Politics and International Relations (PIR)

The Politics and International Relations research group focuses on the politics (domestic and international) driving public policy and social change. Thematically its main focus is on pressing contemporary issues such as populism, ethnicity and nationalism; international development policy; Brexit; foreign policy and international security. Our researchers have published widely on these topics and frequently engage with policy-makers and civil society groups.

The aim of the group is to consolidate its members’ contribution to research on these issues, to raise the research profile of the University in these areas, as well as to deepen engagement with domestic and international policy makers and civil society actors. It will promote interdisciplinary research and it seeks to advance collaboration with other disciplines, including sociology, and to support PhD students and young researchers. The group works particularly closely with colleagues in sociology working on ‘Politics, Discourse and Identities’.

Research Group lead - Dr Patrick Holden 

Dr Patrick Holden is a Reader in International Relations at the School of Law, Criminology and Government. His work explores the link between power, ideas and public policy. His primary research interests focus on the international relations of the European Union, Brexit, International Political Economy and International Development. Recent academic work of his has been published in journals such as The Journal of Common Market Studies, West European Politics, Development Policy Review, Cooperation and Conflict and The Journal of International Relations and Development. His research involves analysing documents and interviewing policy elites and he has done field work in Brussels, Morocco, Egypt and South Africa amongst other places. His current research projects include exploring the future of international development aid and preparing local communities for Brexit. He is on the editorial board of the journal Mediterranean Politics.

If you would like to discuss any ideas around research or becoming a member of the group, please contact Patrick.




Patrick Holden’s work looks at the political economy behind Brexit and the negotiations as well as the impact of Brexit on the EU and developing countries. Lorenzo Cladi studies the security implications of Brexit. Group members such as Holden and Cladi have been very active in hosting seminars and events on Brexit and its implications. Holden has been active in contributing to the debate on British and Irish media and group members are involved in the interdisciplinary (University of Plymouth funded) project ‘Brexit: rebuilding relationships and resilience’, which analyses the impact of Brexit on local communities in collaboration with colleagues in criminology and business.

Populism, ethnicity and nationalism

Karl Cordell is co-editor of the journal Ethnopolitics (the leading journal in the field). His own research has contributed enormously to our understanding of ethnic identity and its political and social implications in Central and Eastern Europe. Shabnam Holiday has recently published a ground-breaking article on populism and identity in Iranian foreign policy. Holden’s work grapples with the political economy of the contemporary populist upsurge.

International security

Lorenzo Cladi’s work on NATO and on European security is widely published. The research of Holliday and Emery contributes to our understanding of security in the Middle East. Cordell’s work on ethnopolitics also helps us understand the deep socio-political underpinnings of security and stability in Europe and other regions. 

Foreign policy analysis

Shabnam Holliday, Christian Emery and Lorenzo Cladi have focused extensively on different elements of foreign policy including US foreign policy, Canadian foreign policy and Iranian foreign policy. 

Development policy

Karen Treasure has been awarded a Global Challenges Research Fund grant for her work on the use of parabolic solar cookers to address fuel poverty and deforestation in Zambia (a project which includes). Holden’s work engages with contemporary debates on EU and global development policy . This includes the battle of ideas between neoliberal and more interventionist approaches to trade and development. It also traces changing approaches to development aid.

Group members