Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Rawls, Habermas, Korea, minorities and Indonesians...

OK, no long post about recent seminar presentations. But I will offer a flavour of the last two weeks - or at least try to!

I'm no political theorist and I was suffering from a self-inflicted night of debauchery the previous day, but last week's seminar saw James Gledhill and Muriel Kahane discuss their work. Muriel is working on minority rights, which draws heavily on Kymlicka and his work on cosmopolitanism. James, meanwhile, seems interested in facts and their relationship to norms. This is quite abstract – at least for me – and I’m sorry I didn’t follow most of it. I do there’s going to be quite a bit of analysis of methodology, drawing on work done by Rawls and Habermas. I’m afraid that I was rather silent last week. Political theory has never been my strong point.

This week we returned to political science – or at least practical politics. Chang Hyung-Seok is interested in the strength of the business community in South Korea over wider civil society. He seems to have the beginning of something there, although he may well benefit from some case studies to illustrate his arguments.

There was also Jacqui Baker, our resident anthropologist, who is resisting the culture of the Government department! She’s working on police reform in Indonesia and what this means for democratisation in that country. We won’t see her next year as she’s planning to apply her ethnographic skills to participant-observation work in Sumatra on this project. But the basis of her presentation was a discussion of democracy and democratisation. One colleague asked her whether this was relevant, but I agreed with her approach; she needs to be clear in her own mind what these concepts are before she can study them in the field – although it’s never the case that you will know everything before heading out.

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