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The University of Southampton
Centre for Political Ethnography

New Frontiers: Populism, Progress and Political Ethnography Event

Professor Matthew Flinders
12:00 - 14:00
13 June 2018
University of Southampton Highfield Room 58-4121 (Murray Building)

Event details

This lecture is concerned with charting new research frontiers and positioning political ethnography within them. The core argument is that in terms of both the changing research funding landscape within the United Kingdom and the shifting socio-political landscape within and beyond the United Kingdom – both very much ‘new frontiers’ in their own right – the need for an international centre of excellence in relation to political ethnography has never been greater. Needed, that is, in both scholarly terms and in relation to helping understand and address major social challenges. In this lecture, Matt Flinders attempts to map the topography of this new research terrain and the place of political ethnography within it. In doing so he seeks to draw upon the work of C Wright Mills to set out the ‘ethnographic imagination’ and, through this, use the notions of ‘the promise’ and ‘the trap’ to chart a fresh and vibrant research agenda that is likely to dovetail with future research funding priorities. Taken together, the ‘new frontiers’ are likely to favour those areas of intellectual inquiry that are capable of trespassing across traditional disciplinary and professional boundaries and of seeing opportunities where others see only problems. Flourishing in the new research environment is therefore likely to demand a mixture of audacity, agility and ambition; or, put simply, an (ethnographic) imagination.

This event is the official launch of the University of Southampton’s new Centre for Political Ethnography. The Centre is based in the Department of Politics & International Relations, with colleagues drawn from Law, Sociology and Criminology. Its Director is Professor Rod Rhodes. For further details, see the Centre website:

Speaker information

Matthew Flinders,University of Sheffield,Professor of Politics and Founding Director of the Sir Bernard Crick Centre for the Public Understanding of Politics at the University of Sheffield. He is also President of the Political Studies Association of the United Kingdom and a board member of the Academy of Social Sciences. Flinders' book Delegated Governance and the British State: Walking without Order won the 2009 W. J. M. Mackenzie Prize, awarded by the Political Studies Association for the best book published in 2008. His Defending Politics (Oxford University Press, 2012) won The Independent on Sunday ‘Book of the Year’ 2012. In addition to his academic work, Professor Flinders writes a monthly blog for Oxford University Press and has written and presented several documentaries for BBC Radio 4. His documentary on In Defence of Politics on BBC Radio 4 (2012) won the Political Studies ‘Communicator of the Year’ Award.

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