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We are interested in leading cross-cutting research that bring the strengths of the diverse research in our School together to ask innovative and interesting questions about the world. We encourage research collaboration through research clusters that bridge sub-fields. This facilitates the exchange of ideas, the development of new research projects, and grant applications focused on the big questions.

Visual Politics

Images play an increasingly important role in shaping political conflicts and our understanding of them. Television, photographs, cinema and new media sources all influence how we view and approach phenomena as diverse as war, humanitarian crises, protest movements and election campaigns. Better knowledge of images is thus essential to interpreting and responding to key political problems, from peace-building to the impact of terrorist attacks and the relative neglect of poverty and famines. Add to this that visual art is an increasingly significant medium for negotiating the politics of cultural difference in an increasingly globalized world.

The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences has provided Strategic Research Funding for a Visual Politics Program, which brings together almost 50 scholars across the University.  The program will feature seminars, master classes, workshops, training for our media lab, archival and museum based research, and an international symposium on interdisciplinary visual methods. 

Institutional Transformations

We conceive of institutions in the broadest possible terms, as norms, rules, and decision-making procedures that shape actors, identities, expectations, and political practices. They might be formal or informal, and they may or may not have a strong organisational dimension. The cluster is concerned with how institutions, in diverse social, cultural, and political settings emerge, shape political outcomes, and transform over time. Two areas of common interest currently animate the cluster’s discussions: the relationship between institutional transformations occurring at different levels of the global system (domestic, international, and transnational), and the development of theoretical approaches drawn from constructivism and historical institutionalism.

History and Theory in International Relations

A distinctive feature of much of the School’s research is an engagement with history to understand better the nature and evolution of contemporary political practices and institutions, and to understand the underlying dynamics of global change. There is a strong interest in the history of international thought, with excavating the historical development of key ideas and practices that shape the contemporary political imagination. Scholars in this cluster aim to contextualise past political thought in genres such as reason of state, the law of nature and nations, and political economy.

These engagements with history have led back to questions of theory, as the study of history in world politics raises challenging questions about the relationship between concepts and empirics, about the nature and limits of interpretation, about hegemony and Eurocentrism, about the role of theory in the reading of history and the role of history in theory-building.