Hume and Ferguson up-ended Hobbesian premises about the role of war in the formation of society.
For the first time, the Schmidt Prize, for the best long essay by a second year student, has been jointly awarded to two students: Addye Susnick (Newnham College) and James Riseley (Trinity College). Addye wrote on whether can be local solutions to environmental problems, drawing upon her earlier work on water scarcity in Peru. James wrote on why relational inequalities matter more than luck inequalities. Our prize panel considered both to be excellent pieces of work, and were unable to decide between them. Therefore it was decided to award both students the prize.
The Geoffrey Hawthorn Prize for the highest average in papers POL1 and POL2 is awarded to Alex Paturel (Jesus College).
Congratulations to Eleni, Addye, James and Alex, and to all undergraduate students on their hard work this year.
Congratulations to POLIS graduate Nivi Manchanda, who has been awarded the 2015 Salje Medal for the best PhD dissertation in the Arts and Social Sciences by a student at Clare Hall, Cambridge. Her dissertation was on “Imagining Afghanistan: The History and Politics of Imperial Knowledge Production.” Dr Manchanda is now an Assistant Professor of International Studies at Leiden University.
On 2nd June, the Alison Richard Building Green Team was presented with the NUS Green Impact Gold Award, in recognition of the work it has done to make the building and the departments working within it more environmentally sustainable. To achieve an award, teams must provide evidence of changes to policy, procedures and attitudes within the department or College. The ARB Green Team was one of only 16 teams to attain Gold. Some of the ARB achievements include installing PIR lights to save electricity, improving biodiversity by putting up a nestbox, monitoring duplex printing and encouraging greener travel with our Sports Relief bike challenge. POLIS was also recognised for a Special Award, as joint Runner-Up in the Environmental Improvement Award category for creating a new online admissions database, saving 6 000 sheets of paper each year. For more information on the Green Team, click here.
POLIS is delighted to announce that Njoki Wamai, who is studying for a PhD in Politics and International Studies, is one of two Cambridge Gates Scholars who have been awarded the Bill Gates Sr Award in recognition of their outstanding research and social leadership.
Njoki was recognised for both her research and her work in promoting greater diversity in Cambridge. She is the founding president of the Cambridge East African Society (CamEAS), co-founder of the African Society of Cambridge University (ASCU) and the Black Cantabs project which aims to curate the achievements of black Cambridge alumni. Her PhD research on the politics of justice during the transitional period in Kenyan politics after the 2007-8 post election violence has identified her as one of the next generation of leading scholars in the field of peace and security in Africa.
The Bill Gates Sr Prize was established by the Gates Cambridge Trustees in June 2012, to enable Scholars to nominate a fellow Scholar in recognition of their impact and contribution to their peers whilst in residence in Cambridge.
Further detail about the award can be found here
We are delighted to announce the Poster Competition, open to all PhD students in POLIS.
Academic posters are a great way to disseminate your research and to promote your work at conferences. A good academic poster will capture attention, explain your ideas and open further discussions. Entering the competition will give you valuable experience in presenting your research to your peers. All entrants will receive individual feedback from our team of judges and the winning poster will win a prize.
Dates for your diaries
- 10th June - Deadline for the initial submission of your first draft.
- 10th July - Feedback from POLIS academic judging team will be given to all entrants. This feedback can be used to improve the poster before the final deadline, or before you take it to conference with you.
- 10th September - Deadline for final poster submission.
- October - Induction Day. The top posters (chosen by the panel of judges) will be printed and displayed in the Alison Richard Building. PhD students, postdocs and academics will be invited to vote for the overall winner who will receive a prize of £100.
The competition is open to all POLIS PhD students and the winning poster will win a prize of £100.
Full details, guidance, examples and resources for creating an academic poster can be found on the Poster Competition Moodle site.
For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
On Thursday 30th June - Friday 1st July, POLIS is convening a two-day workshop on the theme of "Europe and its Crises". The workshop will include a roundtable discussion on the implications of the UK referendum on membership of the EU. Participation is aimed at PhD candidates and early career academics and practitioners. To express an interest in attending the workshop, please respond to email@example.com by Friday 29th April.
Papers and Panels
We are seeking papers on topics relating to any aspect of the many crises facing the European Union in 2016, including:
I) Populism and political parties,
II) Industrial relations and social policy,
III) EMU and new economic governance,
IV) Security, development & migration (EU's external dimension)
V) The European Court of Justice and questions of law,
VI) Theories of European integration and democracy, and
VII) The implications of the ‘Brexit’ debate.
We also warmly welcome any further suggestions for topics which fit inside the overall theme of the workshop.
From its earliest days, crises have been part and parcel of the life of the European project (McCormick, 2012). Indeed, Jean Monnet said that ‘Europe will be forged in crises, and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises’. The arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria on Europe’s shores has tested the union’s single-border. The ongoing financial crises in Greece and the European periphery have shaken the foundations of the single currency to its core. In June the UK will hold a referendum on whether or not to leave the EU. Yet despite these enormous challenges, the EU’s border, its currency and its membership and institutions have, to date, survived relatively intact.
Running counter to the dominant narrative of the EU ‘having lost its way’ (e.g. Jensen and Miszlivetz, 2015, Lee, 2013, Woods, 2016) the workshop will seek to investigate the extent to which the survival of the EU and its institutions throughout these crisis years can be seen as a success for the European project. Bedeviled by challenges, can the EU and its institutions be seen as resilient and responsive, having hammered out hard-fought solutions and remedies to these crises, or are we indeed witnessing the slow-motion demise and disintegration of the European project?
As such, the workshop will seek to shed light on:
a) the nature, origins and implications of Europe’s many challenges,
b) the extent to which the EU can be seen to be in crisis, having itself survived each round of crisis to date, and
c) how these challenges have changed the EU, what it does, and what it stands for.
Roundtable discussion on UK referendum on EU membership
The timing and location of the workshop also afford us a unique and exciting opportunity to organise a roundtable discussion about the implications of the UK referendum on EU membership which is scheduled to take place on June 23rd (one week before the workshop). The panel will be composed of experts and practitioners from the worlds of politics, journalism and academia.
Fee and logistics
A fee of £20 for students and £30 for staff will apply to attend the workshop to cover the cost of catering. There is also limited funding available for travel and accommodation bursaries. Please contact Barry Colfer at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions regarding funding and logistics.
Please express your interest in attending the workshop by responding to email@example.com by Friday April 29th. The deadline for the submission of papers will be Friday June 24th.
Further details, including regarding speakers who will be participating at the roundtable event on the UK referendum, to follow.
To download the call for papers click here
The Gates Cambridge Scholarship aims to identify and select applicants who are academically outstanding and are likely to be transformative leaders for the benefit of others in all fields of endeavour.
Competition for the Scholarships is fierce. The successful candidates were selected from a total pool of 3,730 applicants on the basis of their intellectual ability, commitment to improving the lives of others, leadership potential and academic fit with Cambridge.
The Department of POLIS is delighted to welcome 13 new scholars for the 2016-17 academic year, including the first Gates Scholar from Rwanda.
Degree and subject: MPhil African Studies
Degree and subject: MPhil Multi-Disciplinary Gender Studies
Degree and subject: PhD Politics & International Studies
Degree and subject: MPhil International Relations & Politics
Jessica Fernandez De Lara Harada
Degree and subject: PhD Latin American Studies
Degree and subject: MPhil International Relations & Politics
Safwan Aziz Khan
Degree and subject: MPhil Public Policy
Degree and subject: PhD Development Studies
Degree and subject: PhD Politics & International Studies
Degree and subject: PhD Multi-disciplinary Gender Studies
Degree and subject: MPhil Modern South Asian Studies
Abdul Hai Sofizada
Degree and subject: MPhil Public Policy
Degree and subject: PhD Latin American Studies
‘What’s left of the international?’
Professor Christopher Hill (Sir Patrick Sheehy Professor of International Relations)
In the century of two world wars and a Cold War one could have been forgiven for thinking that everything important was determined by the movement of world affairs. Now the reverse seems true. International relations are commonly discussed as if hostage to US election campaigns, to the emergence of some new populist movement in Europe, or to the health of the Chinese economy. In universities, although the subject of International Relations is in great demand, its definition in relation to other social sciences, notably politics but also sociology, economics, geography and law, can seem ever more blurred. This lecture considers what, if anything, is still distinctive about the international realm, and what that implies for its future academic study. A degree of intellectual autobiography will be woven into the discussion….
4.30pm - Tea and Coffee in the Garden Room at Clare College
5-6.00pm - Lecture in the Riley Auditorium
6.15-7.00pm - Drinks reception in the atrium of the Alison Richard Building
We are delighted to announce that POLIS postdoc Banu Turnaoglu has won the Sir Ernest Barker Prize for Best Dissertation in Political Theory for her thesis “The Formation of Turkish Republicanism (1299-1923)”. The Sir Ernest Barker Prize is a leading annual prize of the Political Studies Association.
Banu’s exceptional dissertation has received high praise from Professor Şükrü Hanioğlu, the leading world authority in the field. “The dissertation is clearly written, logically structured, and carefully researched….Truly it is a work of depth, narrative power, and substantive importance”.
David Runciman, Head of POLIS, said "I'd like to offer my personal congratulations to Banu Turnaoglu on this very prestigious award. Banu's research on the intellectual origins of Turkish republicanism is fascinating as history and at the same time deeply topical. It cuts across disciplines and regions to provide important insights into some fundamental tensions of modern politics at the intersection between East and West. Her work represents the best of POLIS and we are delighted with her success."
Banu was presented with her prize at the PSA Annual International Conference in Brighton on 22nd March.
The History and Politics is an exciting new joint Honours degree which will run for the first time in 2017. It offers subjects from the highly regarded History and Politics and International Relations courses, together with bespoke papers which will allow students to explore the space between the two disciplines.
New History and Politics website with further details, including paper options and admissions requirements.
If you are interested in applying for this course you can find more information on how to apply on the University's Undergraduate Study pages. You can find more information about Politics and International Relations here on our website. For more information about studying History at Cambridge, please visit the Faculty of History website.
Subject Masterclasses 2016
The Politics and International Relations Masterclass 2016 is on Friday 8th April and booking is now open!
Subject Masterclasses are aimed at academically-able Year 12 students from any school/college. They are subject-specific events, which offer students a true flavour of undergraduate study and an introduction to the University of Cambridge.
What is a Masterclass?
The Masterclasses provide students with an opportunity to explore topics of interest beyond what is covered within the A Level syllabus, and offer students a true flavour of undergraduate study and an introduction to the University of Cambridge.
Coming soon - the History and Politics Subject Masterclass!
We are currently finalising the details of the Masterclass for the new History and Politics Tripos. Keep an eye out for further updates.
Pragmatism versus Populism: Building a winning Labour Project in the age of anti-politics
Tristram Hunt is Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central. From October 2013 until September 2015, Tristram served as Labour's Shadow Education Secretary focusing on developing Labour's policy on teachers' professional development, vocational education and early years education.
Speaking in the aftermath of the General Election results, he called on Labour's ruling National Executive Committee "not to rush our election", saying there was time for a "brutal post-mortem" about Labour's "underlying philosophy and thinking".
The Antcliffe Lecture was established following a donation in the name of John Antcliffe, who studied History at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, before going on to become a respected public relations professional. You can read more about John Antcliffe, who passed away in March 2010, here.
The lecture took place on Thursday 28th April in the Winstanley Lecture Theatre at Trinity College and the recording can be viewed below.
As Head of Department at POLIS I wish to express my profound shock and sadness at the death of our student Giulio Regeni. Our very deepest sympathy goes out to Giulio’s family and his many friends.
On Friday, following consultation with the Mistress of Girton, Giulio’s college, I wrote to the Egyptian Consul General in London to convey our sense of shock and to ask to be kept informed of the progress of the investigation into the circumstances of Giulio’s death, as a matter of urgency. The text of this letter is published at the end of the page. Our request has been acknowledged and we will pursue this and any other means to try to discover the truth behind this appalling event.
The Vice-Chancellor of the University, the Mistress of Girton and the Head of the Centre of Development Studies have all been in contact with Giulio’s family to offer our deepest condolences. Events have been held in the Department and in Girton to remember Giulio and to mourn for his loss. We will be discussing with Giulio’s college and his friends how we can best commemorate his life and work in due course.
Head of Department
Giulio Regeni, who was found dead in Cairo, Egypt on 3rd February, was a highly promising young scholar of social and economic development in the Middle East. Giulio came to the University of Cambridge in 2011, after previously obtaining a first class degree for his BA in Arabic and Politics at the University of Leeds. In Cambridge, he studied for a master’s degree in Development Studies. His academic results were excellent, and he was awarded a high pass in completing the degree. His time on this MPhil also fostered his academic interests in the Middle East, and took him on to applying for professional postings in the region. He ended up in Cairo, working for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, where he furthered his keen interests in the labour sector, economic change and governance in a country that was undergoing significant political changes.
Wanting to develop these interests more systematically, and after a year working for the international consulting firm Oxford Analytica, Giulio came back to Cambridge in 2014. He returned to the Centre of Development Studies at the Department of Politics and International Studies to study for a PhD, with the aim of pursuing an academic career. Inspired by work on how trade unions organised in pre-2011 Egypt, Giulio sought to understand how the labour sector was changing in the country, in the context of economic globalisation and greater international institutional linkages. After completing the first year of the PhD in Cambridge, he arranged to spend part of the year 2015-16 as a visiting scholar at the American University in Cairo.
Giulio was passionate about his research. He was always receptive to new ideas and approaches, but his work remained driven by a sense of justice. Giulio was enthusiastic also about communicating his knowledge to a wider audience. He signed up to teach a course on the comparative politics of the Middle East to undergraduate students, intending initially to return to Cambridge from Egypt in early January 2016 to begin teaching. But with research and conversations in Cairo progressing well, he postponed his intended return until March. He was last seen alive on 25th January, travelling by metro in central Cairo, on his way to visit friends. He was 28 years old at the time.
Memories of Giulio
Giulio was my PhD buddy. A fellow lover of Egypt, social justice, and human dignity. On Friday the 5th of February, a few days after Giulio's body had been found, I went to a ceremony for him at Girton College. Every chair in the room was occupied. We were all invited to light a candle and share a few memories. It soon became clear that none of us could. One candle after the other was lit in complete silence. Never before have I been at a ceremony where people were all too struck by someone's death to say a single word. So consider this one of my memories. You were so loved that nobody was able to sing your praises. Nothing that could have been put in words would have done you justice. And nothing that we could have said would have been able to express the absolute terror we feel of having lost you in the way we did. How such kindness could have met such cruelty is simply beyond words. Sometimes, silence rings the loudest.
Giulio was one of the first PhD students in development studies to introduce himself to me during my MPhil, to take a genuine interest in my work, and to make me feel like I was a part of the department. Despite him not knowing me very well, he went out of his way to make it a welcoming environment, and I am grateful for that. He will be missed, in the department and beyond.
Giulio thank you for your courage, your curiosity and the powerful gift you have left us in our memories and your work. You just have left such an incredible, inspirational path behind you. It's so difficult to find the right words but I wanted to say thank you, somehow, for your engagement with my research too. Thanks for staying to chat, for sharing ideas (and our common heroes!) Your writing brings deep respect to the daily, exhausting and vital work of people whose efforts are barely recognised elsewhere. To the personal relations, the everyday indignation and stubborn perseverance in the efforts to build a better world. You documented hope, even where it is so hard to see, especially now. Not hope in the abstract sense, but a hope that takes strength and commitment. There just are so many more things to talk about, so many paths left to explore. But instead all I can say is that all of us who knew you - and all those others who will know you in your work and in your memory - will try our best to keep struggling for that kind of just, compassionate world that you fought for. Giulio, rest in deep peace, but we will keep fighting with you.
Nessuno potrà spegnere i sogni , la curiosità per la vita , l'amore per le pagine della storia , l'impegno civile e sociale, il desiderio di dare un significato alla propria vita, costruendo un percorso dedicato a tutti. Una preghiera per Giulio.
Giulio was passionate and committed researcher, a person with a sense of humour, and a good friend. I met Giulio in the French course offered by CULP. After realizing that we were from the same department, we became friends. Since we were based in the ARB building, we often went for coffee or lunch, or took a short break from writing by having a casual or ‘academic’ conversation in the green sofa area and exchanging ideas. He enjoyed analysing development issues, conflicts (or post-conflict situations), Europe, and many other societal problems. We also talked and argued about casual and study-related issues. As a person looking for solutions to problems, Giulio was one of those people who sought to contribute to making the world a better place.
Giulio was in my eyes unrivalled in his intellectual curiosity amongst our peers. It is with huge admiration that I remember him determinately and resolutely asking for feedback from all of us amongst the PhD students whenever he gave a presentation or simply voiced an idea in conversation. The reason he would do this more than the rest of us was because he wanted to be meticulous in his work and understanding, to ensure that he was not making errors, and quite simply because he was so evidently instilled with an insatiable yearning to understand the world around him. He has set a fine example for the rest of us, and I will forever try to be as brave and determined as he was.
Touching on the above theme, I will never forget Giulio's idealism and genuine desire to see the world become a better place. He inspired me in this regard - talking about the Green Party, the election of Jeremy Corbyn, the like. You could see in his eyes the excitement at the thought of a society becoming fairer, and again a kind of steely belief that things really good be better.
These qualities are endlessly admirable, yet they are not the things I will miss most about Giulio. At the end of the day it is always the personal that counts. Giulio was exceptionally positive and friendly, keen to make all people feel happy and comfortable. Anecdotally, the caring patience that he showed when speaking to various visiting fellows whose English was not strong was sincerely amazing, and it was emblematic of the kind of person that he was. The kind of person who would take the time to be friendly to everyone.
It is a wrenchingly heartbreaking injustice that Giulio has been killed. He was an exceptional person, and I, like all of our mutual friends, will miss him immensely. He is an inspiration to all those who want to do good.
You know how researchers specialising in a particular field/ area sometimes feign interest in studies that lie outside of our zone of interest? Giulio never did that. He was one of those rare scholars - genuinely curious with insatiable thirst for knowledge. He was sincerely interested in the research of everyone in his department (including mine which was based on education in India – far from his research interest!). Sitting in our department and discussing my thesis, with him asking me questions out of genuine interest, helped me in my research because his questions and ideas always made me think and improve.
His intellectual capability and profound passion for knowledge and research was unmatched. No wonder he became such an international citizen with affiliations to some of the best global educational institutions like United World College, University of Cambridge, and American University in Cairo. He was fluent in four languages – English, Spanish, Arabic and Italian: a quality I was always envious of. His passion for Middle Eastern studies and his love for Egypt were as infectious as his bright smile.
The goodness in him was not limited to his superior scholarly capability. He was also an extremely kind and compassionate person. We were both assistants to late Professor Ajit Singh (who had suffered from Parkinson’s disease), and I clearly remember how actively Giulio would be by Prof Singh’s side whenever needed. My last conversation with Giulio was regarding Prof Singh’s birthday gift, and Giulio had great plans for a celebration. Unfortunately, Prof Singh passed away before we could bring Giulio’s vision for his birthday to life.
Giulio was a good person, colleague, researcher and friend. It was a privilege knowing him. I thank him today for showing sincere interest in my research and helping me with my work, for always being kind to all of us, for showing us the true definition of courage, and for teaching us the valuable lessons of tolerance and fearless pursuit of knowledge and truth. He will be missed dearly.
Letter to Egyptian Consul General
5th February 2016
Dear Mr. Youssef,
It is with huge sadness that I have learnt of the loss of one of our PhD students, Giulio Regeni.
Giulio was on a field study trip in Cairo, contributing towards his doctoral work on the Egyptian economy. He was found dead in the capital on 3 February 2016.
We take the welfare of our students very seriously. It is hard for Giulio’s family and for us to comprehend how such a talented student could meet his death in the Egyptian capital as he carried out his important academic research. We note that the Italian authorities have urged you to conduct a thorough investigation with the participation of Italian experts and we, too, call on you to conduct a thorough and complete investigation into this tragic incident.
I would like to be kept informed of the progress of the investigation.
Professor David Runciman
We are very sad to announce that our PhD student, Mathew Cooke, passed away on Wednesday 27th January 2016. His determination to continue his PhD despite his illness shone through, and his warm wit and kind manner will be terribly missed. His supervisors Professor John Loughlin and Dr Pieter van Houten wrote:
'We first met Mathew as his PhD supervisors when he came to Cambridge three years ago. Two things about him struck us. First, his keen intelligence and thirst for knowledge. Second, his cheerful and friendly disposition. His mind was very sharp and he quickly grasped the theoretical and empirical literature of his subject, contemporary nationalism. In the many meetings we had with him, he never lost his optimistic outlook and, despite several stays in hospital, insisting on continuing his research. He always had a gentle smile and was invariably kind. We would like to thank Peterhouse for its continued generous support of Mathew and would like to extend our condolences to his family and friends.'
Geoff Hawthorn, who died in the early hours of New Year’s Eve, was for more than a generation the animating spirit behind the study of politics and social science in Cambridge. He was there at the beginning of the old SPS and he saw it through to the creation thirty years later of the Department of Politics, which merged with the Centre of International Studies to produce POLIS. The fact that we ever got here owes an enormous amount to Geoff’s persistence, his good humour under some provocation, and his steady belief in what we could achieve. These were not easy years and Geoff often bore the brunt of the difficulties of institution-building in an old and slow-moving University, full of conflicting interests and some large egos. It was politics, in other words, and though Geoff’s appetite for it may sometimes have wavered his sharp eye for both its absurdities and its opportunities never did. Geoff’s leadership and his vision made POLIS possible and we will always be in his debt.
Geoff’s own work spanned a remarkable range of subjects, from population studies to possible worlds and from East Asian politics to the history of Western political thought. His history of the development of modern social theory under the complicated and contradictory influence ideas of rationality and progress – Enlightenment and Despair (1976, with a revised edition appearing in 1986) – remains one of the best ever guides to its subject, as well as being one of the best written. Plausible Worlds (1991) is a founding text of the school of counterfactual history, though much subtler and richer than almost anything that came in its wake. His last book, Thucydides on Politics (2014), was the product of years of deep reflection on the meaning and significance of the founding father of realism in the study of politics. Geoff’s Thucydides emerges as a much more complicated and more interesting figure than the dry ‘realist’ revered by contemporary IR scholars. Thucydides was alive to politics in all its variety and all its contingency – a world of high ideals and base motives, endlessly subject to human ingenuity and creativity as well as to hypocrisy and stupidity. This was realism that left room for imagination as well as calculation. Above all, it meant being open to the capacity of politics to surprise us. What was true of Thucydides was true of Geoff as well.
His Thucydides book came out of long conversations – often conducted on bird-watching holidays – with his close friend Jeremy Mynott, the former CEO of Cambridge University Press (where Geoff served as a Syndic for more than twenty-five years). At the same time Geoff was working on his commentary, Jeremy was working on a new translation of Thucydides’ The War of the Peloponnesians and the Athenians. The two books came out with CUP within a year of each other and they complement each other beautifully. Hawthorn and Mynott on Thucydides represents an ideal of the kind of collaborative intellectual endeavour that Geoff valued more than anything: inventive, idiosyncratic, patient, fearless – the best of Cambridge.
Geoff wrote slowly, because he was interested in everything. He belonged to no school but was willing and able to cast a quizzical, sympathetic, penetrating eye over all of them. On the page he always came across as a subtle and elegant thinker, asking the most interesting questions even when the answers were hard to come by. These qualities stood him in good stead over the many years he wrote wonderful essays on all manner of subjects for the London Review of Books: he could be as interested in, and as interesting on, Ayrton Senna as he could on Max Weber. His wide-ranging sympathy and curiosity, laced with scepticism but illuminated by moments of real passion, came alive in the classroom. Geoff was a legendary teacher throughout his time in Cambridge and he remained as committed to helping his students think for themselves at the end of a distinguished career as he had been at the beginning.
When he retired a large book was filled with handwritten testimonials from his students over more than thirty years explaining how Geoff’s teaching had changed their outlooks and in plenty of cases their lives. Geoff taught across a vast array of subjects – he would teach almost anything, except the nonsense that occasionally attaches itself to social science and for which he had no time. For many years he taught Thucydides to second-year undergraduates as an entry point into a way of understanding the whole world of politics and its role in human affairs. His book on Thucydides began here, as did many of his students’ education. It is a course we have never been able to replace.
Geoff was above all else a lovely man – enormously generous with his time and his intelligence, endlessly kind and open. His rich, deep laugh made many long meetings just that bit more bearable, and his occasional flashes of impatience brought them to a close just when it was clear they had gone on too long. He looked out for his colleagues without ever stifling anyone – it would be hard to think of a more tolerant Head of Department, though he was always in control of what we were up to. He helped make POLIS what it is today and none of it will be the same without him.
David Runciman and Helen Thompson
David Lehmann's (Department of Sociology) tribute to Geoff can be found here.
Former Head of Department Professor Christopher Hill received an honorary doctorate last week from the University of the Peloponnese at Corinth. The doctorate was sponsored by their Department of Political Science and International Relations. Professor Hill is the current holder of the Sir Patrick Sheehy Chair in the Department of POLIS, whose latest book Foreign Policy in the Twenty-First Century was recently published by Palgrave Macmillan.
The Faculty of History and the Department of Politics and International Studies are delighted to announce that undergraduates at Cambridge will be able to read for a degree in History and Politics from 1st October 2017.
The new degree represents an exciting opportunity for those interested in both History and Politics. Students will be able to choose from a rich selection of courses offered by the History Faculty and the Department of Politics and International Studies, together with a course unique to the new degree entitled ‘Evidence and Argument’. This has been specifically designed for the first year of the programme and will bring together key thinking from both disciplines.
Students will also have the chance to conduct intensive study in political science, the history of political thought, a wide variety of modern British, European, American and World history, conceptual issues in political science, and quantitative methods. In the third year, students will be able to choose from a wide range of subjects offered in Politics, International Relations and History and may also do an optional dissertation.
More information will be available in early March 2016.
'Diplomatic Face-Work: Between Confidential Negotiations and Public Display’, a five year research project Dr Zarakol is involved with, has received more than 1 million GBP from the European Research Council. The project, which is based in University of Copenhagen and led by Dr Rebecca Adler-Nissen, studies how traditional diplomatic processes and international co-operation are affected by social media, and what this means for diplomacy’s ability to generate trust and peaceful solutions to international problems. The project will focus especially on economic co-operation in the wake of the Euro crisis, negotiations on free movement of people in Europe and negotiations with EU candidate countries and neighbouring states. Dr Zarakol will be overseeing the aspects of the project involving negotiations with neighbouring states, especially Turkey and Russia.
For more information, see http://news.ku.dk/all_news/2015/12/when-leaders-tweet/
POLIS Charity Christmas Collections
During the year, POLIS staff organise a number of charitable activities such as the Macmillan Coffee morning and Comic Relief. This Christmas, we are asking for donations of clothes and practical items for CalAid, a charity which supports the refugees currently living in the refugee camps in Calais.
During Michaelmas term, volunteers from POLIS (students and staff) have made weekend trips to Calais to take donated items and provide practical assistance in the refugee camps, as part of CUCRAG (Cambridge University Calais Refugee Action Group). There are approximately 6000 refugees living in the makeshift camp, relying on charitable donations, and conditions are deteriorating as winter sets in.
CUCRAG team sorting donations in Calais
There are particular items which are desperately needed in Calais, so if you are able to help, we are asking for these to be left under the Christmas tree in the Atrium of the Alison Richard Building, anytime up to Christmas.
- shoes (trainers/hiking shoes, sizes 41-46)
- tents/covers/tarpaulins, sleeping bags, blankets
- jackets (sizes small and medium - preferably black)
- travelling bags
- socks, belts, underwear, woolly hats
- tracksuit trouses, jeans (sizes 28-32)
- soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste
- candles/other lighting implements
- pots and pans
- plastic bags
At the moment, women's and children's clothes, sheets and pillows, suits, jumpers and wellingtons are not needed.
All the items which are donated will be taken over to Calais by the next group of volunteers. If you would like to be more involved, or find out more please contact Lydia Mizon in the POLIS office firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your support
Last year POLIS collected donations in kind for Jimmy's Night Shelter in Cambridge. To read more click here
Launched in July 2015 and named after the first two heads of the Department of Politics and International Studies (Prof Andrew Gamble and Prof Christopher Hill), the Gamble and Hill prize is our newest prize for sixth form students of Politics and International Relations.
We are delighted by the response to the competition; there have been so many brilliant entries, on a wide variety of topics in politics and international relations - with youth participation by far the most popular! We'd like to thank everyone who entered for their time and effort.
The judging panel were looking for originality, personality and personal engagement with the topic. The quality of the film was less important than the content, but both of the top entries were also of a very high quality.
There were two films that were ranked top by the judges, and so we have two joint winners -
Livvy McComb, King Edward VI Five Ways School
Guste Rekstyte, King Edward VI Grammar School Sixth Form
The judges felt that Guste Rekstyte's entry on the war in Syria was notable for its "emotional power, technique and lack of point scoring". Livvy McComb's entry offered "a pointed critique of the first-past-the-post system...the case is very effectively made, not just on behalf of young people but of everyone.".
We asked both winners for their reasons for choosing their respective subjects -
Livvy McComb - "I instinctively decided to explore the first-past-the-post electoral system due to the recent general election. I remember feeling cheated as I watched news broadcasts on the 7th and 8th of May and wanted to express my frustration at the system’s poor representation of public opinion."
Guste Rekstyte - "The reason behind choosing Syria as our topic was simply because of its current relevance in news, however, instead of exploring the political machinations of the conflict itself, we chose to instead focus on a much more human side of it. In terms of a personal connection, it was my way of using my own resources and privilege to give someone my own age, namely Marah, a better chance to be heard. Particularly because currently, it has become easy to see Syria, and indeed Syrian refugees, as a statistic, and in doing so it can easily be forgotten that these are in fact individuals going through indescribable tragedies.Therefore, in making the film, we hoped to make the conflict seem less distant, and more personal."
The other entries in the top five were -
Kitya Mark, South Hampstead High School
Max Burt, College of Richard Collyer
Alexandra Gallacher, College of Richard Collyer
You can view both of the winning entries below.
Professor Christopher Hill, Sir Patrick Sheehy Professor of International Relations in the Department of POLIS, gave the annual Martin Wight Memorial Lecture at Chatham House in London on 3rd November.
The lecture, titled Powers of a Kind? The Anomalous Positions of Britain and France in World Politics, assessed the capacity of Britain and France to maintain a leading role in international politics given their own uneasy relationship, and the significant internal and external constraints they face.
Martin Wight was a seminal figure in the development of international relations theory in Britain and an influential historian of the political civilisation of Europe. The Martin Wight Memorial Lecture is given annually in successive years at the University of Sussex, LSE and Chatham House- the three institutions with which Wight was most closely connected during the last quarter of a century of his working life.
An audio recording of the lecture is available on the Chatham House website here.
The ELECTION podcast team returned at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas last Saturday, October 24th for ELECTION Live!, a one-off live recording of the podcast. Professor David Runciman was joined by regular panellists Dr Helen Thompson, Dr Chris Brooke, Dr Finbarr Livesey and special guest, former MP Charles Clarke, now a Visiting Professor at UEA. The panel discussed events since the UK election, upcoming events such as the US Primaries and the EU Referendum, as well as taking questions from the audience.
ELECTION will return for a second series in January. Stay informed by following @Dept_of_POLIS, checking this website for updates, and tweeting questions for the panel or comments to #Electionpodcast.
The Department is deeply saddened to learn of the death of one of its undergraduates, Georgia Betteridge, who died on 5 October 2015 at the age of 20. Georgia was an exemplary student in her enthusiasm, seriousness of purpose, and determination to give of her best and was rewarded for her efforts with a First in Part I of the Tripos in 2014. She battled her illness with tremendous bravery and spirit and will be missed by all of us who taught her and were taught with her.
Dr Geoffrey Edwards, Senior Fellow in the Department of Politics and International Studies, and Emeritus Reader in European Studies, has been awarded the University Association for Contemporary European Studies (UACES) Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to contemporary European Studies. Dr Edwards currently teaches his Master’s level course on Europe in the World and supervises several PhD students, and Professor Christopher Hill, former Head of Department, paid tribute to him on receipt of this award –
“Geoffrey has been one of the most dedicated and expert British scholars in the area of European Studies for four decades. He is immensely knowledgeable and wide-ranging, having published in most areas of EU activity, and he has inspired generations of students to follow in his path. He is undoubtedly one of the most skilled and well-loved doctoral supervisors I have encountered, with a pan-European network of young researchers who have benefited from his wise and sympathetic schooling.”
New funding opportunities for Graduates are now available for application.
YouGov are working alongside the Department of POLIS to provide a fully funded three-year PhD scholarship for Home/EU students in a field related to the study of public opinion, starting in the 2016-17 academic year. The scholarship will pay the full cost of study and living in Cambridge for the three-year course.
The David & Elaine Potter Foundation African Studentship is once again available for application by students from Africa who wish to pursue doctoral and masters-level study in the department. The funds will support one doctoral student focused on governance and human rights beginning a three-year course in 2016/17, and one student taking the MPhil in International Relations and Politics in 2016/17.
Check out the Fees and Funding page of the website for further details!
We would like to offer our warmest congratulations to Thomas Maguire, who has been chosen to receive the Lisa Smirl Prize for his excellent work towards his PhD and his thesis, "British and American intelligence and anti-communist propaganda in early Cold War Southeast Asia, 1948-1961".
The Prize is named in memory of Lisa Smirl, who gained her PhD in the Department in 2010 but who sadly died of cancer in February 2013.
The 2015 Alcuin Lecture was given by Neal Ascherson under the title of "Our infinite Scotland small?" Choosing worlds to join.
The lecture took place on Friday 5th June at 5.00-6.00pm in the Alison Richard Building on the subject of the historical connections between Scotland and Europe, how they can be exploited in the present context, and the importance of re-establishing an active and distinct 'European identity' for Scotland in the next few years. There was a brief question and answer session with Neal following the lecture.
A recording of the lecture is available to view below, and can also be downloaded through our Streaming Media Service Collection.
The text of Neal's speech is also available to download and read.
Unfortunately we had a several problems with the microphone on the night, so we apologise for the poor quality audio on the recording.
Dr Bernardo Zacka, Junior Research Fellow of Christ's College, and post-doctoral affiliate in POLIS, has been awarded the 2015 Robert Noxon Toppan prize for "the best dissertation on a subject of political science" at Harvard University.
His dissertation is entitled "When the State Meets the Street: Moral Agency and Discretionary Power at the Frontlines of Public Service."
Congratulations Dr Zacka!