Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The Universal Credit fiasco shows that we need a new model of Ministerial accountability

Professor Martin Smith (University of York) and Professor Dave Richards (University of Manchester) discuss political accountability in the UK in a post that originally appeared on the Democratic Audit blog.

The Work and Pensions Secretary, Ian Duncan Smith, campaigning in his Woodford constituency (Credit: Gareth Davies, CC by 2.0)
The current imbroglio surrounding the Universal Credit scheme appears to be another example of what Crewe and King have recently identified as a long line of policy blunders in the UK.  The accusations being levelled at Iain Duncan Smith and his department are serious.  They illustrate both problems of implementation and reoccurring questions surrounding accountability.  

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Gender, Neoliberalism, and Financial Crisis Postgraduate Conference at the University of York

Sydney Calkin recently organized and hosted an international postgraduate conference on feminist politics and the financial crisis.

The politics of austerity and crisis are deeply gendered and open up a wide range of feminist debates around neoliberalism, resistance, and gender justice.  The Gender, Neoliberalism, and Financial Crisis Postgraduate Conference, which took place at the University of York on 27 September 2013, sought to map the multiple impacts of financial crisis, austerity, and neoliberalism on women and to articulate an alternative feminist agenda. It brought together researchers from around the world working on feminist political economy, sociology, development studies, economics, and related disciplines to present their findings and development networks for future research collaboration.

In their opening keynote address, Diane Elson and Ruth Pearson delivered two closely linked papers that first considered the impact of the financial crisis and austerity policies on women and then moved to suggest alternative, gender just economic arrangements. While they encouraged feminist researchers to continue to document the deficiencies and obstacles embedded in neoliberal gender regimes, they also challenged feminists to move beyond critique to articulating alternative anti-neoliberal economic discourses and policies. In the closing keynote address, Sylvia Walby echoed this sentiment, demonstrating the importance of articulating a gender growth model, using feminism as a counter hegemonic project to critique and dismantle the current neoliberal gender regime. To this end, she proposed a social democratic gender regime with high levels of female wage labour and political representation, substantial public expenditure on welfare and state provision of health, education, and care services. A recording of Diane Elson and Ruth Pearson’s opening keynote address is available for download and streaming here:

Panels throughout the day presented a diverse range of perspectives on gendered neoliberalism and austerity, both demonstrating the impact of the financial crisis and advocating alternative approaches to the current political and economic gender regimes. From a feminist institutionalist perspective, several researchers presented findings on gender equality policy in governmental and financial institutions, from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, to the European Union and Macedonian government. Others examined the impact of austerity on the third sector and feminist organizations in particular. Both groups of researchers, those concerned with government and civil society, articulated a trenchant critique of neoliberalization of government policy and the impact of austerity on funding, policy, and discourse. In particular, they challenged the dominance of reductive efficiency-based gender policy, evident in the popular ‘business case’ for gender equality narratives which render equality a function of economic growth strategies and marginalize transformative approaches. Particularly invisible in discourses of crisis and austerity is the role of social reproduction and its value; another strand of researchers challenged the marginality of social reproduction from dominant political discourses and sought, through a variety of methodological approaches, to demonstrate the value and impact of social reproduction.

The postgraduate work presented here reflects the continuing significance of some enduring feminist debates and also opens up new directions for feminist research. Given the range of disciplinary backgrounds, methodological approaches, and subject matter, the conference contributions demonstrated the diversity of feminist research and articulated a coherent and compelling narrative of feminist analysis on the financial crisis and resistance to the politics of austerity. The conference succeeded in bringing together postgraduates from around the world to establish research connections with each other and to meet leading researchers in the field; I hope it will generate enduring research networks and facilitate future collaboration among young feminist scholars. This conference was funded in part by the Politics Department (alongside the York Annual Fund, Political Studies Association, and York Graduate Students’ Association). It would not have been possible without the support of Lisa Webster, Caroline Carfrae, and Carole Spary, so many thanks to them for their support.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Transformative Justice in Tunisia and Egypt

Professor Paul Gready has been awarded a three year ESRC research grant proposal on Transformative Justice in Tunisia and Egypt.

The Arab world was shaken in 2011 by a series of popular movements, collectively known as the 'Arab spring(s)', that have challenged long established authoritarian regimes. What will be the medium and long term impacts of these uprisings? Who is driving (and contesting) change, and what kind of change is being sought? This study addresses these issues in the context of the contested transitions in Tunisia and Egypt.

The research is based on the following premise: for these uprisings to deliver on their potential will require transformative change that emphasises local agency and resources, the prioritization of process rather than pre-conceived outcomes, and the challenging of unequal power relationships and structures of exclusion. Such change is here termed transformative justice. The overarching research question is: How is transformative change defined and delivered in the context of political transition (in Tunisia and Egypt), and which actors, institutions and structures drive and contest such change? The research will look at changing attitudes over time (conducting two sets of interviews, one year apart) and document a range of voices and perspectives (urban/rural, supporters/opponents of the revolutions).

The research includes a strong capacity building element - training local researchers - and the grant will also fund two PhD scholarships at the Centre for Applied Human Rights.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

A dangerous game: Israel, Syria and US air strikes

In a piece for, Jacob Eriksson reflects on what a possible US strike on Syria might mean for Israel, and the problem of unspecified goals. Despite multiple threats being made against the Jewish state, the risk of unwanted conflict escalation makes such a retaliatory attack unlikely. Caution should, however, guide any American response.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Book Review: Party patronage and party government in European democracies

The eurozone debt crisis and subsequent economic reforms introduced across Europe have helped to expose endemic levels of corruption and party patronage in countries such as Greece. Party patronage and party government in European democracies uses more than 600 expert interviews to explore the nature of party patronage across fifteen European democracies. For Sofia Vasilopoulou, one of this timely book’s main strengths is in its investigation of patronage as an organisational resource for parties that are facing falling grass root support.  She finds that while the book does not explore the reasons behind cross-country variation in the scale and depth of patronage, it does open up a number of potentially fruitful areas for future research.

Read the full piece on the LSE blog.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Audra Mitchell secures funding for project 'Posthuman Security'

Audra Mitchell has been awarded a series of grants to support her new research and collaborative projects on the subject of ‘Posthuman Security’. 

"This project starts from the premise that harm does not happen to humans alone, but rather to complex ‘worlds’ composed of heterogeneous kinds of beings. From this perspective, it asks how, and in what way, these worlds and their nonhuman constituents can be subjects of ‘security’. In particular, it explores the kinds of ethical orientations humans should adopt towards nonhumans – including what protection they are owed, and how we can respond ethically to the threats they raise. This issue already poses significant challenges in international affairs. For instance, robots or ‘drones’ are involved in killing combatants and in humanitarian work such as mine-clearing; ecosystems such as forests can shelter refugees or combatant groups; historical and religious buildings are protected under international law; and climate change is contributing to conflict and refugee flows. New research within posthumanist philosophy, and ‘new materialist’ discourses in particular, suggests that attention to nonhumans can help to explain the sources of contemporary security threats. Yet ethics has not caught up, and important questions have yet to be answered. In particular, to what extent do we owe nonhumans protection? and, if we do owe them protection, then how should we respond to the threats they raise? For more information, please see Audra’s previous post on this blog.

To support this work, Audra has received an Early Career Fellowship from the Independent Social Research Foundation (£46892) which will allow her to pursue the project in 2014-15. She has also received a visiting fellowship for research collaboration at the University of Queensland Department of Political Science and International Studies ($5000 AUD). In spring 2014, she will take up this fellowship in order to develop the theoretical framework and empirical applications of the project in collaboration with Professor Roland Bleiker and other members of POLSIS. Finally, she has received a grant from University of York’s Research Priming Fund (£4657) to hold an international workshop which will explore the potential for collaborative research on this subject in and outside of the academic community".  

Thursday, 25 July 2013

British Academy for the humanities and social sciences

Carole Spary has been awarded £7705 by the British Academy for a research project on 'Performing representation: women parliamentarians and political participation in India'. The research will investigate women’s political participation as elected representatives in the national parliament of India. It will focus on selected parliamentary debates as well as the Committee for the Empowerment of Women. The research aims to understand the dynamics of participating in debates, how women MPs are enabled or constrained by institutional norms and practices, and the representational claims they make as women MPs. The research is part of a larger project examining women’s participation as a minority group (less than 11%) in the Indian parliament. The grant will enable research trips to India to conduct elite interviews with MPs and to collect contemporary and archival documentary data from the national parliament.

Institutions must develop strategies to tackle online abuse aimed at female academics

Audra Mitchell argues that universities, funding councils and other academic bodies need to play a more supportive role in addressing online bullying aimed at women. Writing after a recent conference panel exploring the challenges and risks associated with being a female public intellectual in an era of widespread online sexual harassment, she argues that we need to think carefully about making an individual online presence a necessity for academic success.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Indifference and disillusionment in the Holy Land, despite John Kerry's efforts

Reflecting on his field research in the Middle East, Jacob Eriksson argues that, despite John Kerry's recent efforts, indifference and pessimism are pervading the latest chapter in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. 

With mistrust between the parties as high as ever, is it possible for the two sides to make progress?  

Jerusalem, 21 July 2013: 

"You’ve got to hand it to John Kerry, he’s a tenacious operator. He’s managed to overcome the formidable impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and has done well to get the parties back to the table. The respective teams are due in Washington some time next week for an initial meeting. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. As analyst David Makovsky put it, ‘Right now they’re in the very shallow end, and they’re going to have to swim in deeper waters — and they can be treacherous.’

After my many conversations over the last two weeks, it seems that Israeli public opinion regarding peace with the Palestinians is as divergent as it’s always been. Israel needs to withdraw from the occupied territories as soon as possible; yes, we need peace, but it’s hard and will tear the country apart; Israel is nice to those who are nice to us, and we are ready give up the West Bank and East Jerusalem for a Palestinian state if they prove they accept our Jewish state; all of Jerusalem, East and West, is Israeli, no doubt about it, and the Arabs (note: not Palestinians, but Arabs) can’t have it.

This, in itself, is nothing new. Opinion on peace and the Palestinians has always been divergent. What is remarkable, however, is the overwhelming feeling of indifference. Though this was present when I was last here in 2009, it now seems far more pervasive. Despite Kerry’s continuous efforts and the renewed commitment he’s managed to get, people remain very pessimistic. Mistrust between the parties is as high as ever, and questions to Israelis about what is required to change this are either greeted with a shrug, or the suggestion that the ball is in the Palestinians’ court. They need to make the first move to break the formidable psychological barrier, like Egyptian President Anwar Sadat did when he visited Jerusalem in 1977 and addressed the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.

Perhaps this opinion is also informed by the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu is unlikely to initiate any substantial moves towards the Palestinians. The man’s politics can be described in one hyphenated word: risk-averse. He is not a man whose unwavering conviction leads to big, bold decisions. Like many politicians, his main priority appears to be staying in power, navigating the political waters and keeping his head just above the surface. During his first period in office (1996-1999), he did it badly. Torn between the liberal left – who wanted to see progress in the peace process – and the conservative and religious right – who were against any territorial concessions to the Palestinians and in favour of settlement expansion – Bibi swung from one to the other and managed to alienate everyone. Too accommodating for the right and not accommodating enough for the left.

Given that his current government leans even more towards the right, it does not augur well, and he will no doubt try very hard to avoid a similar situation by standing his ground. There is an agreement to release a number of Palestinian prisoners, but that is all Kerry could get – there is apparently no Israeli acceptance of Palestinian pre-conditions, including using the 1967 Green Line as a basis for negotiations, and a settlement freeze which includes East Jerusalem.

The occupation of the West Bank is not palatable or pretty, nor does it reflect well on the Israelis, as the security experts I have spoken with admit, but they cannot realistically envisage an alternative at this stage. It is the best of a bad set of options. The firm conviction on my part that Israel needs to withdraw from all of the West Bank in order to ensure its long-term security is greeted with polite scepticism, and either a ‘OK, but how can that happen now?’ or ‘No, you don’t understand the Palestinians.’ Either way, it’s not particularly encouraging. The effective security cooperation that does exist with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and has been working for Israel’s benefit over the last four or five years is given short shrift. Without an Israeli presence, security is not guaranteed, and that’s the bottom line.

And what of the Palestinians? Disarray seems to be the word of the day. President Mahmoud Abbas (commonly known as Abu Mazen) is currently trying to shore up the Palestinian Authority (PA), which has come under severe criticism over the past year. Street protests over mounting economic problems were prevalent in September 2012, and quickly spread to broader political grievances over the Israeli occupation and the PA’s inability to improve their lives. A political battle between President Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the politically independent economist much loved in the West, was played out in all this, with Fayyad resigning in April this year. His successor, Hami Ramdallah, was in post for two weeks before submitting his resignation due to a disagreement over Abbas’ appointment of two deputy ministers. The composition of a new government is not yet clear. Meanwhile, reconciliation and the formation of a national unity government between Abbas’ main Fatah group in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip doesn’t appear to be on the cards either. The Muslim Brotherhood’s fall from grace in Egypt has weakened Hamas, and they won’t be keen to negotiate from such a position.

Predictions that a third intifada would erupt in 2013 have thus far proved incorrect. The Palestinian street is full of cynicism and mistrust towards all things political, but the prevailing opinion appears to be that political reform, not violence, is the key to their problems. Memories of the tremendous damage wrought by the second intifada are still fresh enough to deter them, not to mention the civil war between Fatah and Hamas in 2007. But how long will this last without progress in the political process and improved quality of life? One can only hope that continued disillusionment and frustration does not make violence seem attractive.

As a result of this, the process will have to be extremely carefully managed, as it may well be the last roll of the dice for Abu Mazen and the PA. Another failure to move decisively towards proper statehood may be too much for the Palestinians to bear. Kerry needs to study the lessons of previous failures very carefully, and use the six to nine months the parties have committed to – reports vary – wisely. He must try to manage expectations clearly from the outset, maintain secrecy, and try to officially establish the by now well known parameters of a two-state solution.

Despite Kerry’s initial achievement, scepticism remains the word of the day. We have seen this story many times before; at best it has ended in disappointment, and at worst, violence. Ultimately, there are two classic Middle Eastern negotiating positions that need to be overcome: ‘I’m weak, how can I negotiate?’ and ‘I’m strong, why should I negotiate?’ Let’s hope they can break this Gordian knot". 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Crunch time on Trident for Miliband and his party

In an article published yesterday with the Guardian, Nick Ritchie argues that as political parties prepare for the run up to the next general election, Miliband has a chance to break with Blairite and Tory nuclear business as usual - and show some real leadership 

"Ed Miliband confirmed at last year’s party conference that Labour policy on Trident replacement would be reviewed after the publication of the Trident Alternatives Review and the Basic Trident Commission report. With the former now published and he latter due soon, Miliband will face a difficult choice: stick with the Blair and Tory plan of nuclear business as usual; or demonstrate international leadership by ending permanent deployments and further reducing our nuclear arsenal..." 

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Gender, Liberalism and Financial Crisis - Call for Participation

Gender, Neoliberalism, and Financial Crisis Postgraduate Conference
University of York, 27 September 2013

Keynotes: Diane Elson (Essex), Ruth Pearson (Leeds), Sylvia Walby (Lancaster)

Call for participants: 
This is an invitation for University of York students and staff to attend the Gender, Neoliberalism, and Financial Crisis Postgraduate Conference this September.

It is one-day conference bringing together presentations from MA, PhD, and post-doc researchers from the UK and beyond. The conference examines the connections between gender, political economy, and development, with a special focus on the impact of financial crisis. 

This conference will be of special interest to students studying politics, economics, gender studies, sociology, development, and philosophy and to students who are members of political clubs. Undergraduates and postgraduates are encouraged to attend, to see presentations from engaging young researchers, to see the keynote speakers, and to get a better idea of what postgraduate research is like. We really encourage student to attend the conference and join in the discussions! 

Please see the website for more information on the day's events. Tickets (£10 each, including lunch) can also be purchased from the site. Tickets will go on sale from 1 June 2013. 

Please see more info at or contact Sydney Calkin (, the conference convenor. 

Monday, 8 July 2013

Legislative Protest as Democratic Practice

Carole Spary discusses the phenomenon of legislative protest and its significance as a form of democratic practice. She discusses two high profile examples that have been making the headlines, and draws on insights from a recently published special issue of the journal Democratization on the topic of ‘Disruptive Democracy: Analysing Legislative Protest’.

The Texas Senate recently witnessed an important and spectacular ten hour filibuster by Democrat Senator Wendy Davis, designed to block a controversial abortion bill which would restrict abortion rights and access in Texas. The filibuster, the purpose of which is to speak extensively on a bill with the deliberate purpose of delaying or preventing a vote, fell just short of the midnight deadline. However, it was followed by a passionately supportive public gallery protest which successfully disrupted the final vote on the bill. 

In another recent but unconnected incident, a parliamentary debate in Westminster witnessed a more muted but still noteworthy protest against media sexism by Caroline Lucas MP. Wearing a t-shirt with the slogan ‘No More Page Three’ in reference to the on-going campaign to remove pictures of topless models from selected newspapers, Lucas stood up and spoke in the debate but was shortly told by the debate chair that she was in breach of the Westminster dress code. Lucas complied with the chair’s order to cover up by putting on and buttoning up her jacket. Whilst doing so, she commented on the irony of being told to comply with the dress code when the same newspapers targeted by the campaign were available to purchase in retail outlets on the Westminster estate. She held up a copy of one such newspaper open at page three but was called to order by the chair.

These two examples suggest how protests by legislators within legislative contexts are important not just for the immediate impact they make on legislative debates and outcomes, but for what they signify in terms of democratic practice. Legislative protests can offer insights into the meaning and functioning of legislative institutions, actors and their behaviour beyond aggregate votes or routine deliberation in debates. Analysing the protest behaviour of legislators and the regulatory role of presiding officers can help us to better understand the significance of how elected representatives perform representation and how legislative institutions manage disagreement and conflict.

For example, the two examples of legislative protest above illustrate contrasting modes of compliance, yet official rules of procedure often need to be interpreted by legislative actors such as presiding officers and legislators. Some modes of legislative protest such as Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster are part of established though rarely performed modes of legislative performance and comply with official legislative rules and procedure. Others, such as the one recently enacted by Caroline Lucas MP, may bend or break official rules in order to communicate a key message. The Texas filibuster by Sen. Wendy Davis, however, fell short of the vote deadline because Davis accumulated three violations of the filibustering procedure which raised as points of order by legislators and upheld by the chair, despite being contested. This suggests that legislative protest is contingent and that interpretive work can often have important consequences for the success or failure of legislative protest acts.

Also, the manner in which rules are interpreted and applied may also be strongly influenced by informal institutional norms and conventions. Some forms of disobedience might be tolerated more in some legislative contexts compared to others for reasons of pragmatism, such as the repeated disruptions to debate in the Parliament of India. Also, the frequency and intensity of protest may change over time, for example as a result of changes in the relative strength of the government and the opposition in the legislature and the quality of communication between them.  This interpretive work means that legislative protest and regulatory responses will differ across and within legislative institutions and over time.

Finally, both examples illustrate how performance and its embodiment are key elements of legislative protest. The filibuster involved intense and protracted physical labour. Sen. Wendy Davis deliberately wore running shoes and swayed from side to side while she was on her feet and talking for ten hours and 45 minutes. During this time she could not take meals or bathroom breaks or sit down. Assistance from another legislator in adjusting her back brace was the basis of a point of order raised by Republican senators and sustained against her (for ‘aiding’ the filibuster). The final vote on the bill was disrupted in part by the loud volume of the public gallery protestors including many who were physically and forcibly removed. In the protest by Caroline Lucas MP, her physical embodiment as a female MP, her physical wearing of a protest message, as well as her display of the page three of a newspaper provided visual layers of protest simultaneous to her speech. While her T-shirt and display of the newspaper was reprimanded by the presiding officer, he emphasised that he was not curtailing Lucas’ speech.  These examples remind us of how legislative protest in particular and representation more broadly involves embodied performances.

These ideas about legislative protest and democratic practice are just some of those explored in a recently published special issue of the journal Democratization called ‘Disruptive Democracy: Analysing Legislative Protest’. The special issue includes articles which discuss legislative protest both theoretically and conceptually such as in relation to deliberation, representation, performativity, and democratic space, as well as empirically with case study analysis of national legislatures of the UK, South Africa, Sweden, and India. The theme of this special issue is linked to a research programme on ‘Gendered Ceremony and Ritual in Parliament’ which was funded by the Leverhulme Trust from 2007-2011. For further details about the programme please visit the GCRP website

Friday, 28 June 2013

Politics Graduation Drinks Reception and Ceremony

All Politics graduands, plus guests and staff are welcome to join the drinks reception to be held on Thursday 11 July 2013 at 2pm, in Derwent College Senior Common Room. 

The Ceremony will be held in Central Hall at 3.30pm.

For all information relating to University Degree ceremonies please visit the Graduation web pages.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Act of Killing

The City Screen Picture House, York is screening a new documentary film - The Act of Killing - on 2 July 2013 at 6.30 pm.

In association with the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York, we are delighted to welcome director Joshua Oppenheimer for a Q&A following the screening.

The film recently won a best picture at the Toronto and Sheffield International Film Festivals, and it has been reviewed recently with 5 stars in The Guardian.

More information is provided through Picturehouse website.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Open Day - Wednesday 3 July 2013

The University will be holding an Open Day, aimed at prospective undergraduates, on Wednesday 3 July 2013 from 9.30 am till 4.00 pm. This is a great opportunity to see the campus and talk to staff and representatives. Politics staff will be available in the Exhibition Centre to talk to if you have any queries.

Further details can also be found online:
or you can email:

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Rethinking 'the rise of toleration'

A new text, Natural Law and Toleration in the Early Enlightenment (co-edited by Timothy Stanton), challenges some of the key premises on which modern western concepts of toleration are based and sheds new light on the political thinking of John Locke

Below, Dr. Stanton explains why the conventional idea of toleration as "a child of diversity and doubt" needs rethinking, and why we should take the trouble to understand the history of toleration in modern Europe in all its complex detail.

"The textbooks tell us that toleration goes hand in hand with liberalism and that the appeal of liberalism derives in large part from its commitment to tolerating diverse ways of life.  That commitment, in its turn, is usually thought to proceed in theory, and to have proceeded in historical fact, from the recognition that there is no single right way to live, or that all ways of life have something to be said for them—none is intrinsically better than all the others. Toleration, in other words, is a child of doubt and diversity, and its triumph is that of virtue over vice, of reason over superstition (by which is meant nowadays supernatural religion), and of individual freedom over state coercion.

The English philosopher John Locke has long enjoyed a starring role in this textbook story: his political philosophy is said to have announced the birth of liberalism while his Letter concerning toleration is said to have provided the first liberal justification of toleration.  On this view, Locke’s Letter shows that religion is the business of the individual, who possesses the right to go about that business as he or she chooses.  It follows both that religion is optional and that it ought to be tolerated by the state.  Coercion of the individual by the state in respect of religion is inappropriate because religious belief is a wholly private matter. However, there is an alarming inconsistency in Locke’s position for, having established this much, he denies toleration to Roman Catholics and atheists: a black mark in Locke’s otherwise unblemished liberal record.

A new study from the Department of Politics radically revises this textbook story. In Natural Law and Toleration in the Early Enlightenment, which I edited with my former colleague Jon Parkin (now St. Hugh’s, Oxford), leading scholars in the field, including Maria Rosa Antognazza, John Dunn, Knud Haakonssen, and Ian Hunter, challenge the assumption that toleration was born of doubt and diversity.  They reveal, by contrast, how some of the most seminal discussions of toleration in the western tradition were rooted in certitude, not doubt. The book offers significant new interpretations of a series of classic thinkers, including Samuel Pufendorf, Christian Thomasius, G. W. Leibniz, Jean Barbeyrac, Francis Hutcheson, and, above all, Locke. Two essays in particular, that by Ian Harris and my own contribution ‘Natural law, nonconformity and toleration: two stages on Locke’s way’, decisively shift the terms in which Locke must be understood.  They show that, with Locke, religion was neither optional nor private, not a matter of right for the individual primarily, but of duty for each and every one, a duty prescribed by natural law and knowable with certainty by all.

Law was a pivotal category in Locke’s analysis.  It pointed him to the idea of jurisdiction, and, more precisely, to two corresponding jurisdictions, the ecclesiastical and the civil.  The different purposes implied in these two jurisdictions, and the different ways in which they were established, made churches and states free from one another’s jurisdiction.  Religious worship, conducted in churches, is simply outside civil jurisdiction and not subject to it: it is not tolerated by the state, for the state has no jurisdiction over it, but rather free.  Toleration finds its place in the toleration, by all, of other people’s manner of worshipping God—as they must—as they judge they must.  On the other hand the state, because it is entrusted with the ends implied in civil jurisdiction, is required to coerce atheists and Roman Catholics.  Atheists reject natural law and with it the very notions of civil and ecclesiastical jurisdiction, while Roman Catholics deny the integrity of civil jurisdiction, believing that the jurisdiction of their own church extends over every other and over every state.  Therefore the denial of toleration to both groups was a necessary consequence of Locke’s jurisdictional thinking. Toleration and intolerance went hand in hand and, as strange as it sounds to the modern ear, there were duties to both.  Thus a new Locke comes into view.

Natural Law and Toleration in the Early Enlightenment is published by Oxford University Press for the British Academy, as volume 186 of the Proceedings of the British Academy.  Since 1905 this series has provided a unique record of British scholarship in the social science and humanities.  It seeks to publish themed volumes that drive scholarship forward and are landmarks in their field.  Jon and I were especially pleased that John Dunn agreed to contribute a ‘Postface’ which offers a powerful meditation on the importance of understanding the detail and complexity of the history of toleration in modern Europe for any adequate view of its past, its present, and its future prospects.  His chapter is a fitting conclusion to the book, for that is the on-going task to which it makes its own small contribution".     

Successful Centre of Excellence bid

Dr. Timothy Stanton is part of a successful Centre of Excellence in Research bid to the Academy of Finland, on the theme of ‘Reason and Religious Recognition’, to run from 2014-19.

The Board of the Academy of Finland has selected 14 Centres of Excellence in Research (CoE), involving research teams from twelve universities or research institutes. The Academy has reserved a total of EUR 45 million for the first three years of the six-year programme term.

“The units selected to the new CoE programme represent the international cutting edge of research in their respective fields. The Academy believes that the new CoEs have great potential to achieve significant breakthroughs in their research and be successful in the competition for EU funding and international researchers, for instance,” said Marja Makarow, Vice President for Research at the Academy of Finland.

The Academy’s CoE call attracted a total of 128 letters of intent, of which the Academy’s Board selected 34 to submit full applications. These applications were reviewed by international expert panels. Unit representatives were also interviewed at the Academy.

CoEs are the flagships of Finnish research. They are at the very cutting edge of science in their fields, carving out new avenues for research, developing creative research environments and training new talented researchers for Finnish society and business and industry.

The ‘Reason and Religious Recognition’ CoE is directed by Professor Risto Saarinen, a theologian based at the University of Helsinki. It aims

(i) to analyze historically the encounters and forms of recognition in and between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, paying special attention to the rational construction of theological systems in these traditions and 

(ii) to use contemporary philosophy of religion and the cognitive science of religion to understand co-operative religious reasoning, leading to the elaboration of systematic models of rational recognition and multicultural tolerance in the field of religion.

Friday, 14 June 2013

The Politics of Detention

In advance of the ESRC-funded seminar The Politics of Detention, to be held at York on 1 July 2013, Alex Hall gives some background to the rise of detention as a means of managing human mobility in the west.

"The recent High Court order to the Home Office to pay compensation to four torture survivors who were held in British immigration detention centres once again (briefly) thrust the issue of detention into the headlines. The case revealed that people who claim to have been tortured are not always medically examined and released from detention, as Home Office rules dictate. The case affirms what critics of immigration detention have long argued: that victims of violence, sexual assault  and people with serious mental and physical problems routinely find themselves detained in the UK. 

Detention has become increasingly controversial over the last two decades, as the power to confine non-nationals under immigration law and in the name of security has been steadily entrenched across western states. Detention brings to mind high profile cases from the ‘war on terror’ - Guantánamo Bay, the secretive practices of extraordinary rendition, and the pre-charge detention of people suspected of terrorist activities but unable to be convicted under normal juridical procedures. The relationship between the detention of people deemed threatening and risky and the pursuit of security is hardly new, but detention has become increasingly normalised and pervasive in western states over the last decade. More specifically, the framing of human mobility as a problem of security means that detention is more than ever viewed as a vital tool in ‘effective’ state immigration control and the ‘robust’ management of western borders.

Under UK immigration law, non-nationals can be administratively detained pending a deportation order and imminent removal, or when there is a problem with verifying someone’s identity or a perceived likelihood of a person failing to comply with the conditions of release or temporary admission. Asylum seekers may be detained to enable a rapid decision to be taken on an asylum/human rights claim, but guidelines for frontline staff nonetheless state there should be a presumption ‘in favour of temporary admission or release’ and people should be detained for the ‘shortest possible time’. In practice, detention populations in the UK include people who have been held for days, months or even years, and they may be categorised in various ways: as asylum seekers, ‘illegal’ migrants, ex-foreign national offenders.

Although detention is framed as a proportionate response to illicit or threatening forms of mobility, and a necessary part of effective deportation procedures, it is more accurately viewed as a means through which categories of national citizenship, identity and security are shaped and performed. Contemporary detention facilities – from prisons and removal centres to airport ‘hotels’, temporary holding centres and accommodation hostels – produce flexible spaces of control where multiple aims of protection, policing and punishment coalesce. In this sense, detention is productive: it creates and sustains ‘the detainee’ as a particular kind of political subject. The failure of the Home Office’s own policies relating to the treatment of victims of torture suggests that concerns to manage ‘the detainee’ securely tends to override states’ other (humanitarian) obligations to people fleeing persecution, suffering and violence.

Scholars and activists working on detention increasingly emphasise the political challenges that detention poses to western states, with their avowed concern with protecting liberties and freedoms. Detention practices show that these freedoms and liberties always rely on exceptions and exclusions. Scholars also note that detention is increasingly preventative and preemptive - intercepting the movement of people seeking humanitarian protection, exporting the sovereign border away from territorial state boundaries and constraining the mobility of people in the name of national security.

These are some of the issues that will be discussed at The Politics of Detention seminar, part of an ESRC-funded series. The seminar will address the following questions: What kinds of political subjects are produced by detention? How, precisely, do detention practices differentially value people and lives?  What kinds of authority, knowledge and expertise shape detention? Through what devices does detention constrain dissent and protestation? How are these devices experienced? What challenges face those who wish to open spaces for the political contestation of detention? To what extent does contemporary detention blur the lines between protection, prevention and punishment?"