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Research groups and collaborations

13 December 2023

Our Political Science and International Relations research groups have a strong research focus with a number of areas of expertise. From Conflict Mediation to Sustainable Development, learn more about our research groups.


Staff research interests

The department has a strong research focus with a number of areas of expertise.

Bercovitch Data Centre for Conflict Mediation and Peace-Building

Jacob Bercovitch (1946-2011), PhD, FRSNZ was Professor of International Relations at Canterbury University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand.  He received his PhD from the London School of Economics and held fellowships at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard University, the United States Institute of Peace in Washington DC, Georgetown University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the University of Haifa.  He served as Vice-President of the International Studies Association.

Professor Bercovitch helped establish the Diplomacy and International Relations programme at UC along with the International Law and Politics Master's degree.  He was awarded the University of Canterbury Research Medal for excellence in research and was the recipient of many research grants. 

Professor Bercovitch pioneered the application of statistical techniques to the field of conflict resolution and in particular to mediation. His studies systematically analysed not only the disputants, but the nature and tactics of mediators, and the political, military, and geographical contexts that affect mediation. Critically, his unit of analysis was the conflict management effort, which allowed him to examine both conflict management success and failure within and between disputes.  He also highlighted the importance of considering not only the factors that lead to agreement, but also the factors that lead to a durable peace. Among his final efforts were studies of how disputants selected mediators for the hardest disputes to resolve – creating a dynamic known as selection effects. His ideas, approaches, and data, fundamentally revolutionised our understanding of the study and practice of international conflict management.

The centre was established in 2014 to build on the work of Jacob Bercovitch and is maintained by his colleagues and students.   

Find out more about the centre and its work.

Small States and the New Security Environment (SSANSE)

The SSANSE project is a preparedness initiative funded by NATO SPS examining the defence and foreign policy choices and challenges of small states in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and Oceania in the new security environment. Small states make up half of the membership of the United Nations. Small states may be small in population and territory, but they have frequently had a disproportionate effect on global politics and they are more often affected by global shifts in power. SSANSE will extend theoretical debates on the role of small states in the changing international system as well as on the issue of how states manage their relations between the major powers in the new security environment.

Professor Anne-Marie Brady leads this project, working with scholars in Iceland, the USA, and Latvia. 

Southeast Asia Research Initiative

The Southeast Asia Research Initiative (SEARI) focuses on cross-disciplinary research on contemporary Southeast Asia. It aims to foster a supportive research environment on Southeast Asia at UC, bringing together both faculty and students. Our members are engaged in research on Southeast Asia across many disciplines including comparative politics, international relations, history, anthropology and geography.

 We seek to:

  • Stimulate interest in research on Southeast Asia
  • Disseminate research findings
  • Discuss contemporary issues of interest
  • Encourage and support field research
  • Support postgraduate students working on Southeast Asia
  • Encourage interdisciplinary research collaborations

Find out more about SEARI and its research, or contact Jim Ockey, Naimah Talib or Alex Tan for further information.

Sustainable Development and Civic Imagination: Hei Puāwaitanga

This multidisciplinary research team and civics-lab, at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. The 21st Century is the century of the city. By 2050, seven in 10 people will live in an urban area. Against this dynamic background, the research team, led by Associate Professor Bronwyn Hayward investigates citizenship and civic governance, participation and democratic urbanisation, with a particular focus on sustainability and inclusion, especially for children and youth.

We have two research partners:

  • Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity
  • University of Oslo, Department of Sociology and Human Geography

Find out more about the team and its research.

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