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?" 

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Multiple Disciplines in the Study of Politics

Upcoming postgraduate led seminar in the Department of Politics on Thursday 13 June 2013, at 13:15 in D/104. Speakers will be Robin Jervis and Juliana Bidadanure. All Welcome.