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Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)


The Lisa Smirl PhD Prize

The Department offers a prize of £200 for the best PhD completed in the previous academic year. 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. At the end of the academic year, supervisors nominate students who they believe are worthy of the prize. The nominated reports are reviewed by the PhD director.

Following the completion of her PhD in POLIS, Dr Smirl joined the University of Sussex as a Lecturer in International Security from 2009-12.

Winners of the Prize

2022-2023 - Niyousha Bastani - Subjects of Care: Ethics, Education, Extremism

“....the PhD made significant contributions to multiple fields of social science, pushing forward interdisciplinary new directions, while also having a firm grounding in social and political theory, postcolonial studies, and the politics of race..”

Supervisor: Dr Lauren Wilcox


2021-2022 - Mimi Howard - Fragile Normativity and the Politics of the Social Sciences, c. 1940-1975

 “…a work of extraordinary ambition and in depth research. Through a kaleidoscopic study of a range of theorists, though mainly European émigrés in the postwar United States, Howard recasts postwar political and social thought through debates over value and the social sciences.”

Supervisor: Professor Duncan Kelly

2020-2021 - Erica Gaston - Tactical control or bureaucratic tactics? Checks and Controls on Local, Hybrid, and Substate Forces in US Foreign Policy

'This is an excellent thesis. The dissertation makes an important contribution to our empirical knowledge and theoretical understanding of the evolution of US security policy during the first decades of the 21st century, while also entailing important insights regarding the applicability of BFA to hybrid conflict scenarios.'

Supervisor: Dr Glen Rangwala

2019-2020 - Jaakko Heiskanen - The Ethnos of the Earth: Nationalism, Ethnicity, and International Order

"I found the thesis to be a genuine tour de force, a work of truly impressive quality and originality, demonstrating a wide-ranging and detailed knowledge of relevant literature and presenting bold new argumentation littered with exciting asides and perceptive insights".

Supervisor: Dr Ayse Zarakol

2018-2019- Sean Fleming - Leviathan on a Leash: A Political Theory of State Responsibility 

"It is a brilliant combination of history of political thought, political theory, and international law. Several articles, in leading academic journals have emerged from the thesis, and the manuscript is currently being reviewed by Princeton University Press. Sean is a stellar junior scholar, and this thesis will come to be seen as a major piece of work".

Supervisor:  Prof Duncan Bell

2017-2018 - José Ciro Martinez - The Politics of Bread: State Power, Food Subsidies and Neoliberalization in Hashemite Jordan

 'a highly innovative study of welfare politics in Jordan, presenting the Jordanian state as engaged in a process of demonstrating its authority through the distribution of flour, the regulation of bread prices and the indirect management of the bakery'. 

Supervisor: Dr Glen Rangwala

2016-2017 - Eliza Garnsey - The Art of Justice and the Justice of Art in 'post-apartheid' South Africa

"Methodologically, the dissertation is rigorous. The researcher's ethical sensitivity and her reflection on positionality are refreshing and well-articulated."

Supervisor: Dr Duncan Bell

2015-2016 - Alasia Nuti - Historical structure injustice: on the normative significance of the unjust

"...I found each argument presented highly engaging, innovative in its justification and masterfully argued."

Supervisor:  Dr Duncan Kelly

2014-2015 - Thomas Maguire - British and American intelligence and anti-communist propaganda in early Cold War Southeast Asia, 1948-1961

"...this dissertation is outstanding. It is a credit to the candidate, the Faculty and the University."

Supervisor:  Prof Christopher Andrew

2013-2014 - Or Rosenboim - The emergence of globalism. Competing visions of world order in Britain and the United States, 1939-1950

"It is an outstanding piece of scholarship and will, I am sure, become an important monograph"

Supervisor: Dr Duncan Bell

2012-2013 – Lindsay Scorgie-Porter - Ruwenzori Rebels: The Allied Democratic Forces Conflict in the Uganda-Congo Borderland

“…an important and original study of a previously very poorly understood subject, conducted under research conditions of great difficulty, and demonstrating admirable balance and sound judgement".

Supervisor: Dr Devon Curtis