PIR Seminar Series

PIR Seminar Series

The PIR Seminar Series is a great opportunity for scholars from the University, guests from abroad, and students to share their work and discuss research.

Department of Politics and International Relations Seminar Series, First Half-Session (H1) Programme


For further queries about the Politics and International Relations Seminar Series, contact Dr. Digdem Soyaltin Colella at digdem.soyaltin@abdn.ac.uk. This series is hosted by the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Aberdeen.

Seminars take place in Annex F05, Edward Wright Building on Wednesdays 12 noon to 13:30, unless otherwise stated. They are dual-streamed on MS Teams.

All are welcome!






Wednesday, 4th October

Professor Andrew Futter

Leicester University, UK

A Third Nuclear Age?


Wednesday, 18th October

Click here to join the meeting

Meeting ID: 349 258 158 215
Passcode: jeiPhL

Assoc. Professor Vladimir Rouvinski

Icesi University, Colombia (online) 

Back to the Future? Russia’s engagement of Latin America in the context of the war in Ukraine


Wednesday, 25th October

Dr. Mohsin Hussain

University of Aberdeen, UK

Understanding Political Apologies (or lack thereof)


Wednesday, 22nd November

Dr. Sarah Vaughan

University of Edinburgh, UK

Book launch: Understanding Ethiopia's Tigray War (with Martin Plaut)


Wednesday, 29th November

Dr. Ugur Ozdemir

University of Edinburgh, UK

Behavioral Foundations of Opposition Alliance Support Under Electoral Authoritarianism (with Dr. Marc Jacob, Stanford University)


Wednesday, 6th December

Dr. Nour Halabi

University of Aberdeen, UK

Book launch: Radical Hospitality. American Policy, Media, and Immigration


Prof. Andrew Futter, Leicester University

A Third Nuclear Age?

4 October 2023

Abstract: Our nuclear world is in a period of transition and flux.  Rapid technological shifts in weapons systems and their perceived role; geopolitical realignment as the era of US and Western dominance is challenged; increasing interest in nuclear energy for development in the Global South, and growing divides between deterrers and disarmers, mean that the global nuclear order is increasingly characterised by friction and division. This talk aims to map out these unfolding dynamics and make the case for an urgent rethinking of how we understand the challenges posed by nuclear technologies.

Bio: Professor Andrew Futter specialises in contemporary nuclear weapons issues, specifically emerging technologies and their impact on nuclear strategy, stability and arms control. His work is centred on raising international awareness of nuclear risks, and shaping the climate of ideas that ensures governments and policymakers can make the best decisions possible. His research has been heavily influential in raising international awareness of these new nuclear threats, encouraging governments and policymakers to modernise their thinking and decisions. Ultimately, his work seeks to ensure that we’re all working towards the same goal: for the nuclear button never to be pressed again.  


Back to the Future? Russia’s engagement of Latin America in the context of the war in Ukraine

Professor Vladimir Rouvinski, Icesi University, Colombia (online-only) 

18 October 2023

Abstract: Russia is at war. Russian officials made this statement long before the invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022. Yet, Russian law prohibits organizations and individuals from calling the combat in Ukraine “war.” Instead, the expression “special military operation” must be used. When Putin's officials talk about war, they are referring to Russia's multidimensional confrontation with the United States and the rest of the Western nations in other domains. From this perspective, the war in Ukraine is one of many Russia has waged since the second part of the 2000s when Putin decided to challenge the post‐Cold War rules of the game in the international arena. In this context, besides “hot” wars in Georgia, Syria, and Ukraine, the Kremlin is involved in an information war on the domestic and global information scene. In addition, state‐controlled giant corporations like Gazprom and Rosneft are fighting energy wars. Last but certainly not least, an ideological war was launched to construct a new multipolar world order, an alternative to the liberal world order led by Washington and the US allies around the globe. To a lesser or greater extent, each of Russia's many wars has long‐lasting repercussions on Latin America and the Caribbean, which experts and the public often underestimate. Moreover, the evidence suggests that Moscow assigns a particularly important role to this part of the world in its vision of the future of global affairs.

Bio: Vladimir Rouvinski is Director of Laboratory of Politics and International Relations (PoInt), and Associate Professor at the Department of Political Studies, at Icesi University in Cali, Colombia. He graduated from Irkutsk State University, in Russia, majoring in history and international relations, and he also holds MA and PhD in International Development and Cooperation from Hiroshima University in Japan.Before joining Icesi University in 2007, Vladimir worked with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), education and research institutions in Russia, Japan, and Colombia. He was a George F. Kennan Fellow at the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute in 2017. His primary area of research is relations between Russia/Asia with Latin America.


Understanding Political Apologies (or lack thereof)

Dr. Mohsin HussainUniversity of Aberdeen, UK

Wednesday, 25th October

Abstract: Existing research offers several explanations for why states apologize for past wrongdoings. However, these explanations have not been tested systematically. To fill this gap, my dissertation makes a three-fold contribution to the field. Drawing on a scholarly consensus in the field, I first propose a simple and fungible definition for identifying a political apology. Second, I use this definition to compile a new dataset that covers the universe of political apologies in the context of armed conflict. Third, I conduct empirical investigations to find out which theoretical explanations matter for an apology. I complement my quantitative analyses with two qualitative ones. First, I conduct an expert interview with a political leader who issued an apology. Second, I compare two detailed case studies. My results from the statistical analyses reveal that political apologies depend on the regime type of the perpetrator state. I follow up on these results with the interview and the case-studies to show the mechanisms related to a state’s calculus for apologizing

Bio: Dr.  Mohsin Hussain obtained his PhD in Politics & International Studies from the University of Warwick. His research interests include human rights, environmental politics and mixed-methods research. At the University of Aberdeen, he is working as a Research Fellow in the Department of Politics & International Relations. As part of the ESRC research project, "Solar Power in the UK - Planning for a Sustainable Future", his research focuses on the local planning politics of solar photovoltaic (pv) farms. He also serves as a Lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of Essex, where he teaches modules on quantitative methods and the analysis of conflict and peace. 


Understanding Ethiopia's Tigray War (with Martin Plaut)

Dr. Sarah Vaughan, University of Edinburgh

22 November 2023

Abstract: The war in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray began in November 2020. It inflicted more casualties than any other contemporary conflict in the world. It has also been among the least understood. The fighting and accompanying blockade led to an estimated 600,000 deaths – more than the number who died in the 1984-5 famine. International journalists were banned as the region was sealed off from the outside world by Ethiopian and Eritrean governments prosecuting a strategy designed to crush Tigray at almost any cost.Hatred of Tigrayans was stoked by senior advisers to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed: they have called Tigrayans ‘weeds’ who must be uprooted, their place in history extinguished. Their language was reminiscent of that which preceded the genocide in Rwanda.The war was also orchestrated by Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki, who came to wield increasing influence over Ethiopian affairs. It drew in Somali troops as well as Eritrean forces. Peace agreements signed in November 2022 ended the worst of the violence, but without resolving the war’s underlying drivers, which continue to feed a tense and uncertain situation. This book provides the first clear explanation of the factors that led to the conflict, unravelling their roots in Ethiopia’s long and complex history. It describes the battles that were fought at such terrible cost and the immense suffering, particularly of women, who were brutally abused.

Bio: Dr. Sarah Vaughan is a Research Consultant, and Honorary Fellow in Politics. Since her involvement in humanitarian activities in the Horn of Africa in the late 1980s, she has researched and written on issues in Ethiopian political history for a range of government, multilateral and voluntary bodies, and has taught African politics and social theory in Ethiopia and in Scotland. Her research interests include the sociology of knowledge, ethnicity and political interest, decentralisation and local government, transitional justice and conflict. She is co-author of The Culture of Power in Contemporary Ethiopian Political Life (Sida, Stockholm, 2003).


Behavioral Foundations of Opposition Alliance Support Under Electoral Authoritarianism (with Dr. Marc Jacob, Stanford University)

Dr. Ugur Ozdemir, University of Edinburgh, UK

29 November 2023

Abstract. Pre-electoral alliances are often crucial for opposition forces in electoral authoritarian regimes to challenge the incumbent and potentially secure victory. However, forming alliances between ideologically diverse parties' risks alienating voters who strongly oppose certain alliance members. Addressing this trade-off, we examine three rationales that drive voter support for alliances: minimal, maximal, and median distance to the participating parties. Conducting a face-to-face survey across 26 Turkish cities before the 2023 general elections, our study reveals that a majority of voters who favour any party within the alliance (Millet İttifakı) also support the opposition alliance as a whole. While opposition party supporters who strongly dislike another party within the alliance are less likely to support the opposition alliance, exposing respondents to proposed democratic reforms advocated by the alliance's candidate mitigates their aversion towards other alliance parties. These findings have implications for effectively forming strategic alliances to counter authoritarianism.  (co-authored with Dr. Marc Jacob, Stanford University)

Bio: Dr. Ugur Ozdemir is a Senior Lecturer in Quantitative Political Science at University of Edinburgh, UK. He received his Ph.D in political science from Washington University in St. Louis.His research interests cover comparative political behavior, political psychology, bounded rationality, quantitative methods, positive political theory. He is a dedicated advocate of bridging the gap between theoretical modeling and empirical analysis.His previous work has appeared, among others, in International Studies Quarterly and Social Choice and Welfare


Radical Hospitality. American Policy, Media and Immigration

Dr. Nour Halabi, University of Aberdeen, Book launch

6 December 2023

Abstract: Radical Hospitality: American Policy, Media, and Immigration re-imagines the ethical relationship of host societies towards newcomers by applying the concept of hospitality to two specific realms that impact the lives of immigrants in the United States: policy and media. The book calls attention to the moral responsibility of the host in welcoming a stranger. It sets the stage for the analysis with a historical background of the first host-guest diads of American hospitality, arguing that the early history of American hospitality was marked by the degeneration of the host-guest relationship into one of host-hostage, normalizing a racial discrimination that continues to plague immigration hospitality to this day. Author Nour Halabi presents a historical policy and media discourse analysis of immigration regulation and media coverage during three periods of US history: the 1880s and the Chinese Exclusion Act, the 1920s and the National Origins Act and the 2000s and the Muslim travel ban. In so doing, it demonstrates how U.S. immigration hospitality, from its peaks in the post-Independence period to its nadir in the Muslim travel ban, has fallen short of true hospitality in spite of the nation’s oft-touted identity as a “nation of immigrants.” At the same time, the book calls attention to how a discourse of hospitality, although fraught, may allow a radical reimagining of belonging and authority that unsettles settler-colonial assumptions of belonging and welcome a restorative outlook to immigration policy and its media coverage in society.

Bio: Dr. Nour Halabi is an Interdisciplinary Fellow at the University of Aberdeen. Previously she was an Assistant Professor of Media and Communication at the University of Leeds. She is the Vice-Chair of the Race Network of the Media Communication and Cultural Studies Association (MeCCSA) and the Secretary of ICA's Ethnicity and Race in Communication Division. Her interdisciplinary research examines the interactions between race, migration and social movements in global media. Halabi is the author of Radical Hospitality: American Policy, Media, and Immigration as well as other publications that examine global media and communication including Discourses in Action (eds. Krippendorff & Halabi, 2020); "The Spatial Politics of the Syrian Revolution," in Middle East Critique (2019), and "If These Walls Could Speak: Borders and Walls as Communicative Devices," in Interventions: Communication Research and Practice (Peter Lang, 2018). She received her doctorate from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, Masters from the London School of Economics and Bachelors from Paris (IV) Sorbonne.