The Political Studies Association annual conference is back in Belfast this week for the first time in 17 years. Hundreds academics from the UK, Ireland, Europe and beyond will congregate in the Europa Hotel for three days of speakers, workshops, dining and visiting Belfast’s sights. They’ll be joined by a smattering of politicians and commentators.
The conference’s theme is In Defence of Politics, apt given the questioning of politicians honesty, integrity and leadership over recent years, together with the political machinations around the economic crisis.
The enormous programme and parallel panel sessions contains a wealth of topics and participants. A live blog will be running throughout the conference and I plan to post some summaries of content and reaction to the conference on Slugger throughout the week. You can also catch chatter from the conference on Twitter under the #psa12 hashtag.
The opening plenary on Tuesday morning looks at Defending Politics, Politicians and Political Science with David Blunkett MP, Peter Riddell and Matthew Flinders.
Wednesday sees Monica Williams chair a plenary session looking at Consociational Theory and Powersharing in Northern Ireland with contributions from Australia, Canada, South Africa and USA.
On Wednesday afternoon, another bunch of professors look at the Process Prospects and Pitfalls of Devolution in the UK while in parallel in a separate room, others will consider how Italy can kick start itself after Berlusconi.
The deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness is booked as the after-dinner speaker on Wednesday evening’s conference dinner in Belfast City Hall.
NICVA are organising a fringe event [update – with bacon baps] on Thursday morning for voluntary and community organisations to explore the concept of scrutiny of government as a key element of maintaining a healthy democracy. The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow MP will be there along with the House of Lords Speaker Baroness D’Souza.
The BBC’s Mark Devenport joins the two Speakers and Matthew Flinders for a cryptic workshop entitled Engagement and Impact on Thursday afternoon before John Bercow delivers the closing plenary lecture on What Should a 21st Century Parliament Look Like?
Other seminars, book launches and events will take in themes of
- In Praise of Politics and Why We Hate Politics
- The Purpose of Political Science – in education, research and policy formation
- Ethics and Politics – questions of integrity, accountability, honesty, and disclosure in political activity and also political research
- Conflict and Conciliation – approaches to political negotiation and struggle, from theoretical and empirical perspectives
- The People’s Politics – the changing landscape of political engagement and protest
- Politics: Looking Back or Looking Forward – the extent to which politics looks back as well as forward, and what this says about modern political trends
- Leaders and Authority; Citizens and Consumerism – the interplay between elites, iconic figures and power brokers, and citizens, subjects and consumers