Cambridge Review Co-hosts Black Sea Security Event

On 15 October 2015 the Cambridge Review of International Affairs was pleased to partner with the Forum on Geopolitics, for an interdisciplinary panel entitled Dark Waters: Security in the Black Sea Region. The Cambridge Review was delighted to welcome as speakers Vice Admiral Ian Corder, the UK Military Representative to NATO and the EU, Dr. Anna Dolidze, Deputy Defence Minister of the Republic of Georgia, and Dr. Slawomir Raszewski, Department of War Studies, Kings College London. We were further delighted to include Mr. Bruce Clark, Religion & Ethics Correspondent and former International Security Editor at The Economist, as moderator.

Mr. Clark, Dr. Dolidze, Dr. Raszewski, and Vice Admiral Corder at the Black Sea Security Panel. Thanks to Andrew Stark for the photo!
Mr. Clark, Dr. Dolidze, Dr. Raszewski, and Vice Admiral Corder at the Black Sea Security Panel. Thanks to Andrew Stark for the photo!

The panelists addressed a myriad of security concerns facing the Black Sea region, including but not limited to issues of maritime jurisdiction, energy security as related to the highly politicised commodity of gas, and increasing terrorist and separatist threats. All panelists addressed the growing role Russia played in the region, citing Russia’s actions as a growing military concern and calling for a need to deter Russia’s “adventurism” in the Black Sea region.


Thanks to our panelists, moderator, co-sponsor, and all who came!

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An Aladdin’s Lamp of a Deal: Whose wishes will the US/Iran nuclear agreement deliver?

By Dr. Roxane Farmanfarmaian


‘Word on the Arab street is that Obama signed a nuclear deal with Iran so that he can extract concessions over Syria in return for Iran being allowed to control Iraq for which it has to rein in the Houthis in Yemen to pacify the Saudis so that they come on board with Obama’s plan for Israel/Palestine which will appease Egypt allowing it to play a bigger role in Libya to control the southern shores of the Mediterranean reducing migrant flows into Europe to ease the pressure on Greece and Italy for which Europe agree to soften its stance against Russia allowing for a solution in Ukraine that allows NATO to maintain a presence in the East. And that’s the simple version. — Karl Sharro: London-based satirical blogger


On July 14 2015, almost two weeks after the ‘final’ deadline, and after two years of tortuous and often emotional negotiating, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, signed a historic agreement between their two countries. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is 159 pages long and was immediately endorsed by the EU and by the UN Security Council. The General Assembly adopted it nearly unanimously – the only vote against was by Israel. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius describes it as ‘a balanced deal that means Iran won’t get an atomic bomb,’ and ‘a major political deal’; detractors among US Republican presidential hopefuls and in Congress, which is to vote on the deal latest by September 17, are denouncing Kerry and other key US negotiators for selling out, and agreeing to something that is, as Jeb Bush called it, ‘dangerous and deeply flawed’. The deal is like Aladdin’s lamp – depending on who rubs it, world peace, or global nuclear destruction, ensues.

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Reconceptualising Stability

Lucy Thirkell

“T]he methodologies and vocabularies used to frame territorial struggles have material consequences, both in terms of the constitutional arrangements through which conflict is accommodated and the international recognition of secessionist states. […] [H]ow we write about territorial conflict shapes the possibilities for, and what we mean by, resolution.”[1]

The recent CRIA discussion event Stabilisation of conflicts involving armed groups: applying politics research to foreign policy practice was an interesting case study for applying Alex Jeffrey’s thoughts on the framing of conflict and peace and their practical application as stabilisation policy and praxis.

The methodologies, the vocabularies, and the understanding of ‘stability’ that the talks revealed gave a candid impression of policy formulation and enactment. The first presentation offered a robust research programme into ‘stability’ and the socio-political relations that are conducive to it. The second presentation was a frank description of the balance of military action and strategic dialogue against and with violent groups that governments use to achieve stability.

Stability is not peace, it seems, but the absence of conflict. Stability practitioners tend to be engineers who build roads and wells, and, on the political side, militaries who fight insurgents and diplomats who may or may not negotiate with them. However, delving into the content of the presentations, it seems that in parallel to roads built for stability, elements of conflict are strategically reframed, conceptualized as cultural or criminal issues. This reframing appears to ignore factors that could lead to renewed conflict rather than peace. Is it possible to widen the concept of ‘stability’ while keeping it an actionable policy output?

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We're Hiring!

To mark the start of the new term, we’re hiring for a range of roles across CRIA including Associate Editors, Book Review Associate Editors and a Book Review Editor.

The latter is a paid role for a first or second year PhD student, and the application details can be found on the Department of Politics and International Studies website. To apply, please send a CV and a short cover letter to by Monday, October 27th. The cover letter should include two suggestions for books to review (forthcoming, or released within the past year) and two potential reviewers for each book.

Applicants for the Book Review editorship, as well as other roles at CRIA, should attend our welcome drinks on Monday, October 13th, at 6:00pm in Room 119 of the Alison Richard Building, where the various roles and the application procedures will be described in detail.

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Crises, Challenges and Opportunities in Global Politics

Earlier this summer, the graduate students and faculty of the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge (where CRIA is housed) gathered for a doctoral conference showcasing the work of PhD students and visiting researchers. The conference theme was ‘Crises, Challenges and Opportunities in Global Politics.’ CRIA had the opportunity to partner with the conference, promoting the journal, running a book sale, and launching our own speaker series alongside it.

Today we announce the major fruit of that partnership, an online supplementary issue featuring papers from the conference. The papers here include empirical research on the post-conflict transition in Burundi, the Southern Gas Corridor and its place in relations between the EU and neighboring regions, and EU development assistance and its contradictions; as well as a theoretical critique of the ‘socialisation’ discourse surrounding EU expansion in Eastern Europe. The papers are framed by a short introduction by the conference organizers, Caroline Ashcroft and Alexandra-Maria Bocse.

You can read the papers, and download them, here, and we look forward to your feedback.

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Be Our Summer Intern

Do you like politics, and think you might enjoy a career in academia, research or journalism? Are you a student or recent graduate able to work in Cambridge? Come be our summer intern! You’ll work on the peer reviews that are the backbone of our print journal, contribute articles (on topics you choose) to CRIAViews, and help with our events and social media outreach as a key member of the CRIA team.

Applications are due Monday, June 23rd, and interviews will be scheduled before the end of the month.

Summer Internship with the Cambridge Review of International Affairs

The Cambridge Review of International Affairs, a peer-reviewed journal published at the Department of Politics and International Studies, seeks an energetic and creative intern for part-time paid work this summer.

The intern will assist with organizing the peer review of articles submitted to the print journal, researching each article topic, identifying reviewers with appropriate expertise and liaising with them to collect review reports. The intern will contribute to the journal’s website, writing short, research-led articles on topics in current affairs for our blog, CRIAViews. He/she will also be involved in promoting the journal across social media and planning for speaker events the journal is hosting later this year.

The ideal candidate will have a background in politics or a related discipline, be a voracious consumer of international news on both traditional and new media platforms and be able to write clearly and pithily about complex topics.

The intern will work 20 hours a week at £7.65/hr over the course of a four-week placement.

To apply, please send a CV and a cover letter that includes two suggestions for article topics for the website to by Monday, June 23rd.

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Anti-Gay Laws in Africa: The Long Tail of Colonialism

Maha Rafi Atal

Our June issue will be out to subscribers and available for download soon, but I’d like to highlight one article that’s out and available on a free access basis already.

In “British Colonialism and the Criminalization of Homosexuality,” Enze Han and Joseph O’Mahoney test the theory that British colonialism is responsible both for the introduction of homophobic policies around the world, and also for the difficulties many post-colonial states have had in reversing these policies.

This is a timely study, as two former British colonies, Nigeria and Uganda, have passed new anti-gay legislation in recent months. In January, Nigeria instituted 14-year prison terms for anyone in a same-sex union, and 10 years for activists deemed to be “promoting” homosexuality, which includes HIV/AIDS health workers. In February, Uganda passed the “Anti-Homosexuality Act,” which not only criminalizes same-sex relationships (punishable by life in prison), but also imposes penalties on those who know of others’ same-sex relationships and do not report them to the authorities.

Interestingly, government officials defended these laws by referring to homosexuality as a “Western” phenomenon, and casting the discriminatory legislation as a continuation of the anti-colonial struggle. Ugandan President Yoweri Musaveni accused “arrogant and careless Western groups” of “coming into our schools and recruiting young children into homosexuality.” This is not an uncommon view: human rights workers recently told a Buzzfeed reporter that the absence of an African partner with a strong LGBT rights record, “it’s very hard to press the issue within the United Nation system without feeding into the argument that homosexuality is “Western.”

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Gayatri Spivak on Recent Criticisms of Postcolonial Theory

Ryan Rafaty

I spoke recently with Professor Gayatri Spivak, on the occasion of her visit to Cambridge University, about her recently published review in the March 2014 issue of CRIA. In the review, Spivak goes to great lengths to expose what she believes is a massive sidestepping of the range and depth of postcolonial theory in Vivek Chibber’s recent book, Postcolonial theory and the specter of capital, published by Verso.

Chibber’s principal aim is “to expose the flaws of [postcolonial] theory, even to displace it”. Chibber claims that left-wing postcolonial theorists – specifically the Subaltern Studies group of historians of South Asia – have fundamentally misunderstood the history of the English and French Revolutions, which, Chibber believes, renders their rejection of so-called universal categories of Enlightenment thought fundamentally mistaken. Chibber believes that there is indeed a “universalizing tendency” of capital that imposes the same system of exchange everywhere, no matter the level of development; this universal logic of capital, he says, “[ties] together the political struggles of laboring classes in East and West as part of one—dare I say it—universal history”.  Hence, Chibber argues, for example, that Dipesh Chakrabarty in Provincializing Europe is fundamentally wrong in his insistence that the non-West cannot be assimilated neatly into an allegedly Eurocentric narrative of global capital.

But, even if we agree with Chibber, for argument’s sake, that the logic of capital is indeed “universal” and that its proliferation in post-feudal and postcolonial societies produces a “universal history of class struggle”, that of course does not explain why a great many varieties of state capitalism exist, with very different contexts and historical experiences. In her review, Spivak points out that, from Gramsci’s writings on the Risorgimento, to Du Bois’s writings on the Pan-African movement, the very notion of “subaltern” social groups in postcolonial societies was intended to describe precisely the parts of society that capital’s universal logic failed to assimilate, the very people and traditions that were not totally reduced to capitalist units of exchange, because different countries responded in varied ways to the proliferation of capitalist systems. “Class” differences that were formed were often inextricably tied up in racial, religious, and historical difference, which, Spivak argues, cannot simply be sidestepped if we are to, as Marxists hope, positively implement change and withstand the universalizing tendency of capital.

What follows is a brief extract from my conversation with Professor Spivak.

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Come Work For Us

The Cambridge Review of International Affairs, who publish CRIAViews, are hiring a book review editor:

The Cambridge Review of International Affairs (CRIA) is seeking to appoint a new Book Review Editor. CRIA is an internationally distributed scholarly journal that publishes, on a quarterly basis, articles and reviews in the fields of political science, international relations, political economy, and political thought. The Book Review Editor manages the commissioning and editing of both short- and long-form book reviews. The Editor determines the books to be reviewed and finds suitable authors to write the reviews, in cooperation with a team of associate editors. The Editor should have an eclectic knowledge of the field of international relations, and, preferably, a year or more of previous editorial experience. To apply for the position, please send your CV to Ryan Rafaty at The deadline for applications is Friday, March 28.
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