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

Events, projects and engagement


Plymouth International Studies Centre Seminar Series

PISC brings together scholars focusing on topical aspects of contemporary global politics. It hosts a seminar programme packed full of events throughout the academic year. The seminars cover topics from areas including International Relations, Human Geography, US politics and US foreign policy, European Union studies, Middle Eastern and Africa studies. PISC is coordinated by Dr Lorenzo Cladi.

Research aims to enhance negotiating capacity in the wake of Brexit

A year-long project hopes to understand how organisations are currently preparing for Brexit and their major questions and concerns. The project is being led by Professor of Human Resource Management and Employment Relations Richard Saundry, a renowned expert on workplace negotiation and mediation. Project members are Dr Patrick Holden, Reader in International Relations and Development; Dr Zoë James, Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies; and Dr Oliver Smith, Reader in Criminology.

Final Report: BREXIT - Rebuilding Relationships and Resilience

Challenges of change: Learning from supporting the use of parabolic solar cookers to address fuel poverty and deforestation in rural Southern Province, Zambia

Project lead: Dr Karen Treasure (with Dr Patrick Holden and Professor Alison Anderson)
Funding body: University of Plymouth/Global Challenges Research Fund

The aim of this research is to identify effective ways to promote the use of parabolic solar cookers as an alternative to traditional cooking fuels for rural communities in rural Zambia. While the burden of accessing sufficient cooking fuels is considerable and well-understood, previous research has shown that the use of solar cookers requires significant cultural change and thus long-term modes of support for the technology to be used efficiently. This project will contribute to knowledge and practice regarding poverty reduction, combating deforestation and the promotion of public health.

Ethnopolitics Journal

Karl Cordell is Editor of the Journal and Shabnam Holliday member of the Editorial Board.


PIR members have contributed to the iSPER Brexit Series

A series of eight papers in which leading academics across a range of fields have attempted to shed light on how the referendum result might affect their areas of expertise.

  • Paper five – 'The potential impact of Brexit on the UK's International Development policies' by Patrick Holden
  • Paper six – 'Brexit and the integrated approach to stabilisation – Building Stability Overseas' by James Flint

Brexit: Where are we now? (6th March 2019)

Patrick Holden (Reader in International Relations) gave a briefing on the current state of Brexit negotiations and the UK’s departure from the EU with contributions from Jason Lowther (Reader in Law), both from the School of Law, Criminology and Government. This then opened out into an interactive Q&A and discussion format. After the end of the presentation a lively discussion continued outside the lecture theatre with University of Plymouth students and staff form the UK and EU.

Brexit: An international relations perspective (February 2019)

Dr Patrick Holden’s Academic commentary on the referendum and the process of leaving the EU.

A conversation with Marina Litvinenko (11th Feb 2019)

An engineer by training, and a former professional ballroom dancer, Marina is the widow of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian FSB officer who was assassinated in London in 2006. Marina played an active role in seeking justice for her husband, culminating in a British public inquiry, which concluded in 2016 that the FSB probably directed the killing. Marina was  interviewed by John Dobson (former UK naval attaché to the Soviet Union/Russia and Chairman of the Plymouth branch of the University of the Third Age) and Dr Patrick Holden (programme leader for the Masters in International Relations degree at the University). 

The conversation was open to the audience for a question and answer session.Topics ranged from Marina’s personal story, including her struggle for justice for her husband, to broader political questions including Russian politics, Russian relations with the West and the challenge of ‘fake news’ and disinformation. This event was sponsored by the School of Criminology, Government and Law in partnership with the University of the Third Age. 

Keynote address at the Faculty of Business Doctoral Conference (June 2018)

Brexit Opportunities and Challenges for Researchers (Patrick Holden and Mary Farrell).

Watch the keynote address

Selected publications

Holliday, S. (2019). Populism, the International and Methodological Nationalism: Global Order and the Iran–Israel Nexus. Political Studies. DOI

Cladi, L. and Andrea Locatel (2018). Why did Italy contribute to UNIFIL II? An analytical eclectic analysis. Italian Political Science Review / Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica, Vol. 49 (1), pp. 85-97. DOI

Holden, P. (forthcoming). Finding common ground? The European Union and European Civil Society framing of the role of trade in the Sustainable Development Goals. Journal of Common Market Studies

Emery, C. (forthcoming). ‘Social revolutions and state-formation: the case of Revolutionary Iran’ In: Giessmann, H.-J. & Ginty, R. M. (Eds.), How Regimes Change. Post-Conflict Transitions Revisited. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar

Cladi, L. (2017). ‘Free Rider Problem’. In: F.M. Moghaddam (ed.), SAGE Encyclopedia of Political Behaviour, Thousand Oaks California: SAGE Publications.

Cladi, L. (2017). ‘Bandwagoning State’. In: F.M. Moghaddam (ed.), SAGE Encyclopedia of Political Behaviour, Thousand Oaks California: SAGE Publications.

Cladi, L. (2016). ‘The EU’s foreign policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: a story of underachievement?’. In: L. Cladi and A. Locatelli (eds.), International Relations Theory and European Security: We Thought We Knew. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Cladi, L. and Locatelli, A. (2016). ‘Structural Realism: balancing, bandwagoning or what?’ In: L. Cladi and A. Locatelli (eds.), International Relations Theory and European Security: We Thought We Knew. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Cladi, L. and Webber, M. (2016). Between Autonomy and Effectiveness: Reassessing the European Union’s Foreign Policy Towards the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. European Foreign Affairs Review, Vol. 21(4), pp. 559-577. Abstract

Holliday, S. (2016). The legacy of subalternity and Gramsci’s national–popular: populist discourse in the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Third World Quarterly, Vol. 37(5), pp. 917-933, DOI

Holliday, S., & Leech, P. (2016). Political Identities and Popular Uprisings in the Middle East. London: Rowman and Littlefield International.

Holden, P. (2017). ‘Globalization and the Mediterranean’. In R. Gillespie (Ed.), London: Routledge Handbook of Mediterranean Politics. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. pp. 244-255

Holden, P. (2017). Neoliberalism by default? A critical discourse analysis of the European Union’s trade and development policy in an era of crisis. Journal of International Relations and Development, Vol. 20 (2), pp 381–407. DOI

Warren, T., Holden, P., & Howell, K. E. (2017). The European Commission and fiscal governance reform: a strategic actor?. West European Politics, Vol. 40 (6), pp. 1310-1330 DOI

Hynes, W. & Holden, P. (2016). What future for the Global Aid for Trade Initiative? Towards an assessment of its achievements and limitations. Development Policy Review, Vol. 34(4), pp. 593-619. DOI

Cordell, K., O'Leary, B. & Wolff, S. (eds) (2017). Israel & Palestine: the Politics of Stalemate. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Cordell, K. & Abulof, U. (2016). Self-Determination, a Double-Edged Sword. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Agarin, T. & Cordell, K. (2016). Minority Rights & Minority Protection in Europe. London: Rowman & Littlefield

Cordell, K. & Wolff, S. (eds) (2016). The Handbook on Ethnicity and Conflict Resolution (2nd edition). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge