About UQ International Relations Theory Forum 2018

This November the School of Political Science and International Studies (POLSIS) at the University of Queensland will conduct the second UQ International Relations Theory Forum. The initiative aims to build a network of outstanding young Australian and New Zealand IR theorists. Highly innovative theoretical ideas are being pioneered by emerging junior theorists, and the Theory Forum will enable them to connect with each other, air their evolving ideas, and get support and feedback from leading scholars in the field. Last year’s inaugural Forum was a huge success, and we look forward to welcoming this year’s participants for what is sure to be a terrific discussion.

The central theme of this year’s Theory Forum is ‘Theories and Facts’. Most theses have an empirical referent, something that the author’s theory seeks to explain, or something that is enlisted to illustrate the author’s argument. Even the most theoretical theses—ones that might present themselves as purely theoretical—make empirical assumptions on which they build. A key challenge for any doctoral student is how to navigate this difficult terrain between theories and facts, a terrain that can extend from the art of constructing middle range theories to explain or understand concrete empirical phenomena right down to the deep epistemological assumptions that inform a project. How we think about all of this, in relation to the specific projects of our participants, will be our focus.

This year’s Theory Forum will be held at the University of Queensland on Thursday 15th and Friday 16th November 2018. In addition to leading theorists from UQ, we are honoured to have Associate Professors Kirsten Ainley and George Lawson joining the Forum as distinguished theorists, providing feedback and mentoring. Based at the London School of Economics, Dr Ainley is specialist on global ethics, with emphasis on international criminal law, human rights, and humanitarian intervention, and Dr Lawson’s work focuses on the relationship between history and theory, particularly the development of global historical sociology.

The Theory Forum will involve 20 junior theorists, and is open to all IR students currently enrolled in doctoral programs in Australia and New Zealand. Students can be working in all areas of IR theory, and need not be writing purely theoretical theses. The Theory Forum is also open to students who are developing innovative theoretical arguments in otherwise empirical theses. The main thing is that participants must be working on such an argument, and be willing to present their ideas at the Forum.

The Theory Forum will be organized around formal student presentations, seeding discussion and debate among participants, junior and senior. The aim is to provide an affirming and constructive environment for the development of new ideas and the building of on-going intellectual relationships. Accepted participants will be asked to provide in advance of the Forum a five page memo outlining their nascent theoretical argument and drawing out the conceptual challenges they are wrestling with.

We are pleased to offer 12 bursaries to support students attending the Theory Forum. Eight bursaries are reserved for doctoral students, and four for outstanding honours or master students who are doing interesting theoretical work and who hope to go on to doctoral studies. The bursaries are worth up to $500 each, reimbursed on the basis of receipts for travel and/or accommodation.

Applications to attend the Theory Forum should be submitted by 28 September 2018 to polsis.theoryforum@uq.edu.au.

Applications should include:

  • Your current CV
  • A one-page abstract of your thesis, which should include:
    • Thesis title.
    • How far you are into your PHD studies.
    • The questions animating your thesis, and a summary of the theoretical argument you are developing.
    • The theoretical resources you are drawing on.
    • And for this year’s theme, a discussion of the key challenges you are facing in relating theory and facts.
    • And, if you are a UQ applicant, if your application to present is unsuccessful, would you like to be a discussant?

We look forward to receiving your applications. If you have any questions, contact us at c.reussmit@uq.edu.au or s.percy@uq.edu.au.