Q&A with Alireza Shams Lahijani

Investigating Iranian representations and conceptions of Europe

Alireza is a PhD candidate at the Department of International Relations

At the Department of International Relations, we are lucky to be supported to attend various conferences to present our research and get to know the academic community.

Alireza Shams Lahijani

Alireza Shams Lahijani
Alireza Shams Lahijani

What are you currently researching?

My research is concerned with how Iran sees Europe. I study various Iranian representations and conceptions of Europe through a longue durée (1501-2015), specifically to understand how identity-construction, language and collective memories are pivotal in making sense of international society in its current form.

What attracted you to this area of research?

It is an amalgamation of my background and experience as an Iranian studying International Relations, my interest in understanding what makes certain things and actions possible, and long chats with my supervisor.

How will your research improve or have a wider impact on society?

It speaks to anyone with interest in international relations, the Middle East, history, and foreign policy. The broader hope is to provide a more nuanced story of how the existing international society came around, understand the importance of language in international relations, and to go beyond the typical Eurocentric accounts.

What do you hope to do career-wise, long term?

As I am enjoying what I am doing, I will be staying in academia.

What are your top tips to prospective students on the most effective way to approach research and keep stress levels down?

I used to joke that I do not have a life other than my PhD. That is not wholly true. We get bogged down in our research so much that we sometimes lose track of broader academic (and non-academic) life.

Family, friends and your PhD colleagues: they will not only end up on the acknowledgement page of your thesis, but will also shape your experience and get you through. Also know that we all, at some point, experience some worry about this journey and will need help and resources to deal with it.

What resources are available at LSE to help young researchers?

Incoming students will get introduced to a range of institutional resources such as the PhD Academy, Finance office, library etc. There are lots of (hidden) opportunities and resources within each of these services that will make your life easier: assistance from specialised librarians, travel funds, research/conference grants, and teaching resources.

At the Department of International Relations, we are lucky to be supported to attend various conferences to present our research and get to know the academic community.

Funding is not everything though; International Relations faculty and staff, and research clusters, alongside the PhD cohort are of immense help to make us a better researcher. For International Relations students, Millennium is a fantastic journal to get involved with in the discipline and learn a lot.

If you have any ideas, discuss it with your community and department. I was lucky to play a role in founding LSE International Relations Colloquium (student-run) that hosts notable scholars to engage in conversation with IR doctoral students: ten sessions so far. You can also get department and PhD Academy support to organise workshops and conferences.

What do you enjoy most about studying at LSE?

It is where things happen. Intellectually, it will enrich you. LSE’s location also means every single day, something is happening that provides you with a learning opportunity that is equally enjoyable to your research.