Citizenship has been seen in recent years as a remedy for ills as diverse as social and economic inequality, terrorism, fundamentalism, anti-social behaviour and the crisis of representation. Meanwhile, enormous sums have been invested in building civil society in countries as diverse as Northern Ireland, South Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Founded in 2009, the Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society and the Rule of Law (CISRUL) studies the application of political ideas globally. The Centre draws on expertise across disciplines to examine how political principles function within and beyond the contemporary West. Concepts such as ‘citizenship’, ‘civil society’, and the ‘rule of law’ are used as often by policy makers as by scholars. Core to CISRUL’s mission is informing academic and public debate on how they are used, and to what effect.

CISRUL members seek, among other things, to learn from the medieval and early modern Europe in which citizenship, civil society and rule of law were often painfully gestated; investigate whether they have anything to offer people in contexts of poverty, exclusion and violence, including among immigrant groups in Europe; and consider a range of theoretical as well as empirical challenges to citizenship, civil society and rule of law.

CISRUL is exploring what citizenship, civil society and rule of law has meant in the theory and practice of other times and places – such as medieval Scandinavia, early modern Poland & Lithuania, contemporary Mexico, Scotland and the Middle East – as well as considering what they might offer for the future. One particularly timely theme that cuts across the work of CISRUL members is the question of religion. Older debates about the place of religion in civil society, the way citizens should express their religion, and the status of religious law have been revived in controversies over 'political Islam', the US Christian Right, and the use of laicité against immigrants in France. CISRUL members are addressing these controversies, for example by exploring how "religion" becomes distinguished from "secular" in the first place, asking what happens for example when schools consider the hijab to be "cultural" rather than "religious".

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At a Glance

Degree Qualification

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We welcome enquiries from applicants for a PhD in Citizenship, Civil Society and Rule of Law who hold a Masters degree in any related discipline.


The information below is provided as a guide only and does not guarantee entry to the University of Aberdeen.

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Contact Details

Contact Name
Dr Trevor Stack
Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society and Rule of Law
University of Aberdeen
Taylor Building
AB24 3UB