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Department of Politics and International Studies

Research

The Department of Politics and International Studies is one of the leading research-driven centres in the UK, ranked 7th out of 59 UK Politics departments in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (SOAS RAE details).  The Department is unique in its regional coverage in the UK and beyond, and is respected for its combination of in-depth knowledge of Asia, Africa and the Middle East with a consciously critical research approach.  The research work of the Department is recognised for its innovative research methods and cutting-edge theoretical contributions.

Thematically, research within the department covers a wide range of topics, which broadly fall under three sub-disciplinary groupings, namely, comparative politics, comparative political thought, and international relations (many colleagues contribute to all three groupings). Research in these fields seeks to generate new data from Asian, African and Middle Eastern cases and to develop an empirically-grounded engagement with theoretical debates in the relevant fields. This is complemented by non-region-specific research into those key debates that provide the theoretical context to investigation at the regional and international levels.

Within the Department, some of the topics on which expertise is particularly strong are comparative political thought, political violence and war-making, everyday-life politics, transitional justice, critical human rights study, post-conflict memory, nationalism, fiscal federalism, critical readings of liberal politics and discourse, politics of identity, and understanding of Islamist ideologies and practices.  We also have expertise on transnational political movements, international political economy of trade organisations, international relations theory, comparative political economy, critical security studies, queer theory in international contexts, the politics of gender, energy security, embodiment, and violence, the study of migration, refugees and diaspora communities, and urban politics. 

Themes and Methods

The Department has particular strengths in the areas of political ethnography, historical sociology, mixed methods, and discourse analysis.  Faculty members have inter alia conducted ethnographic research in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, international human rights organisations, popular neighbourhoods of Cairo, international energy institutions, Gacaca courts of Rwanda, Islamic schools of Pakistan and on the Japanese tea ceremonies.  

Further, discourse analysis is strongly present in research conducted within the Department, with scholarly works on the economic texts of Muslim scholars, foreign policy documents and texts, military doctrine documents, and parliamentary rhetoric.  In addition, the Department has expertise in quantitative and mixed research methods, with applications to international relations and area study settings.

Finally, a particular strength of the Department is historical/political sociology both within countries and internationally.  State-making, the constitution of social relations in the international sphere and transnational organisations, transformations in social relations in the context of war and capital formation, and the centrality of social movements and contentious politics are all well-represented in the research work of the Department.