Welcome to the POLSIS Research Seminar Series! The Series presents an exciting and diverse range of seminars and public lectures. The seminars are open events, and aim to bring together academics, students and researchers from POLSIS / UQ and the wider academic community, domestically and internationally.

Our seminars are intended to offer a regular forum for discussion of a range of topics and themes. 
This semester we have a diverse and exciting range of topics with internationally renowned scholars and practitioners. We welcome anyone who might be interested in attending.

Series Coordinator
Semester 2 - Dr Heloise Weber
Friday 6th March

Professor Kath Gelber, University of Queensland


‘Free Speech After 9/11’

In the years after the 9/11 attacks, Western governments engaged in successive waves of counter terrorism policy making. Although much has been made of the effects of these policies on human rights generally, far less attention has been paid to their effects on freedom of speech. This presentation outlines the findings of a large research project examining a shift in understandings of the appropriate parameters of free speech that has been undertaken after 9/11 in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. The shift has occurred both through policy change, and through the discursive justifications for that change. Importantly, this shift demonstrates remarkable substantive similarity across the three countries, in spite of significant differences in their pre 9/11 institutions of free speech, which have affected the form but not the substance of the changes ushered in.

Friday 13th March

Professor T.V. Paul, McGill University


‘The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World’

In 2013 Pakistan ranked 133rd out of 148 countries in global competitiveness. Currently, Taliban forces occupy key areas of the country and engage in random violence. It possesses over a hundred nuclear weapons that could fall into terrorists’ hands. In recent years, many countries across the developing world have experienced impressive economic growth and have evolved into at least partially democratic states with militaries under civilian control. Yet Pakistan, a heavily militarized nation, has been a conspicuously weak state. Its economy is in shambles, propped up by international aid, and its political system is notoriously corrupt and unresponsive, although a civilian government has come to power. Despite the regime's emphasis on security, the country is beset by widespread violence and terrorism. What explains Pakistan's unique inability to progress? Paul argues that the "geostrategic curse"—akin to the “resource curse” that plagues oil rich autocracies—is the main cause. Since its founding in 1947, Pakistan has been at the center of major geopolitical struggles—the US-Soviet rivalry, the conflict with India, and most recently the post 9/11 wars. No matter how ineffective the regime is, massive foreign aid keeps pouring in from major powers, their allies and global financial institutions with a stake in the region. The reliability of such aid defuses any pressure on political elites to launch far-reaching domestic reforms that would promote sustained growth, higher standards of living, and more stable democratic institutions. Paul shows that excessive war-making efforts have drained Pakistan’s limited economic resources without making the country safer or more stable. 
This presentation draws from Paul’s latest book (same title of the presentation), which offers a comprehensive treatment of Pakistan’s insecurity predicament drawing from the literatures in history, sociology, religious studies, and international relations. It is the first book to apply the “war-making and state-making” literature to explain Pakistan’s weak state syndrome. It also compares Pakistan with other national security states, Turkey, Egypt, Indonesia, Taiwan and Korea and their different trajectories.

Friday  20th March

Professor Tom Trezise, Princeton University

 Joint presentation  APR2P Centre and School of POLSIS

‘Who Says? Theory, Testimony, and the Situation of Address’  

Click Here for the Abstract 

Friday 27th March

Professor Rosemary Foot,
Oxford University

Senior Research Fellow, Department of Politics and International Relations, and Emeritus Fellow, St Antony’s College, University of Oxford.


‘China, the United States and the Illogic of Great Power Conflict’

Christopher Coker’s stimulating new book, subtitled China, the United States and the Logic of Great Power Conflict, adds ballast to the views of other scholars and commentators who also have been predicting that war between China and the United States is “all too possible”. World War I analogies, the “Thucydides Trap”, and the authoritarian nature of China together with its globally revisionist ambitions are central to many of the arguments predicting major conflict between these two states. However, this paper shifts the focus to the restraints on conflict between Beijing and Washington. It moves beyond the dyadic relationship to consider the broader context within which both states are operating. It gives attention to the nexus between economics and security that is a prominent feature of the East Asian region, to regional state understandings of how major power rivalries are best subdued, and to evidence that both China and the United States have come to understand the high stakes involved in managing the reconfiguration of order in the Asia-Pacific. 

Friday 3rd April
Good Friday
No Seminar
Friday 10th April

Mid- Semester Break

No Seminar
Friday 17th April
'The Evolution of Security Council Practices'

The ways in which the United Nations Security Council conducts its business has noticeably evolved over decades. The so-called “provisional rules” agreed upon in 1946, as well as the Charter, are far from covering everything that gets done at, and around, the horseshoe table. In fact, some of the Council’s most politically significant practices, such as that of abstention for example, not only have established incrementally, but also directly contradict formal rules (in this case, art. 27.3 of the Charter). Focusing on the past twenty-five years, this paper seeks to explain how Security Council practices actually transform. I observe two main evolution channels.
First, a number of new practices have emerged as the outcome of a collective deliberation effort. This is the case of several new working methods devised to enhance the transparency of Council practices, from the Arria formula to missions abroad, through troop contributors consultations, horizon scanning meetings, and informal reunions with regional organizations. Second, various ways of doing things have established through the backdoor, generally under the impulse of the P5 (or the P3): this includes the practice of recognizing a penholder, the allocation of sanctions committee chairmanships, or informal consultations in concentric circles. I then show how these two channels of evolution—in the open vs. backdoor —produce practices with starkly different effects on the politics of the Security Council.

Theoretically, the paper seeks to explore one of the most daunting challenges in the study of practices: their evolution over time and space. Why do some practices stick around while others fall by the wayside? How is it possible for “new” practices—or at least hybrid ones—to emerge and replace alternatives? And what are the politics of such transformations? Understanding micro deviations and increments, I argue, is the key to making sense of macro accumulation and evolution. 
Friday 24th April

Professor Jason Ralph,
University of Leeds,



 ‘Applying a constructivist informed ethic to assess the liberal state’s response to the Syrian crisis. A preliminary step’.

The 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 it is to the moral complexity of the situation.

1st May




  There are no seminars this week due to a change in schedule.
8th May
Dr Tim DiMuzio,
Wollongong University

‘Debt as a Technology of Power’

• Why is indebtedness under capitalism the near-universal condition?
• Why is it so interconnected and interwoven into the fabric of social relations?
• Is debt the great enabler or is it more important to understand debt as derived from the capitalist ownership and sabotage of money?
• Why aren’t democracies in control of their own money supply? And if they are not, who is?
• How are debt, credit and the creation of money central to understanding and perhaps transforming the social disorder of capitalism?
• In this talk I will argue that debt is a technology of power and that understanding it as such can help us explain some of the prevailing social phenomena of capitalist modernity.

15th May
Dr. Heloise Weber, University of Queensland Human Rights in Development: A Critical Political Analysis 
22nd May
Professor Sanjay Seth
Goldsmiths, University of London

'The Limits of History'


This paper advances some theses regarding historiography. History-writing, it suggests, is not the recreation of a past that is always-already there, lying mute, waiting for the historian to give it voice through the protocols of modern history writing (evidence, the archive, a developed sense of anachronism, and so on). Historiography is instead a ‘code’ or ‘genre’ or ‘technology’, one that constitutes the past in ways that make it amenable to representation through the code of history. If this is so- if history-writing is not the truth of the past, while other forms of relating to it (myth, epic, legend) are erroneous ways of relating to it- this allows us to explore the elements which constitute the code of history, and also allows us to ask what history-writing is ‘for’, what it is that it ‘does’- and whether it is adequate to non-Western pasts.



29th May

Professor John Uhr,
Australian National University


‘Ethical Leaders: which models work?’

This presentation draws on John Uhr’s Prudential Public Leadership being published in June by Palgrave. Three models of leadership ethics dominate international discussion in public policy and administration: pragmatism (derived from J S Mill), principle (derived from Kant) and prudence (derived from Aristotle). These models of ethics reflect three competing public philosophies: utilitarianism, deontology (or duty ethics) and classical virtue ethics. Each model highlights a distinctive version of prudence as the core ethical quality of good public leaders. What can academic analysts of policy and administration say about the relative merits of these three models of leadership ethics? This presentation compares the role of prudence in each model of leadership, contrasting Mill’s useful pragmatism with the strict-compliance model of Kant’s principle of duty and finally with Aristotle’s remarkable use of rhetoric in political prudence. Each model of prudence provides leadership with an agenda of ethics: flexibly in Mill, more strictly in Kant, and most comprehensively in Aristotle, if contemporary public leaders and researchers of public leadership are interested in recovering the rhetorical power of prudence, originated by Aristotle.


To Listen to the Seminar Please CLICK HERE

5th June


Dr. Danielle Chubb,
Deakin University
 'Risk and North Korea’

This paper argues that the concept of ‘risk’ is deeply contextual and that an examination of risk calculations may be able to shed light on the intractability of relations with the DPRK. It first examines recent efforts to bring risk analysis into the critical security literature, with a focus on how the intersection of these two fields of study might help us better appreciate the socio-political meaning given to the concept by policy makers in a variety of contexts. These insights will then be extended to the North Korean case in an effort to understand the wide diversity of forms that risk takes in the Korean conflict, and the ways in which a limited understanding of this has contributed to its intractability. The paper will conclude with a reflection on the ways in which a more critical understanding of risk and security could open up potential new avenues for foreign policy.



POLSIS Research Seminar Series

Fri 6 Mar 2015 1:00pmFri 5 Jun 2015 6:00pm


Room 537, Level 5, Building 39a (GPN3).