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Seminars and talks

The Department holds regular research seminars during the teaching semesters. Unless otherwise stated, these are on Wednesdays at 12.00 noon in room 4.C.11 (4th floor, Arts Building).

Upcoming seminars

Wednesday 16 August, A4C11 - 12 noon

Recent Political Developments in Japan and Its Implications on Foreign Policy

Speaker: Professor Toshihiro Nakayama, Sir Howard Kippenberger Visiting Chair 2017, Victoria University

For the past several years, Japan has enjoyed a strong and stable political leadership under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. During his tenure, neither populist politics nor extreme distrust in government has been evident. At the international level, Abe has successfully navigated Japan in a dangerous part of the world, and tackled many of the pressing foreign and security policy agendas which previous leaders were unable to. However, there are signs that trust in his leadership seems to be getting weaker. What are the foreign policy implications of all this? The talk evaluates the Abe administration’s his foreign policy accomplishments and considers the trajectory of Japanese foreign policy.


Wednesday 16 August, Archway 3 - 5-6:30 pm

Japan's Quest for a More Assertive Foreign Policy

Speaker: Professor Toshihiro Nakayama, Sir Howard Kippenberger Visiting Chair 2017, Victoria University

During the second term of the Shinzo Abe administration, Japan has experienced a major shift in its foreign policy outlook. This is a result of changing perceptions of regional dynamics, and the willingness on the part of the administration to take proactive steps in reforming aspects of the national security infrastructure and policy. However, the unexpected victory of Donald Trump posed Japan with an existential question. Would it be possible to rely on the alliance to function under a new administration? The actions of the Japanese government were quick. It doubled-down on the alliance, sending a message to the Trump team that Japan is willing to work with the new president. As a result, so far, the U.S. has confirmed the core mission of the alliance. However, an alliance is not a stand-alone institution. It only functions when U.S. is fully committed to the region. Is the commitment there? The answer is unclear to Japan, which sees the shadow of retrenchment encroaching upon American internationalism. The focus of the talk is to review and understand the foreign policy options for Japan in the Trump era.


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Wednesday 16 August, Burns 1 - 6-7:30 pm
Focus on Politics: Celebrating 50 Years of Politics at Otago 

Gender, Feminism and Politics

Hosted by: Dr Melanie Beres, University of Otago


  • Dr Carla Lam, University of Otago
  • Associate Professor Jennifer Curtin, University of Auckland
  • Dr Rebecca Stringer, University of Otago
  • Dr Heather Devere, University of Otago

As part of the 50th birthday of politics at Otago this panel explores the significance of gender to politics, in its various dimensions. How has feminism changed traditional approaches to the study of power (politics)? The discussion will encompass the politics of gender, drawing on social and political theory, peace and conflict studies, and comparative politics and institutions.


Wednesday 23 August, A4C11 - 12 noon

De-subjugating Knowledge: a critical framework for analysing power within Academia

Aidan Gnoth, National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Otago University

This presentation states the case for a new approach to analysing the influence of power within academia. Drawing on recent critiques of International Peacebuilding practice, which critically evaluate the rhetorical way in which international actors attempted to encourage local ownership of peace processes, Aidan argues that there is a significant gap in understanding how academics contributed to or sought to resist this failing.

While the interface between knowledge and power, or academia and policymaking, has been addressed in a myriad of contexts, understanding this relationship in reference to the co-option of transformative and emancipatory theories in the field of peacebuilding is particularly pertinent given the exploitative and imperialistic nature of intervention. Expanding on traditional models of policymaking, the presentation outlines a modified conceptual framework to understanding the interaction between academics and policymakers which focuses on the agency of academics and accounts for the ways in which power circulates and shapes their interactions and outputs.

 Thursday 31 August, Moot Court  5:15-6:15pm

Prioritising "Order" and Causing Chaos: The International Subversion of Sovereignty in Kosovo

Dr Aidan Hehir, Reader, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Westminster

Eighteen years after NATO’s controversial intervention, Kosovo is widely recognised as one of the most corrupt, ethnically divided and under-developed countries in Europe. Its international status remains contested, and in recent years the international media have increasingly warned of looming violence. Rather than blaming the people of Kosovo for the current malaise – and relying on lazy, essentialist tropes related to “ancient ethnic hatreds” – the cause of Kosovo’s myriad woes stems from the manner in which it has been controlled by “the internationals”; the array of foreign actors who have both formally and informally exercised control over Kosovo’s political system.


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Wednesday 6 September, Burns 1 - 6-7:30pm
Focus on Politics: Celebrating 50 Years of Politics at Otago

Are the US and China on the road to war?


  • Professor Alex Tan, Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Canterbury, Christchurch
  • Professor Robert Patman, Department of Politics, University of Otago
  • Dr. Nicholas Khoo, Department of Politics, University of Otago

The rise of China since Deng Xiaoping initiated landmark economic reforms in the late 1970’s is one of the big stories in world politics. To name only the most obvious benefits of China’s rise, the largest number of people in human history have been lifted out of poverty, and China’s impressive economic growth has bolstered the world economy in the post-2008 global financial crisis. However, the story does not end there. In recent years, we have also seen a clear increase in tensions between China and the U.S. What are the sources of these tensions? Can they be moderated? What is the likely trajectory of the U.S.-China relationship in the twenty-first century? Join us in exploring these questions with our panel of specialists.


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Thursday 5 October, Burns 1 - 6-7.30pm
Focus on Politics: Celebrating 50 Years of Politics at Otago

100 years since the Russian Revolution 1917
Hosted by Associate Professor Brian Roper

Recent seminars

Tuesday 8 August, Archway 3 - 5:30-7pm
The Dilemma of the Public Intellectual in the Nuclear Age
Associate Professor Benoit Pelopidas, Centre for International Studies, Sciences Po, Paris
Dr Lyndon Burford, Disarmament and Security Centre
This lecture investigates the role and possibilities of the public intellectual in the nuclear age. It argues that in light of the current state of global nuclear vulnerability, and the ways in which the institutionalisation of nuclear weapons programs modify democratic processes and consume valuable resources, democratic publics deserve a voice that speaks for the public interest.

Wednesday 26 July - A4C11 - 12noon
Identity Politics in a Torn Middle East: The Unusual Case of Oman
Dr Leon Goldsmith, University of Otago
This seminar discussion is based on a three-year stint teaching politics at SQU, the national university of Oman, and builds on an article that Dr Goldsmith wrote for the Middle East Institute titled, Immunising Against Sectarian Sickness: The Case of Oman.

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Wednesday 19 July, Burns 1 - 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Focus on Politics: Celebrating 50 Years of Politics at Otago
Election 2017: How healthy is New Zealand’s democracy?
Hosted by Professor Janine Hayward

As we head towards the General Election on 23 September, this panel will discuss what we can expect from politicians, the media, interest groups and voters. What are the big issues at stake in this election, and how likely is it that those issues will be addressed? Just how democratic is New Zealand today?

Dr Bryce Edwards (Political Commentator)
Hannah Ballantyne (OU Politics student, POLSA exec, UniCrew)
Tree La Rooy (Tertiary Education Union)
Dene MacKenzie (Political Editor, ODT)

Click here for the audio recording (starts at 1:25)

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Wednesday 31 May - Castle 1 - 6:00 - 7:30pm
Focus on Politics: Celebrating 50 Years of Politics at Otago
50 years of educating politics students and myself at Otago
Emeritus Professor James R. Flynn

During my fifty years at Otago (1967-2017), thirty years as HOD, the university, my students, and my image of myself have altered. The university became student-centred, the students better (in most ways), and I became more absorbed in giving them and myself a measure of human autonomy.”

Emeritus Professor James R. Flynn was appointed inaugural professor of Political Studies at Otago in 1967. The Department of Politics invites you to share in our 50th birthday celebrations and hear Prof. Flynn’s reflections on 50 years of teaching politics at Otago.

Click here for the audio recording (starts at 1:28)

Wednesday 17 May - A4C11 - 12noon
Professor Alexander Gillespie, Waikato University
New Zealand's Involvement in Iraq: For and Against
The decision to deploy, and retrain, NZ troops to Iraq to assist in the fight against ISIS was one of the most controversial decisions on foreign policy in recent years. Professor Gillespie will discuss both sides of the argument, for deployment, and against, drawing the audience to their own conclusion.

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Wednesday 10 May - BURNS1 - 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Focus on Politics: Celebrating 50 Years of Politics at Otago
The Middle East Today
Hosted by Professor William Harris

The panel will report on latest developments and circumstances in Turkey, the Israeli-Palestinian arena, and the Syria crisis. In Q & A, we are happy also to discuss jihadism, the situation in Iraq, and the involvements of Russia and the United States across the Fertile Crescent.

Dr Leon Goldsmith, University of Otago
Dr Nigel Parsons, Massey University
Hosted by Professor William Harris

Click here for the audio recording

Wednesday 26 April, 12noon, A4C11
Kirstin Bebell, MIntSt student
Rational Russia: Why Putin Annexed Crimea
Kirstin discusses the debate over the factors that led to the Russian Federation's annexation of Crimea: Is it ideology, Putin’s personal outlook, domestic politics, or international systemic pressures? By investigating EU and NATO expansion, Moscow-Washington relations, the influence of Kosovo and Eastern European colour revolutions, and Russian domestic politics and regime power, she shows how International Relations theory can shed some light on what is often a very dark subject.

Wednesday 12 April - A4C11 - 12noon
Arshad Ali, PhD Candidate (Department of Politics)
Uneasy Co-existence: Pakistan's State Centric National Security Approach and the Post-Cold War Security Environment
Pakistan spends enormous amounts of its fiscal and foreign exchange resources on national security. As a consequence, the military is a key state institution in the formulation and execution of foreign and security policy. The country continues to face mounting security challenges in the post-Cold War era, particularly since the transformation of its regional and international strategic environment following 9/11.

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5 April - BURNS1 - 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Focus on Politics: Celebrating 50 Years of Politics at Otago
The BIG idea whose time has come: A basic income grant for all?
Hosted by Professor Philip Nel

Concern about declining decent work opportunities, growing child poverty, and the prohibitive costs of complex welfare provision all lead to one conclusion: Serious attention must be given to the introduction of a Basic Income Grant, a cash income for every adult/household. The idea is 500 years old, and experimentally applied in a number of places in the world. Is it appropriate for New Zealand, and how will it work?

Professor Philip Nel, Department of Politics, University of Otago
Mr Lowell Manning, President, Basic Income New Zealand (BINZ)
Dr Murat Ungor, Department of Economics, University of Otago

Click here for the audio recording

29 March - A4C11 - 12noon
Jason Roy, Associate Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University
Does Trashing Your Opponents Work?

Do negative election campaigns work? Drawing upon data collected from online voting experiments, this talk explores the amount of attention and the relative vote share candidates receive according to the tone of their election campaign (positive or negative) and that of their opponents. The results suggest that negative campaigning increases voter interest, but reduces candidate vote share. In both cases, the magnitude of the effect is found to be conditioned by the number of candidates engaged in similar styled campaigns.

28 March - CAST2 - 5:30 p.m.
Jim Flynn, Emeritus Professor, University of Otago
No place to hide: climate change and urgency
There are two kinds of skeptics: climate change deniers and climate engineering deniers. The latter acknowledge the problem but the political elite will never accept what they propose; and were it accepted, it would have immoral implications for the third world. We must face the fact that climate engineering is necessary to buy time to achieve carbon-free energy and unless this is implemented soon, we will pass a point of no return.

Click here for the audio recording

8 March - Humanities Board Room 5C13 - 4:00-5:00 p.m.
Gerard van Bohemen, Ambassador and Permanent Representantive of the New Zealand Permanent Mission to the United Nations.
New Zealand on the Security Council 2015-16: A view from within
Prior to his role as Permanent Representative, he was Deputy Secretary at the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, responsible for Multilateral and Legal Affairs. In this role, he oversaw the Ministry’s Consular Division, Environment Division, International Security and Disarmament Division, Legal Division, and United Nations, Human Rights & Commonwealth Division. During that period, he was also New Zealand’s Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission and New Zealand’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Before becoming Deputy Secretary, he was the Ministry’s International Legal Adviser and Director of the Legal Division.

7 March - ARCH4 - 5:00-6:00 p.m.
Elina Noor, Director of Foreign Policy at Malaysia's Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS Malaysia), a think tank of regional and global renown.
Tech and Terror: Radicalisation, Extremism, and the Internet
Although terrorism is a traditional security issue that some countries in Southeast Asia have faced for a number of decades, technology has added a new dimension to dealing with the challenge of radicalisation and recruitment. How is technology being used and abused in propagating extremism? On the other hand, what opportunities are afforded by technology in combatting this threat? This session will also address the online-offline connections in respect to the role of technology and the issue of terrorism.

10 February - BURNS2 - 12:00-1:30 p.m.
Dr Jim Headley (Department of Politics); Professor Robert Patman (Department of Politics); Sir Michael Leigh (Senior Fellow - German Marshall Fund (GMF)); Associate Professor Jason Roy (Department of Political Science - Wilfred Laurier University)
Brexit, Trump and the Rise of Post-Truth Populism

Click here for the audio recording (starts at 4:18)

9 February - BURNS2 - 5:30-7:00 p.m.
Sir Michael Leigh (Director General with the European Commission - Fellow at German Marshall Fund (GMF))
Britain and Europe in a Post-Brexit World

Previous Seminars