This year’s annual weekend conference at Cumberland lodge was held from November 23 – November 25, 2018. There were 95 participants mainly Undergraduate, Masters and PhD students as well as faculty and Fellows from the International Relations Department who converged to discuss variety of topics in the field. Set in the former royal residence at Windsor, the conference was organized differently to accommodate various discussion panels by Professors, PhD students and Research Fellows in the IR department.
While the academic debates happened both in the seminar room and bar, the highlights of the event include the refreshment activities in the underground sports corner, walks around the royal park, and most importantly, meeting and greeting the Queen after church service on Sunday.
First day: arrival in the evening, welcome drinks and evening seminar
What Has Happened to ISIS?
The conference officially started with Professor Fawaz Gerges’ key note on the current situation of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) after the Head of Department, Peter Trubowitz and Cumberland Lodge’s Principal, Canon Edmund each gave brief welcome speeches and information to participants who were refreshed from dinner.
Professor Gerges problematised the state in relation to the establishment of ISIS, discussing the narratives and concepts used to understand the radical Islamist group. He described ISIS as a resilient and enduring social movement which has suffered major loss of troops and territorial control and continues to inflict great harm because it originates from an organic social and political crisis that results from developmental and state failure as well as massive economic mismanagement. Addressing such organic crisis especially in the Middle East requires social, economic and political reconstruction of the state system, Professor Gerges said.
Second Day: three panels and a pop quiz
Globalisation and its discontent(s)
The second day of the conference began with a faculty panel from International Political Economy, namely; Dr James Morrison, Dr Natalya Naqvi and Dr. Ranjit Lall. They all shared independent opinions and later answered questions from the participants: Dr Morrison discussed the notion of Trumpism in the USA connecting President Trump’s win to past elections in the country, Dr. Naqvi talked about the East Asian miracle and the patterns of development in poor countries in Asia while Dr Lall spoke on the emergence of a new global economic and financial system and rise of China.
Just before lunch, there was a question time with Fellows from the department such as Dr Alexandra-Maria Bocse, Dr Florence Dafe, Dr Cindy May, Dr Gustav Meibauer and Dr Zoe Williams. Students raised various questions concerning IR theory, IR in LSE, IR topics, academic careers, and miscellaneous matters which all were addressed by the panellists.
IR Theory – what’s it good for?
The last panel for the day was a discussion about the usefulness of IR theory. In his view, Professor Tarak Barkawi said IR theory is an ideology and not a science, Dr Anna Getmansky shared using IR theory serves as a mechanism to manage “big data” on observations and phenomena in social science while Professor Chris Hughes shared some positive outcomes in the application of IR theories to real world events. Students asked faculty some questions about theory relevance and application and the university’s academic policies just to mention a few allowing faculty to further share their opinions.
Cumberland Lodge Quiz
The evening was a fun night that saw 11 teams battle out their knowledge of the LSE, London and the UK as well as random world events. Dr James Morrison served as the moderator of the pop quiz and after three rounds, the Susan Strangers, made up of a mix of faculty and students won. The Unemployables, comprising PhD students and Fellows, came second after a major comeback in the last round while Here for Beer came third. Each group won prizes to share.
Third Day: final panel and departure
International Relations: From learning to researching
On the last day, a few students attended Matins at the Royal Chapel on Sunday morning while a student panel was held in the afternoon just before lunch to discuss researching in International Relations. PhD students in different years of study namely; Marnie Howlett, Marissa Kemp, Andy Li and Alireza Shams Lahijani talked about their individual academic backgrounds as well as motivations for applying to pursue a doctoral degree in International Relations at the LSE. They answered questions from students about research, the IR doctoral program, balance between work and lifestyle and gave tips about preparations for advanced studies.
Conference participants arrived in London early evening after a wonderful time to socialise, discuss and explore different topics in security, finance and the opportunities for further studies in International Relations at the LSE.
Report by Jemima Ackah-Arthur and Yizhe Daniel Xie
PhD Candidates, International Relations 2018