rise v2

I taught my final class for the year yesterday and I am now tidying up a few things before finishing work for 2015. It has been another very busy year, with my time being split between teaching, research, admin and some media appearances. More than enough to keep me occupied… 2015 was an important year insofar as it marked the publication of my first solo authored monograph, The Rise of Democracy. I am particularly appreciative to the staff at Edinburgh University Press, who were incredibly helpful and supportive in seeing it through to publication. This has also served as the foundation for a new project that I have recently commenced, and hope to be making headway on in 2016. The end of 2015 also marks the conclusion of my working relationship with the United Nations University. Since moving to Waseda, I have continued in the capacity of a Visiting Research Fellow at UNU, as part of the Fukushima Global Communication Programme. This research project will be finishing in a few months, so now seems like a good time to finish up at UNU. I am very grateful to everyone there who has helped me over the years. I wish you all a good rest over Christmas and the new year break. Please note that I will be away from work email until 7 January.

Democracy in Transition conference


I’m in Melbourne briefly to attend the ‘Democracy in Transition’ conference, organised by the University of Melbourne. This is my first time doing something at the university since I completed my undergraduate and masters degrees there, so it is nice to be back. I’ll be presenting a paper on Tuesday 8 December entitled “humble democracy”, which builds on some of the conclusions of my recently published book, “The Rise of Democracy”. I’ll also be chairing a session on “Redress in divided societies”. For more information about the conference, please visit the event’s website.

The related “Democracy Renewal” website has published a piece on “Can Democracy Stop Terrorism?“, with brief responses from a number of the conference participants, including myself. This is not an easy question to answer, especially in a few paragraphs, but my comments emphasise the centrality of non-violence to thinking about democracy. You can read the piece here.

Understanding and Communicating Risks Post-Fukushima

FGC logo

On 12-13 November UNU will be hosting a 2 day research workshop on “Understanding and Communicating Risks Post-Fukushima” as part of their ongoing research on the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident. I will be contributing to the workshop in my capacity as a Visiting Research Fellow at UNU. I will be presenting some opening thoughts in the introductory session and also chairing the closing session. Unfortunately this is a closed event due to space constraints. Following the workshop, however, on the afternoon of Friday 13 November UNU will be hosting a public event with a number of the workshop participants. For more information about the public seminar, please check here.

2015 Millennium conference


This weekend I am looking forward to returning to the London School of Economics, where I will be attending and presenting at the 2015 Millennium conference. This year the theme for the conference is the very intriguing topic of ‘failure and denial in world politics’. I will be taking this opportunity to present the first substantive piece of work on a new project I am currently developing. I will be part of the ‘The Mend of IR Theory? Thinking through Failure and Denial’ panel, which is being held from 14:30 – 16:00 on Saturday. I have enjoyed the previous Millennium conferences I participated in, especially the 2008 edition on ‘Interrogating Democracy in International Relations’, which was very closely related to my research interests. My paper from that year was subsequently published as part of the journal’s special issue on the topic, which is available to read here. For more information about this year’s conference, including the programme, please visit their website.


New book: “The Rise of Democracy”

book final

I am very happy to announce the publication of my first single authored monograph, The Rise of Democracy. This book pulls together and considerably develops some of the themes I had previously explored in a series of articles and chapters looking at the different ways that democracy intersects with international relations. The aim of the book is to re-examine democracy’s past as a step towards better understanding its contemporary standing and what its future might entail. The historical study in turn forms the basis of a minimal but robust defence of democracy, grounded in its limits and fragility. I feel this book goes considerably further than my previously published work on the topic and I am very pleased with the outcome. It is published by Edinburgh University Press, who have been fantastic to work with. I am deeply appreciative of their help and patience in seeing it through to publication.

For more information, please see:

New op-ed: “To counter Abe, opposition must offer viable alternatives”


I have recently published a new op-ed in The Japan Times, which builds on my previous commentary about the policies and approach of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In my latest piece I argue that it is necessary to appreciate that regardless of the possible motives of Abe and his LDP government, they are responding to genuine policy questions facing Japan. In the case of the security reforms, the rise of China and America’s potential decline are significant issues Japan has to deal with. And for nuclear restarts, the challenge posed by climate change means there are legitimate arguments for low carbon options like nuclear. For those opposed to Abe, the challenge is not simply to reject his policies, but think through what realistic answers to these difficult questions may be.

You can read the full article here.

New op-ed: “The tragedy of Shinzo Abe”


I have a new op-ed in The Japan Times today. It provides a commentary of the recent attempts by Abe and the LDP to push through security bills that would effectively undermine Article 9 of the Japanese constitution. I suggest that the manner and style in which Abe has pursued these changes has been deeply problematic, more so than the actual reforms that have been proposed. Given that Abe has been in a comparatively very strong opposition, both internally within the LDP and vis-a-vis the opposition, he has missed a golden opportunity to address the long-term problems Japan is facing, choosing to instead prioritising changing the constitution.

You can read the full op-ed here. 


Lecture at Lakeland College Japan


Next week I have been invited to give a lecture at the Japan campus of Lakeland College, which is located in Shinjuku. I will be offering some thoughts on the rise of the Islamic State and seeking to place the threat in perspective. Details below. All welcome.

Coming to Terms with the Islamic State: The View from Japan                           Wednesday 8 July, 7PM at Lakeland College Japan

In a remarkably short time the Islamic State (IS) has emerged from the turmoil and instability of Syria and Iraq, distinguishing itself through horrific acts of violence and remarkable successes on the battlefield. Human rights abuses such as mass executions of innocent people, intentional attempts to inflame sectarian tensions, and widespread sexual violence have quickly identified IS as a brutal and ruthless actor. In Japan interest in IS has grown following the executions of Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto. One year has now passed since IS proclaimed the establishment of a new caliphate, but the international community still remains at a loss over what to do. In this context, the purpose of this talk is to reflect on how great a threat IS poses, considering how unique or new a problem it represents, and how outside actors – including Japan – should respond.

Disaster Preparedness: A Missed Opportunity in Sendai


I’ve got a new piece online over at The Diplomat, which reflects on the limited attention paid to the Fukushima nuclear accident at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction recently held in Sendai. I argue that this was a missed chance to further incorporate the danger posed by ‘na-tech’ (natural – technological) disasters into disaster risk reduction strategies. Understandably the Fukushima accident has focused our attention on the risk posed by nuclear power plants, but its lessons have much wider applicability.

You can read the full argument here.