Research projects

The combination of disciplinary strength and interdisciplinary effectiveness across the School allows colleagues to develop collaborative teaching and research projects, to generate research income and to further develop effective knowledge transfer activities. The research projects below, are listed by department.

Department of Political Science and International Studies (POLSIS)

Current projects

Port Infrastructures, International Politics, and Everyday Life: From the Arabian Gulf to the Horn of Africa  (2020-2023)

Carnegie Corporation of New York. Funding: $ 500,000 

Principal Investigator: May Darwich

This project examines transregional relationships between the Arabian Gulf and the Horn of Africa through the lens of port infrastructures and transport corridors in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. It focusses on the way geopolitical contestations materialize in port infrastructures, explores how infrastructural power contestations shape local, national and regional politics, and looks into the impact of infrastructural developments on the everyday lives of people in three port cities in the Horn of Africa—Berbera, Bossaso, and Djibouti. Investments from the Gulf in the Horn, often inextricably tied to international dynamics, shape practices of governance and impact on business-society relations that at times compete with Western norms. However, the nature of these new practices, the norms they transmit, and the way these norms are interpreted and adapted locally are little understood.

The project contributes to the understanding of these dynamics, while advancing theoretical knowledge of how international relations intermingle with the politics of infrastructure at national and local levels thereby affecting daily lives. It advances empirical knowledge of South-South transregional relationships, which are often overlooked. Finally, the project strives to build long-lasting relationships across academic communities across three continents—Europe, the Middle East, and the Horn of Africa—that would allow equitable academic collaboration, knowledge exchange, and building capacities. Through extensive fieldwork in four countries—the United Arab Emirates, Djibouti, Somalia, Somaliland—the project will generate primary data and knowledge on infrastructural power at the intersection of two regions.  Project Website:

Writing and Publishing about Politics in/on the Arab World (2020-2023) 

British Academy Writing Workshops. Funding: £18,340 

Principal Investigator: May Darwich

These workshops are motivated by the underrepresentation of the Arab world in knowledge production, especially in Political Science. The Middle East is the most studied region beyond the West. Arab scholars are, however, absent from scholarly debates. While research and publishing are marginalised activities in the Arab world, Arab scholars are likely to be equivalent in training to their European and American counterparts. Meanwhile, editors of international journals struggle to increase the representation of Arab-based authors in their publications. These workshops have been designed to meet this two-sided need for both Arab-based scholars and their influence in the scholarly community. These workshops will further Arab countries’ agenda to achieve development through higher education by focusing on enhancing the publishing and grant writing capacities of early career scholars. The workshops will facilitate mutual learning between early career researchers from six Arab countries, UK researchers, and editors of international journals. 

Unfrozen: The Transformation of Party Politics in Europe(- 2025)

Lead researchers: Prof. Kevin Deegan-Krause (Wayne State) and Prof. Tim Haughton

Building on some of the insights in their previous book, New Party Challenge: Changing Cycles of Party Birth and Death in Central Europe and Beyond (Oxford University Press, 2020), the project examines the transformation of party politics across the European continent since the mid-1960s. Drawing on insights from disciplines beyond political science, it seeks not just to explain new party emergence and occasional survival, but also highlights the different types of new parties that have emerged in different contexts. The project will culminate in a book currently under contract with Cambridge University Press.   

What Makes America Great? National esteem, grand strategy and intra-state ideological contest (Sep 2019 – Dec 2023) 

Lead academic: Adam Quinn 

This project is supported by a grant from the Charles Koch Foundation. It is a study of the contest of ideas between American intellectuals focused on US grand strategy. More specifically, it focuses on the clash of worldviews between American intellectuals who embrace ‘liberal order’ as the central concept of US strategy, and critics who offer a ‘realist’ counterpoint. Much of the project is conceptual, aiming to generate a new framework for analysing the topic that synthesises elements of theoretical literature on international relations, grand strategy, ideology, nationalism, status and self-esteem. It also involves some empirical field research, in the form of interviews with relevant intellectuals working at think tanks and universities in the United States. The intended outputs from the project are a book and a series of articles.

Workers between Precarity and Ecological Crisis in Chile and Italy (May 2021 – April 2024)

Lead academic: Dr Lorenzo Feltrin 

This project – supported by a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship – focuses on the relationship between workplace-centred and community-centred mobilisations around 'noxiousness', that is, production-induced health damage and environmental degradation. Despite widespread assumptions on workers as environmentally regressive, they bear little responsibility for environmental degradation while being highly affected by it. Workers thus have an interest in the defence of the environment and have in many instances acted upon it, yet the need to protect employment and job security often remains an obstacle to working-class environmentalism. This research explores how different affected organisations address such dilemma and envision alternatives to it. For further details, contact Dr Lorenzo Feltrin 

Gendering Europe: British national identity from EEC accession to EU secession ( - 2023)

Completed research projects

What happened to the multicultural city? Effects of nativism and austerity (Sept 2018 – Aug 2022)

Queering the census: LGBT advocacy and the inclusion of a sexual orientation question in the 2021 UK census (April 2020 – September 2022) 

The International Politics of Middle East Migration: Problems, Policy, Practice (March 2018 - March 2019)

The Politics of Forced Migration in the Mediterranean: Interstate Bargaining and Issue-Linkage in Greece and Jordan (April 2017 - Sept 2018)

Migration Diplomacy in the Eastern Mediterranean - Inter-State Politics of Population Mobility in the Middle East (April 2017 - March 2018)

Global Crises and What it Means to be German (Jan 2017 - Dec 2017)

Sovereignties of Birmingham (2017)

Nuclear Ethics and Global Security: Reforming the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime (2017)

Towards a new (restraining) global consensus on the use of armed drones (Jan 2016 - June 2018)

Nefarious Criminal and Terrorist Uses of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) (Apr 2016 - Apr 2017)

CREST: Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (Oct 2015 - Oct 2018)

Comparative political theory of the Cold War (Sept 2015 – Jul 2018)

Understanding and managing intra-state territorial contestation: Iraq's disputed territories in comparative perspective (Jun 2015 - May 2018)

Select Committee Data Archive Project, 1979-Present (Mar 2015 - )

(Not) Made in Germany? Imagining Germany from the Outside (Jan 2015 - Dec 2016)

Security-Democracy Nexus in the Caucasus (CASCADE) (2014-2016)

Enhancing Strategic Analytical Capabilities in NATO Partner Countries (Jan 2014 - Dec 2014)

The ideology of political reactionaries (Sept 2013 - Jul 2016)

Birmingham Policy Commission VI: The Security Impact of Drones

The Political Effects of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles on Conflict and Cooperation Within and Between States (Oct 2013 - Sept 2015)

The Future of American Power (Jan 2013 - Dec 2014)

The German Past and the Contemporary World: The domestic and foreign politics of memory (Jan 2013 - Dec 2014)

Male and Transgender Sex Work in the UK and Netherlands (2011 - 12)

Zeitgeist. What does it mean to be German in the 21st century? (2010 - 13)

The Challenges to Trust-Building in Nuclear Worlds (2009-2013)

Inclusive Responses to SGBV and HIV in Humanitarian Crises

International Terrorism-post-9/11 Comparative Dynamics and Responses (2008 - 10)

The Treasury under New Labour since 1997: the evolution of a British Institution (2007 - 10)

The International Monetary Fund and the Diffusion of Global Economic Norms (2005 - 10)

Interpreting International Relations / Interrogating Global Politics (2004 - 10)

Narratives of Violence in the North Caucasus (2003 - 09)

Department of Public Administration and Policy

Current projects

Tackling Wellbeing Inequalities through Social Prescribing: Co-producing a Community-Driven Research and Learning Infrastructure (April 2023-2024)

Lead academic: Koen Bartels

 This project, funded by the Research England Participatory Research Fund, is a collaboration between the University of Birmingham and The Active Wellbeing Society.We will co-produce a community-driven research and learning infrastructure for social prescribing to tackle health and wellbeing inequalities. Our action research will focus on enabling community groups and partner organisations to develop their asset-based approaches to social prescribing in a disadvantaged neighbourhood in Birmingham. Our innovative participatory methodology of building a Community of Practice will support them in learning how to create more sustainable and equal relationships, better evidence impact, and realise more structural change in health and wellbeing. We will organise four bi-monthly Community of Practice meetings with local wellbeing groups and organisations and GP practices at the heart of the community as well as city-wide partners. We will also produce a policy brief and organise a dissemination event for wider partners and stakeholders. 

Co-producing a social model of health through Welzijn op Recept (social prescribing) (April 2023-2026)

Lead academic: Koen Bartels 

This project, funded by Dutch health care research funder ZonMw, is a collaboration between Erasmus University Rotterdam, University of Birmingham, the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies, Free University Amsterdam, University of Amsterdam, Landelijk Kennisnetwerk Welzijn op Recept, and LSA Bewoners. While we know that individual wellbeing is socially produced, current preventative approaches to wellbeing in the Dutch health care system continue to be mainly individually-focused and to be considered as mainly the responsibility of institutionalized health care professionals. The goal of this project is to implement and institutionalize a social model of wellbeing: a broad community-based approach to wellbeing that recognizes the complex social genealogy of wellbeing and builds on inclusive collaboration across care, wellbeing and community organizations. We do so in the context of the innovative initiative, Welzijn op Recept (WoR). We set up learning and change trajectories in two disadvantaged areas where WoR is currently applied. Insights emerging out of these local learning processes are used as a basis for the development of a scaling-up strategy to facilitate a systemic transition towards a social model of wellbeing. View further details 


Completed research projects

Syrian Refugees in Turkey: Understanding Local Government Responses (2018-2021)

Smart Urban Intermediaries: Trans-European research, learning, and action Project (2017-2019)

Jam and Justice: co-producing urban governance for social innovation (2016-2019)

Do flexible institutions enhance democracy? A comparative analysis of public governance innovations in Brazil and the UK (Jul 2014 - Jul 2016)

Shrinking the state: analysing the reform of arm's length bodies (2012-2016)

Translation across borders: exploring the use, relevance and impact of academic research in the policy process (Jan 2014 - Mar 2015)

Evaluation of Community Organisers and Community First programmes (Nov 2012 - Feb 2015)

Integrated Public Service Budgets (2010 - 2011)

The Impact of Local Authorities Supplying Legal Services to NHS Trusts (2010)

International Development Department (IDD)

Current projects

Intersections of Gender, Race and Class: The Impact of Colonial Legacies on Contemporary Food and Agricultural Policy in the Caribbean (2022-2024). 

Principal Investigator: Dr Merisa Thompson   

This British Academy/Leverhulme Small Grant project examines the post-colonial Caribbean, where complex gendered, raced and classed relations inherited from plantation slavery and indentureship weigh heavily on national food systems and the day-to-day lives of farmers, particularly small, female and marginalised producers. It creates new knowledge through: undertaking archival research on the historical construction of Caribbean foodways; conducting qualitative interviews with policymakers; and applying a novel gendered, intersectional and historical approach to the political economy of food. It consequently interrogates how historical inequalities influence the everyday functioning of Caribbean foodways, with a particular focus on Trinidad and Tobago, and how policy might take better account of them.

Localization in World Politics: Bridging Divides Across Conflict and Post-Conflict Responses

Co-Investigator: Dr. Emily Scott 

This project--supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Connection Grant--explores issues surrounding localization in conflict and post-conflict response. As contemporary armed conflicts become more protracted, with devastating consequences for civilian populations, questions emerge about who can and should be leading the process to create sustainable peace. This project brings together leading scholars and practitioners from around the world to reconceptualize and empirically examine localization, from a range of disciplinary and methodological perspectives. It focuses on four areas of practice: civilian protection, humanitarianism, forced migration, and transitional justice.

Outputs: Kochanski, Adam, Emily K. M. Scott, and Jennifer Welsh. Publication anticipated 2024. “Localization in World Politics.” Introduction to Special Issue. Global Studies Quarterly

Contributions to this Special Issue In Progress by: Amitav Acharya, Ketty Anyeko, Erin Baines, Alexander Betts, Megan Bradley, Merve Erdilmen, Alex Hinton, Luna K C, Oliver Kaplan, Hun Joon Kim, Elena Lesley, Emily Paddon Rhoads, Mohamed Sesay, Dima Toukan, Lisbeth Zimmerman. 

Contact Dr. Scott for information on forthcoming Policy Brief and Podcast series. 

Moving Aid: The Politics of Giving, Conflict, and Control in the Middle East  

Principal Investigator: Emily Scott 

This project--supported by the a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant (IDG) and the School of Government (SoG) School Research Fund--explores where aid goes once it moves below the level of the state, and implications for humanitarian accountability and responsiveness to need. This study explores humanitarian governance in “local” spaces, and the ways domestic patterns of war, violent incidents, and state and non-state control shape global humanitarian decisions about where to act. The research draws on multi-methods, including semi-structured interviews, as well as spatial and network analyses.  

GSDRC: policy-oriented research (2001-)

The Serious Organised Crime & Anti-Corruption Evidence (SOC ACE) Research Programme (2021 - )

Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) (2019-) 

Completed research projects

The Serious Organised Crime & Anti-Corruption Evidence (SOC ACE) Research Programme (2021 - 2022)

Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) (2019-2022) 

Networking for fisheries co-management on Lake Victoria, East Africa (Jun 2014 - May 2016)

Provision of Basic Services (2004-15)

Religions and Development (2005 - 10) 

More information