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PhD program research areas

The department will only consider PhD program applicants whose research interests are in one of the following areas:

Several of our faculty members participate in the interdisciplinary Indigenous nationhood program.

Our department is exceptionally strong in contemporary political theory and the history of political thought.

  • Rita Dhamoon specializes in theories of race-making, anti-colonialism and post-colonialism, feminist theory, identity and difference, and democracy.
  • Avigail Eisenberg has expertise in theories of political pluralism, social diversity, minority rights and other issues related to contemporary constitutionalism.
  • Simon Glezos engages with several strands in contemporary continental political theory, including new materialisms, post-structuralism, phenomenology, radical democratic traditions and contemporary Marxist and anarchist theories.
  • Mara Marin specializes in feminist theory, social theory, the history of political thought, structural injustice, oppression, domination, legal theory and political obligation.
  • A. Claire Cutler has emerged as a major theorist of the international system through her studies of private international law.

Other faculty members like Oliver Schmidtke have made significant theoretical contributions to the understanding of contemporary political movements and the accommodation of diversity in liberal democracies. Matt James has been working on a range of important theoretical issues related to reparation and reconciliation.

Elsewhere on campus Colin Macleod (Philosophy), Cindy Holder (Philosophy), and Karena Shaw (Environmental Studies) enhance the department’s strength in political theory.

In addition, there is the larger network of the interdisciplinary program in Cultural, Social and Political Thought (CSPT) which assures students access to professorial support for many forms of theoretical investigation.

Warren Magnusson and Rob Walker were responsible for developing UVic's theory program in the 1980s and 1990s, and took the lead in establishing the interdisciplinary MA program in Contemporary Social and Political Thought (now called Cultural Social and Political Thought).

Candidacy exams

Students concentrating in political theory will be required to take the candidacy examination in political theory. The required seminar is POLI 609. Possible secondary examinations may be taken in international relations, comparative politics, Canadian politics, Indigenous governance and CSPT.

Our department has great strength in the area of transnational and international relations, global political economy, global studies and regional integration (Europe and Asia in particular). We have developed courses and research that lie at the intersection of international, transnational and national politics.

Expertise in the department focuses on international relations in its various guises: political economy, law, politics, security, state-market relations, international organizations and regional integration.

Internationally well-known academics form the core of our specialists in this field:

  • A. Claire Cutler works in the intersection of international law and international relations and focuses on the role of law in the global political economy, critical globalization studies and private, non-state authority in international relations.
  • Will Greaves' research focuses on global politics and security, climate change and energy, Indigenous peoples, Canadian foreign policy and the circumpolar Arctic.
  • Oliver Schmidtke, Jean Monnet Chair in European History and Politics, specializes in international migration and transnational citizenship issues.
  • Sarah E. Sharma researches the global political economy of environmental governance. 
  • Amy Verdun, Jean Monnet Chair in European Integration Studies, focuses on various dimensions of European integration and comparative political economy.
  • Scott Watson focuses on international security and has a particular interest in securitization, the politics of humanitarianism and the interplay between identity and conflict.
  • Feng Xu researches issues in gender, identity, migration, (post)colonialism and discourses of modernity, with particular focus on China and East Asia.

This area also intersects with many of the research programs currently pursued under the umbrella of the Centre for Global Studies. The centre's director, Oliver Schmidtke, is a professor in our department. The mission of CFGS is to "advance understanding and action on major global issues by civil society, the private sector, governments and international institutions."

Through its diverse research and international development activities, the centre promotes collaborative policy solutions to the human and environmental challenges posed by globalization. Our faculty members also participate in the program on dispute resolution.

The European Studies interdisciplinary program focuses on European integration in the widest sense of the word. The program draws on the social sciences, humanities and fine arts. It collaborates with UVic's schools of business, law and public administration. It has taken off in recent years as an independent program and contributes to our undergraduate and MA programs.

Candidacy exams

Students concentrating in this area will be required to take the candidacy examinations in either international relations (for which the required field seminar will be POLI 640), or comparative politics (required seminar POLI 608). Most students are likely to take both. Some will choose to combine with political theory or CSPT.

Democratic constitutionalism is especially well placed to offer a rigorous and unique program of study for doctoral students.

Within that field, Avigail Eisenberg writes on minorities in political theory and in Canadian constitutional law and politics. She is also one of the organizers of the Victoria Colloquium on Political, Social and Legal Theory.

The colloquium is an interdisciplinary project of the Faculty of Law and Departments of Political Science and Philosophy. It is a focal point for the intellectual activity of faculty and graduate students working on democratic constitutionalism at UVic.

Matt James brings an expertise in questions that are crucial in not only Canada but in other countries marked by histories of domination and dispossession: reparation, reconciliation, political apology and transitional justice. He is also a student of social movements and is the author of the book Misrecognized Materialists: Social Movements in Canadian Constitutional Politics.

In relation to Europe, Oliver Schmidtke and Amy Verdun both focus on the political and legal relations between European states in a manner that clearly implicates questions of constitutionalism. Claire Cutler's expertise in international law has strong connections to the subject area.

Elsewhere at UVic the expertise in democratic constitutionalism is similarly impressive. Colin Macleod, who is cross-appointed to philosophy and law (and an adjunct in our department) focuses, both in teaching and research, on questions directly related to constitutional theory and Canadian constitutionalism. They are organizers of the Victoria Colloquium.

Other major figures in this field include Jeff Corntassel in Indigenous Studies and in Philosophy, Cindy Holder works on self-determination. She is engaged in questions that are directly relevant to democratic constitutionalism.

We can provide significant support to students who wish to do work on various aspects of democratic constitutionalism, including work that focuses on national, international or more local understandings of the subject matter. The relevant research cuts across the boundaries of all four main fields of political science and involves other disciplines as well, especially law and philosophy.

Candidacy exams

Students concentrating in this area will typically take candidacy examinations in political theory (POLI 609) and Canadian politics (POLI 616). There may be some interested in comparative questions in which case, the candidacy exam in comparative politics (POLI 608) might be chosen.

Our department has a lot to offer graduate students interested in politics in the global south. Our faculty members are engaged in research in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Feng Xu works on China and her research has been making an important contribution to studies of modes of governance in post-socialist China, rural-urban migration and urbanization, political economy, social reproduction and capitalist economy in China, China’s regional economies, emerging Chinese labor market. She is also interested in exploring the nature of China’s role in Africa and Latin America.

Marlea Clarke has considerable research and professional experience in South and Southern Africa. Her research interests include African political economy and development; labour and migration; globalization, labour and social movements; and post-colonial transitions to democracy in southern Africa. Her current research interests focus on changing patterns of trade and global production of clothing, especially regional production networks and labour standards in sub-Saharan Africa.

Michelle Bonner has expertise in Latin American politics, concentrating her work on Argentina and Chile. Her research interests include the politics of policing, media and politics, democratic accountability, social protest, democratization, social movements, gender, transitional justice and human rights.

There are other faculty across campus who are political scientists, work on the politics of the global south and who are available to graduate students for their thesis committees. 

Laura Parisi, a faculty member in gender studies and cross-listed in political science, focuses on feminist international relations in the area of gender and international development, human rights, globalization, global governance and feminist methodologies.

Her current research projects include a cross-national study of NGOs and their gender mainstreaming practices; and, a comparative study of the impacts of new foreign aid modalities driven by the global recession on the ability of human rights, gender rights and development NGOs in both the global north and global south on long-term capacity building.

Other hubs on campus draw together students and professors alike who work on the global south: the Centre for Global Studies (CFGS), Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives (CAPI) and the Latin American Research Group. There are also many other theme-based centres such as the Centre for Co-operative and Community-Based Economy and the Centre for Religion and Society.

Candidacy exams

Students concentrating in this area will be required to take the candidacy examination in comparative politics for which the required seminar is POLI 608. Possible secondary examinations may be taken in international relations, political theory and cultural, social and political thought (CSPT).