Practising sensitive research

18 October 2018:

Birgit Poopuu, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of International Politics, Aberystwyth University, discusses dialogical research design and presents her research project concerning protest activity in Syria.

In her project, this design encompasses: a Board composed of local activists and consultations with a psychologist aimed at increasing awareness and learning techniques of how to cope with research in vulnerable contexts. Birgit asks how these practices might alleviate the harmful effects of doing research in vulnerable contexts.

A dialogical approach suggests that the study of social phenomena should follow the logic of co-being, the understanding of radical interdependency and emphatic relationships when it comes to onto-epistemological but also practical research steps. Dialogue as a concept will function as the guiding principle of my upcoming work on the Syrian revolution. This talk explores how dialogue is translated into theoretical and practical steps that will allow for research that is integrally ethical, useful and safe(r). Birgit argues that due to putting research as a relation front and centre, the conceptualised and practiced research should be less harmful to both the researcher and the research participants.

Legitimate authority of international non-governmental organisations

5 December 2018:

Andrea Warnecke, Marie Curie Research Fellow at the Department of International Politics, Aberystwyth University,  explains her research on the strategies and practices that INGOs employ to gain and maintain legitimacy vis-à-vis multiple parties.

While INGOs working in crisis areas often present themselves as manifestations of a truly cosmopolitan international society, their critics hold that INGOs are conduits for advancing the economic and political interests of their respective, mostly ‘Western’ donors. This discussion on the role of INGOs in the domestic affairs of states is hardly new, but it is gaining momentum given intensified controversies surrounding actual or suspected forms of political interference. Examples range from government prohibitions and restrictions on the work of INGOs and externally funded NGOs in Ethiopia, Egypt, China, Myanmar, and Turkey, to alleged INGO interference in the Arab Spring and Maidan protests. 

Andrea reviews substantive and procedural conceptions of legitimacy and discusses their applicability to und usefulness for different types of INGOs and different fields of INGO work.

International Relations knowledge in Russia

29 November 2018:

Kasia Kaczmarska, Marie Curie Research Fellow at the Department of International Politics, Aberystwyth University, presents her research on knowledge about international politics in Russia. Using  tools in the sociology of knowledge and science, she studies the links between academic knowledge about international relations and foreign policy practice.

In this talk she describes the role of IR expertise and the academia-policy nexus in contemporary Russia. Drawing on interviews with Russia-based scholars, Kasia suggests that while there exist some formal channels of knowledge diffusion between academia and the state, there is no clear-cut relationship between knowledge produced in academia and the uses of this knowledge by the state. Two trends can be identified in the relationship between academic community and the policy-making world. On the one hand, authorities expect Russian universities to upgrade their position in international rankings and partake in global intellectual exchanges, the education and publishing market. On the other, the academic community perceives that professional expertise in international relations, and social sciences more broadly, is not valued by policy practitioners. Scholars’ attitudes towards policy impact, while generally skeptical, span a broad spectrum. Some are convinced that achieving impact is impossible, some declare unwillingness to interact with the policy-making world, while others find providing expert advice difficult but possible under certain conditions.