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Politics, Human Rights and Injustice

Intellectual Focus

This research cluster builds on a strong intellectual tradition in the department related to the sociology of politics and human rights and is focused on several research themes: the social bases of political parties and movements, especially the origins, development and contemporary fortunes of social democratic parties and labour movements (where Archer’s work on the American Labour movement has been highly influential); the remaking of urban political engagement and social capital (McQuarrie, Savage); the political sociology of cosmopolitanism (where Cubukcu’s work focuses on the entanglement of international law and cosmopolitan ideals with the ethics and politics of violence, and Calhoun offers a powerful critique of more optimistic visions of the cosmopolitan agenda); the sociology of violence and wars (Moon’s work on atrocities, suffering and transitional justice, and Bhatt’s work on the geo-sociology of religious violence, sovereignty and the transformation of warfare.) The work of this research cluster has a strong international focus covering north and South America (Archer, Moon) and South Asia and the Middle East (Bhatt, Cubukcu, Wilson).Suki Ali’s work addresses racialisation and embodiment, gender and sexualities, families and inequalities, transnational families, identities and belonging, and feminist postcolonial theory.

The cluster is associated with the major interdisciplinary Centre for the Study of Human Rights which was developed by Stan Cohen in 2000 and which is currently directed by Bhatt. The Centre’s intellectual activities link to research strengths in normative and policy-oriented approaches to human rights (particularly in projects related to Russia and the UK, or linked to global poverty and economic and social rights), as well as critical approaches concerned with science and human rights, global finance, transformations in sovereignty, warfare and violence, international solidarity and the global uprisings, and secularism and human rights. The Centre also hosts three interdisciplinary research groups focused on: ‘Atrocity, Suffering and Human Rights’ (Moon), ‘Internationalism, Cosmopolitanism and the Politics of Solidarity’ (Cubukcu) and ‘Philosophies of Violence’ (Bhatt). Each of these research groups holds regular seminars and events and their activities have contributed to the British Sociological Association’s first ever human rights stream at its Annual Conference (April 2011), contributions to a Special Issue on human rights of the BSA journal, Sociology (Bhatt, Moon) and a Special Issue of The Journal of Civil Society on European social spaces. The Centre has run over 114 academic and public events since 2008, its staff have contributed to around 131 academic and public talks, and through, its expert certificate courses, it has engaged directly with 549 practitioners from government and NGO sectors.

Key members of cluster:

  • Suki Ali, Associate Professor in Sociology:  racialisation and embodiment, gender and sexualities, families and inequalities, transnational families, identities and belonging, feminist postcolonial theory.
  • Robin Archer, Associate Professor (Reader) in Political Sociology: political sociology, especially the comparative study of labour movements and social democratic politics, political institutions and culture especially in the United states, and political philosophy, especially liberalism and socialism and democracy.
  • Chetan Bhatt, Professor of Sociology: social and political theory and philosophy, Romanticism, right-wing political movements, religious violence and secularism, the politics of the middle-East and South Asia. 
  • Ayça Çubukçu, Assistant Professor in Human Rights: internationalism and cosmopolitanism; transnational movements; liberalism and its critics; radical politics; social, political and critical theory; secularism and postcolonial studies; imperial formations; sovereignty and violence.
  • Michael McQuarrie, Associate Professor in Sociology: urban politics and governance, social movements, civil society, organizations, race, social change, field analysis, politics of the middle-East and South Asia.
  • Claire Moon, Associate Professor in the Sociology of Human Rights: transitional justice, political reconciliation, state crimes, political forgiveness, state reparation.

Linked Master's programmes

The MSc Political Sociology is a well-established programme. Many of the students on the programme apply after a number of years experience of public life or social movements, and they bring invaluable first had experience of politics in a wide range of different countries. The programme attracts some exceptional students, and one or two go on to do a PhD each year. 

The MSc in Human Rights had its first intake in October 2001 and has a current intake of around 60 students, many of whom have a background in human rights related work in NGOs or international organizations. The students provide crucial input to the work of the cluster, undertake internships during their period of registration and conduct fieldwork for their dissertations. Some go on to undertake PhDs in this area.

Doctoral students  

A significant number of research students registered in the Department of Sociology are working in the area of human rights, citizenship and social justice, some of whom have attracted external funding from various grant-making bodies. In addition, the Centre for the Study of Human Rights  (CSHR) runs an interdisciplinary, cross-departmental post-graduate research seminar that draws together doctoral students from the Sociology Department and other students working on human rights right across the LSE.

The research seminar in political sociology provides both a forum for PhD students to discuss their work, and an opportunity to invite speakers to discuss some of the latest work in this area. Occasional prominent speakers draw wider attention to the work of the cluster.