As well as being Professor of Political Theory at Keele, I am also the University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Advancement and Global Engagement and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. I arrived at Keele in September 2016 having completed an extended term as Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast. As an undergraduate, I studied in my native city for a joint honours degree in History and Politics at University College Dublin, Ireland. I remained as a Postgraduate Scholar at UCD to undertake a Masters in Moral and Political Philosophy before moving to Scotland for my doctoral studies at Glasgow University.
My first academic post was as a Lecturer in the Department of Government of Manchester University before I joined Queen’s University Belfast in 1994. At Queen’s I became Professor of Political Theory in 2002 and was a Head of School from 2001 to 2009. Twice in those years I was asked to lead colleagues in creating newly expanded, multidisciplinary Schools. During my years as Dean of Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Queen’s, 2009 to 2015, I also undertook a range of formal University leadership roles including that of University Envoy to the Americas. I was Fulbright Senior Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania in 2004/5 and I have held Visiting Professorships at Hong Kong University, Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia and Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada.
Research and scholarship
My primary interest is in contemporary moral and political philosophy, specifically in clarifying the demands of justice in the global order and within modern pluralist societies. This has led me to engage with several influential theoretical perspectives particularly within the tradition of critical social theory as developed by Jürgen Habermas, Axel Honneth and others. The purpose of this engagement has been to develop critical-theoretical perspectives on mainstream debates concerning the demands of egalitarian justice and democratic legitimacy, both within the state and beyond it. I am also exercised by philosophical questions regarding the nature of the social sciences and the possibility of a critical interrogation of the political world, and in the various ways in which social hope feeds into such research.
Over several years I have sought to contribute to theoretical work that facilitates the articulation of struggles against injustice and related demands for recognition, particularly in contexts of national diversity such as Northern Ireland. This interest has led me to examine moral-theoretical questions regarding violence, peace and intervention that arise acutely in the context of struggles against grave injustice. I am currently seeking to further two projects; the first is to develop an account of global justice based on reconceiving the notion of decolonization; the second is a proposed intervention in debates regarding higher education policy by arguing that this needs to be grounded in a normative-theoretical account of social freedom as the ultimate purpose and value of the university as a social institution.
My general outlook is informed both by the concerns of analytical political theory, and those of ‘continental’ philosophical traditions, especially critical theory and hermeneutics. I have been first supervisor of 16 PhD students who have completed dissertations in a range of topics in political theory and critical philosophy.
- Recognition Theory as Social Research: Investigating the Dynamics of Social Conflict (Palgrave Macmillan 2012), edited with Nicholas H. Smith.
- After the Nation? Critical Reflections on Nationalism and Postnationalism (Palgrave Macmillan 2010), edited with Keith Breen.
- Political Theory and Social Hope, Special Issue of Critical Horizons, 9/4 (December 2008), edited with Nicholas H. Smith.
- Recognition, Equality and Democracy, edited with Jurgen de Wispeleare and Cillian McBride (Routledge 2008). Previously appeared as a special Issue of Irish Political Studies 22/4 (December 2007).
- Contemporary Social and Political Theory (Open University Press 1999), co-authored with Fidelma Ashe, Alan Finlayson, Moya Lloyd, Iain MacKenzie and James Martin.
- Reconstituting Social Criticism: Political Morality in an Age of Scepticism (Palgrave Macmillan and St.Martin’s Press 1999), edited with Iain MacKenzie.
- Impartiality in Context: Grounding Justice in a Pluralist World (State University of New York Press 1997).
A complete list of my publications is available.