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Citation Count Data and Faculty Promotion

The following is a guest post by Dan Reiter, the Samuel Dobbs Candler Professor of Political Science at Emory University.

Dr. Cullen Hendrix’s recent Duck of Minerva post on citation counts sparked a vibrant discussion about the value of citation counts as measures of scholarly productivity and reputation.

Beyond the question of whether citation count data should be used, we should also ask, how are citation count data being used?  We already know that, for better or worse, citation count data are used in many quantitative rankings, such as those produced by Academic Analytics and the National Research Council.  Many journal rankings use citation count data.

We should also ask this question: How are departments using citation count data for promotion decisions, a topic of central interest for all scholars?

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The ISA Awakens

A short time from now, at a conference venue far, far away (at least from Amherst, MA…):

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Strategic Surprise? Or The Foreseeable Future

When the Soviets launched Sputnik in 1957, the US was taken off guard.  Seriously off guard.  While Eisenhower didn’t think the pointy satellite was a major strategic threat, the public perception was that it was.  The Soviets could launch rockets into space, and if they could do that, they could easily launch nuclear missiles at the US.  So, aside from a damaged US ego about losing the “space race,” the strategic landscape shifted quickly and the “missile gap” fear was born.

The US’s “strategic surprise” and the subsequent public backlash caused the US to embark on a variety of science and technology ventures to ensure that it would never face such surprise again.  One new agency, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), was tasked with  generating strategic surprise – and guarding against it.  While ARPA changed into DARPA (Defense Advanced Projects Agency) in the 1970s, its mission did not change.

DARPA has been, and still is, the main source of major technological advancement for US defense, and we would do well to remember its primary mission: to prevent strategic surprise.  Why one might ask is this important to the students of international affairs?  Because technology has always been one of the major variables (sometimes ignored) that affects relations between international players.   Who has what, what their capabilities are, whether they can translate those capacities into power, if they can reduce uncertainty and the “fog and friction” of war, whether they can  predict future events, if they can understand their adversaries, and on and on the questions go.  But at base, we utilize science and technology to pursue our national interests and answer these questions.

I recently brought attention to the DoD’s new “Third Offset Strategy” in my last post.  This strategy, I explained, is based on the assumption that scientific achievement and the creation of new weapons and systems will allow the US to maintain superiority and never fall victim to strategic surprise (again).  Like the first and second offsets, the third wants to leverage advancements in physics, computer science, robotics, artificial intelligence and electrical and mechanical engineering to “kick the crap” out of any potential adversary.

Yet, aside from noting these requirements, what exactly, would the US need to do to “offset” the threats from Russia, China, various actors in the Middle East, terrorists (at home and abroad), and any unforeseen or “unknown unknowns?” I think I have a general idea, and if I am at all or even partially correct, we need to have a public discussion about this now.

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The Kurdish Conundrum

Now that Canada has decided to continue to train and support the Kurds in Iraq along with the Iraqi government, the question of the future of the Kurds is being questioned.  Indeed, yesterday, I received a phone call from a magazine in Kurdistan asking me about referendums and why some secessionist movements get to become states and others do not.  My short answer: “fair ain’t got nothing to do with it” which could probably use a bit of nuance.  This is not just a Canadian issue but one for all of the countries intervening (or not intervening) in Iraq and Syria.

The one thing I do know and am very confident about is this: vulnerability to secession does not deter other countries from recognizing an independent Kurdish state.  Sorry, I know this is the conventional wisdom (as presented in this piece), but the conventional wisdom has always been wrong and always will be wrong.  How do I know that?  Well, see my first book, see this article, and this one, too.  Perhaps notice which countries recognized Kosovo (hint: Canada).  Oh, and check out Russia’s foreign policy, given that it is vulnerable to secession yet have been sponsoring separatists frequently and enthusiastically.  And yes, countries can be irredentist even as they face separatist movements at home.

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Why Isn’t There More Public Scrutiny of the U.S. Military?

This is a guest post by Risa Brooks, Associate Professor at Marquette University

Americans’ relationship with the military exhibits an odd paradox: the country’s citizens profess to hold deep regard for the military, while in fact knowing little about it and paying minimal attention to its activities at home or abroad. Analysts of U.S. civil-military relations remain seriously concerned about this peculiar mix of societal reverence and indifference toward the military.

Less clear is why Americans remain so disengaged from an institution that has such a profound role in the country’s political and economic life. The greater than $500 billion defense budget consumes more than half of the federal government’s discretionary spending. Although the Obama administration has officially declared an end to combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, sizable forces remain deployed in both countries and more may soon be sent. If ever there was an institution that would seem a natural magnet for public attention, it is the United States military.

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On The Dynamics of Global Power Politics

This is a guest post by Dan Nexon, Associate Professor in the Department of Government at Georgetown University and Stacie Goddard, Jane Bishop ’51 Associate Professor of Political Science of Wellesley College

In the wake of the Russian Federation’s intervention in Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry declared that, “You just don’t in the twenty-first century behave in nineteenth-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext.” Indeed, a number of analysts see the return of traditional realpolitik, that “old-fashioned power plays are back in international relations.” Others express skepticism. They view international relations as more peaceful and less marked by realpolitik than ever before.

We think this debate encapsulates enduring problems with the way that many think about power politics. Scholars on both sides associate realpolitik primarily with the machinations of military power. They insist that states remain the core practitioners of power politics.  And they often treat the institutions of liberal order not as changing the dynamics of power politics, but somehow supplanting them entirely. When taken as a whole, such terms of debate reproduce a misleading baseline assumption still found in international-relations scholarship: that the nature and salience of global power politics—‘old-fashioned’ or otherwise—stems from the states-under-anarchy framework associated with contemporary realist theory.

We argue that it is time for security studies to abandon this debate, to stop equating realpolitik with contemporary realism, and to set down the parameters of a research program that we term “the dynamics of power politics.” In this, we draw inspiration from the field of contentious politics.

What binds the research program together is its focus on realpolitik as the politics of collective mobilization in the context of the struggle for influence among political communities, broadly understood. In particular, the study of the dynamics—the mechanisms and processes—of collective mobilization—the causal and constitutive pathways linking efforts at mobilization with enhanced power—brings disparate approaches to security studies together in a shared study of power politics. Some readers will note that our approach—and quite deliberately—finds kinship with calls to take practices, transactions, and relations themselves as basic building blocks of analysis, and thus implicates emerging divisions in the field.

We detail specific analytical content in our article, “The Dynamics of Global Power Politics,” published in the inaugral issue of the the newest ISA journal, the Journal of Global Security Studies. But, as we note there, consider Moscow’s activities in Russia’s near abroad.  For structural realists, Russia’s actions herald a return to power politics as usual, and provide clear evidence that states will continue to balance power under conditions of anarchy. We agree that Russia’s actions should not be dismissed as mere “spoiler” behavior: the last vestiges of brutish power politics in the liberal world order. But the “Russia is balancing” causal story is not particularly convincing either. Putin’s actions have infuriated Western opponents precisely because they are seen as threatening a liberal institutional order.  To treat this as balancing under anarchy, as Cooley shows, misses the rich institutional context of contemporary power politics. Russia’s strategy, moreover, relies less upon the mobilization of other great powers, and more on specific tactics aimed at other actors. From a dynamics-of-power-politics perspective, the question is not whether or not Russia is “balancing,” which, as the debate over soft balancing illustrates, some realists take as the threshold for significant power-political activity. Instead, it concerns what mechanisms of power politics operating in the Russian case; what instruments are being deployed and why; and how structure shapes the interaction and outcomes of these mechanisms.

Ultimately the goal of this research program involves finding common ground between realist and heterodox approaches. More important, it aims to ensure that power politics remains central to the global analysis of security studies. Despite the decline in major power wars and the use of international force by states, despite the growth of international institutions, despite the supposed increased importance of economic and symbolic instruments, the struggle for power constitutes an immutable feature of international relations. In essence, we agree with the founders of the field of Security Studies: to ignore the dynamics of power politics is to miss an essential feature of international security, let alone global politics.

 

 

 

Discussion: Structural Power and the Study of Business

This is a guest post by Randall Germain, Professor of Political Science at Carleton University, as part of the Duck of Minerva’s Symposium on Structural Power and the Study of Business. Links to other posts in the symposium can be found here.

A scholar knows he has been around for a while when the problem of structural power re-emerges as a legitimate and worthy subject of research. My graduate education in IR and IPE was pre-occupied with debates over hegemonic stability theory and neo-realism, which were, in their own ways, very particular demands to take structure and the power of structures seriously in our research. But along the way this interest in structure became transmuted into a quest to make whatever data we had about existing institutions reveal how they functioned in a world of exogenous developments. Research shifted from a focus on what Benjamin Cohen has called ‘big picture’ thinking about the global economic and political order, to a much narrower set of concerns connected to how specific institutions operate and the parameters within which they move. In many ways the concerns that dominated scholarly debates in my academic ‘youth’ have gone south, replaced by concerns which, while not of course unimportant in a scholarly sense, are perhaps somewhat less driven by the ‘big picture’ problems of change and transformation that animated research in that earlier period.

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PhD-in-Hand? Why?

Inside Higher Ed must be having a slow news week.[1] Today, they are reporting on the APSA 2014-2015 Graduate Placement Survey as if it’s brand new.  The report actually came out in early December.  Oh, well. When I read the report – and shared it with my grad students –in December, I was struck by something that the Inside Higher Ed editor highlighted today:

“More ABDs are starting full job searches, and fewer of those in the expanded pool are landing faculty positions, study finds.”

That finding is technically true.  About 32% of ABDs[2] were “not placed” in any job – tenure-track, non-tenure track, postdoc, nonacademic – in the 2014-2015 academic job cycle.  Of those with a PhD-in-Hand, only about 10% were not placed.

Upon reading the Inside Higher Ed story and some of the story’s comments[3], one could be left with the impression that all a student needs to do to get a job in political science is actually finish their PhD.  I mean, right?  Once it’s in hand, you are way more hirable!  I don’t think so.   I don’t think the correct conclusion is to advise students to finish their PhDs before going on the market.

Here’s what I think is happening:

  • The academic market is clogged. Lots of people are not placed or underplaced.
  • Universities are getting by with fewer tenure-track faculty.
  • ABDs are having trouble getting positions, of any type, but especially tenure-track positions in the current environment. While our advisors-advisors used to be able to get a position with just a phone call and a letter about how great a dissertation is, it now takes multiple top-tier publications to even make it to the long list.[4]
  • ABDs thus have to fight for a few VAP[5] or post-doc positions. The ones that get the positions then file their dissertations (receiving their PhD) and then go back on the market the next year with their PhD-in-Hand.  Hopefully, these individuals get (a) more things that make it through the peer-review process and/or (b) more teaching experience during this time period.
  • It’s the added stuff during this year – the added peer-reviewed publications and, for some positions, the added teaching – that makes those with a PhD-in-Hand way more likely to be hired than their ABD counterparts.

So, if my thoughts are correct, the PhD-in-Hand isn’t really making that much of a difference on the market.  It’s just the fact that the PhD-in-Hand is correlated with someone having more experience as a researcher/teacher. It isn’t that ABDs with experience as researchers/teachers are being ignored in favor of someone with a PhD-in-Hand that isn’t a proven researcher/teacher. And, letters of recommendation can definitely indicate that the dissertation is fully drafted but just not filed – I have seen it on multiple searches.

All of this brings me to an important point that I’ve repeatedly had to make to ABDs in my time as DGS:

In most circumstances, don’t file your PhD until you have to.

Of course, if you strike out on the market a couple of times and just need to have it to be done with the whole affair, then file.  But, if you plan on going back on the market in the next year and have no prospects for a job during that year, I don’t think you should file your PhD.  I don’t think it’s going to boost your job prospects in any real way. Instead, in many instances, it’s just going to make you an unaffiliated scholar, with limited access to any university library and with no chance of getting continued graduate assistant positions.  It also could make your student loan repayment countdown start.

I’m interested what others think.  I posed this question on Facebook[6] this morning and got a lot of interesting responses.  One of my colleagues remarked that it’s not “’degree-in-hand” that matters so much as “publications-on-the-CV.””  Another colleague, this one from a small liberal arts college, remarked that they “care more about pubs than done [dissertation] assuming good progress and likely completion by start of the job. Oh, and the person should have actual (demonstrably good) solo teaching experience.”

Of course, my colleagues mentioned that getting a PhD and leaving graduate school can help one’s scholarship, like would happen if you had a postdoc or a research position and interacted with new colleagues with new ideas.  Key in this, however, is the availability of the postdoc or research position.

As one colleague summed it up, in this environment, “publication is king.”  That should be the most important thing you focus on, not on whether or not you file graduation paperwork this spring.

All else equal, I contend that a published ABD is going to beat out a non-published PhD at most colleges or universities in this country.  I wish APSA’s report had provided more information on publications and the likelihood of placement.

[1] What? No Mizzou stories today?  You could really do a special issue on us this year!

[2] Mom, that stands for “All But Dissertation.” It’s the last stage in the process to a PhD; it’s after classes, after comps, and typically after a whole committee of professors have approved your dissertation outline or prospectus. But, wait, seriously, Mom – why are you reading this blog?  Don’t you have something better to do in retirement? Aren’t there squirrels in the attic?

[3] This is something I need to learn not to do.  Reading comments about the Mizzou disaster this year has really made me question the sanity of my neighbors.  I had to step away.  And, join the adult coloring book craze.

[4] Mom, the “long list” is the list of about 10-15 possible candidates that a search committee wants to look it.  They’ll invite only 3-4 from this list for on-campus interviews.  That’s the “short list.”

[5] Visiting Assistant Professor.  Or adjunct.  Basically academic hell. There are a lot of people to blame for this.

[6] Friend me!  You’ll see cute animal pictures.  At least 30 a day.

The Structural Power of Business: Taking Structure, Agency and Ideas Seriously

This is a guest post by David Marsh (Institute of Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra, Australia), Sadiya Akram (Queen Mary College, University of London, UK) and Holly Birkett (Birmingham Business School, UK), as part of the Duck of Minerva’s Symposium on Structural Power and the Study of Business. This post draws on ideas developed at greater length in their article found here. Links to other posts in the symposium can be found here.

There has been a revived interest in the last few years in the power of business. This is hardly surprising given the way in which Governments made significant concessions to the banks in the context of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). Indeed, most, but not all, empirical studies of the power of business have concentrated on the relationships between Governments and the financial sector particularly in the UK and the US. Is it true, as some have claimed that the power of business has increased substantially, thus undermining the operation of contemporary democracy? Of course, this is, in large part, an empirical problem. However, assessing the power of any group within society is not easy and we need a more sophisticated conceptual framework to address this empirical problem.

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The Multinational Firm and Geopolitics: Europe, Russian Energy, and Power

This is a guest post by Rawi Abdelal, Joseph C. Wilson Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, as part of the Duck of Minerva’s Symposium on Structural Power and the Study of Business. This post draws on ideas developed at greater length in Abdelal’s article found here. Links to other posts in the symposium can be found here.

Multinational firms produce many of the geopolitical outcomes in which political scientists are interested. It is such a pity, then, that political scientists know so little about multinational firms. In this paper I put forward a theoretical framework for understanding the role of multinational firms in both markets and the international system.

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Why Is the U.S. Still So Important in the Post-Crisis Global Financial System?

This is a post by William Kindred Winecoff, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Indiana University Bloomington, as part of the Duck of Minerva’s Symposium on Structural Power and the Study of Business. This post draws on ideas developed at greater length in Winecoff’s article found here. Links to other posts in the symposium can be found here.

A curious thing has happened since the global financial crisis: all of the rising powers that were ostensibly going to challenge the postwar American hegemonic project have taken significant steps backwards, while the U.S. has recovered much more smoothly than many predicted. Indeed, the political economy problems within unified Europe and the formerly-booming BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) appear to be deepening further, while others who had resisted the U.S. project, or been ambivalent towards it, are facing new problems of their own: this is especially true of “Pink Tide” left-populists in Latin America – who are suffering from the unraveling of the same commodities supercycle from which they previously had benefited – while the “Fragile Five” middle income economies (Turkey, Brazil, India, South Africa, and Indonesia) face slower economic growth, pressures on their external economic accounts, and serious domestic political challenges.

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Behind Structural Power Lies Structuring Power

This is a guest post by Henry Farrell, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University, and Abraham Newman, Associate Professor in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and the Government Department at Georgetown University, as part of the Duck of Minerva’s Symposium on Structural Power and the Study of Business. This post draws on ideas developed at greater length in Farrell and Newman’s article found here. Links to other posts in the symposium can be found here.

Political scientists haven’t paid nearly enough attention to structural power over the last two decades. As Charles Lindblom argued, it is clear that firms have political power and influence that goes beyond their direct ability e.g. to put money behind ideas and politicians that they like. In a capitalist system, by definition, businesses make the final decisions about how capital is allocated. This means that politicians have to pay attention to their decisions, allowing businesses collectively and sometimes individually to shape the political agenda. Pepper Culpepper and his colleagues, both by drawing renewed attention to structural power, and by showing that it can vary across state, industry and context, are doing a lot to explain political outcomes that would otherwise remain mystifying.

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Structural Power in Latin America

This is a guest post by Tasha Fairfield, Assistant Professor in the Department of International Development at the London School of Economics and Political Science, as part of the Duck of Minerva’s Symposium on Structural Power and the Study of Business. This post draws on ideas developed at greater length in Fairfield’s article found here. Links to other posts in the symposium can be found here.

Taxation is a policy area rife with examples from around the world of the substantial influence that business can wield. Consider Latin America, a region known for phenomenal inequality and light taxation of income and wealth (much like the United States in recent years). Business has been particularly successful at securing favorable tax legislation in Chile­­––business owners who comprise the top 1% receive upwards of 22% of national income but paid average effective tax rates of roughly 15% (compare to 24% in the US in 2004).

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The Structural Power of Business as a Causal Hypothesis

This is a guest post by Kevin Young, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, as part of the Duck of Minerva’s Symposium on Structural Power and the Study of Business. This post draws on ideas developed at greater length in Young’s article found here. Links to other posts in the symposium can be found here.

We live in a civilization populated by an organizational form that has replicated itself throughout the world with incredible speed, voracity and flexibility. It might be the organizational form of our age. This organizational form organizes the wealth that society produces; its decisions determine whether people eat or starve; its machinations influence what kind of society is possible. Every large-scale policy must confront and engage with it. Indeed, most public policy is squarely focused on shaping its behavior. The greatest human talent of our age is subsumed within it and directed for its purposes.

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No Escape from Uncle Sam

This is a guest post by Patrick Emmenegger, Professor of Comparative Political Economy and Public Policy at the University of St. Gallen, as part of the Duck of Minerva’s Symposium on Structural Power and the Study of Business. This post draws on ideas developed at greater length in Emmenegger’s article found here. Links to other posts in the symposium can be found here.

The United States of America is the most powerful country in the world but when it comes to interactions with international banks, it looks surprisingly feeble – at least according to conventional wisdom. Two types of international banks seem beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement authorities. On the one hand, some banks are primarily located in other countries and thus protected by these countries’ legal sovereignty. Absent international cooperation, these banks – although influencing international capital flows in important ways – seem beyond the reach of national law enforcement. On the other hand, the largest international banks are typically located on U.S. soil but considered to be “too big to fail.” Since their collapse could endanger the viability of the global financial system, these banks are off-limits for criminal prosecution, because history shows that criminal prosecution of such banks leads to their collapse.

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Structural Power and Contemporary Politics

This is a guest post by Pepper D. Culpepper, Professor of Political Science at the European University Institute, as part of the Duck of Minerva’s Symposium on Structural Power and the Study of Business. This post draws on ideas developed at greater length in Culpepper’s article found here. Links to other posts in the symposium can be found here.

Crises shake up the real world. Sometimes, they even shake up the world of political science. The recent global financial crisis and the ongoing bank and sovereign debt crisis associated with it in the Eurozone have led many scholars to reach back into the toolbox of structural power to help understand some puzzling developments. The symposium that is appearing this week brings together contributions from several scholars who have found this toolbox useful.

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Programming Note: Symposium on Structural Power and the Study of Business

This week the Duck will host a symposium on a recent special issue of Business and Politics on Structural Power and the Study of Business, which was guest-edited by Pepper Culpepper and published in October. De Gruyter has generously agreed to temporarily ungate the issue to correspond with this symposium; the articles may be found here.

Each day of the week will contain a post in the morning and the afternoon, written by the authors of the articles in the issue, with a concluding post discussing the project by Randall German. We hope you will join us in the comments as we go along. This note will be updated with links to each post as they appear, so as to serve as an archive of sorts. The full schedule is below the jump.

 

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Speaking Truth to Power: A Response to Walt’s Lamentations

This is a guest post from Eric Van Rythoven and Ty Solomon. Eric Van Rythoven is a PhD candidate at Carleton University studying emotion, world politics, and securitization. His work is published in Security Dialogue and European Journal of International Relations. Ty Solomon is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow. He is the author of The Politics of Subjectivity in American Foreign Policy Discourses (2015, University of Michigan Press), and articles in International Studies Quarterly, European Journal of International Relations, and Review of International Studies, among others.

Two weeks ago, one of IR’s most respected and publicly visible intellectuals wrote a piece lamenting the absence of realist voices in American foreign policy discourse. In case you missed it Stephen Walt’s piece is worth reading in full, but here’s the money quote:

why is a distinguished and well-known approach to foreign policy confined to the margins of public discourse, especially in the pages of our leading newspapers, when its recent track record is arguably superior to the main alternatives?

Most of the praise (and snark) has sunk to the bottom of Twitter, but you can still see some of the popular responses here and here. As two academics who study realist political advocacy and American foreign policy discourse, we agree with Walt that realism is marginalized in public debates, at least in comparison to liberal internationalism or neoconservatism. But we’re also struck by how this discussion has missed the one of the most obvious answers as to why.

Realist discourse is marginalized because it’s not powerful.

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India, Air Pollution, and Climate Change

Over the winter break, I spent ten days in India, in the capital New Delhi and Mumbai. I was immediately struck by the awful air quality as I walked out of the airport in New Delhi. Delhi’s air quality is as bad or worse than Beijing’s, though perhaps that fact isn’t as widely known.

The air was visible and thick. I thought my glasses were dirty but then I realized that it was the haze which crept in to the interior halls of the hotel. I couldn’t capture the air quality in a photo but I found a perfect encapsulation reading Tom Hale’s fine book on global governance policy gridlock. I was struck by an excerpt he and his co-authors quoted from Charles Dickens’ Bleak House on 19th century London and the remarkable similarity of its acrid air to India’s:

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ’prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds.

The air pollution in Delhi was like this and underscored for me that the strongest impetus for action to deliver climate benefits will come because people in major cities across India such as Delhi, Lucknow, and Ahmedabad demand cleaner air.  Continue reading

Interested in critical international politics?

GregynogThe Gregynog Ideas Lab, a thinking space for scholars interested in studying global politics from a range of critical, postcolonial, feminist, post-structural and psychoanalytic traditions, takes place every summer at Gregynog Hall in mid-Wales (UK).

This unusual summer school offers a set of seminars & workshops, an artist-in-residence, methods training and one-on-one consultations to allow graduate students and established scholars to re-examine their own work, participate in ongoing conversations and meet new people who share an interest in critical international politics. Participants – both guest professors and students – come from various corners of the world and it is above all the informal and open atmosphere that is valued by all.

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