Roland Bleiker

Professor of International Relations, Peace Studies and Political Theory, The University of Queensland


Profile

I am professor of International Relations at the University of Queensland, where I have taught since 1999 and where I coordinate an interdisciplinary research program on Visual Politics (https://hass.uq.edu.au/visual-politics).

My passion and research contribution has revolved around exploring creative and interdisciplinary ways of understanding key political problems. I have, in particular, sought to introduce aesthetics, visuality and emotions to the theory and practice of world politics. Two aspects are central to this endeavour.

First: I have explored how aesthetic sources – such as art, literature and music – can provide us with alternative insights into the political: a type of reflective understanding that emerges not from applying technical skills of analysis but from cultivating a more open-ended level of creativity and sensibility about the political. We might then be able to appreciate what we otherwise cannot even see: perspectives or people excluded from prevailing purviews, for instance, or the emotional nature and consequences of political events. My publications here include a book on Aesthetics and World Politics (Palgrave 2009/2012) and an edited Forum on “Emotions and World Politics” in International Theory (6/3, 2014).

Second: my research has examined how aesthetic sources themselves shape the political. Photographs, film and television influence how we view and approach phenomena as diverse as war, diplomacy, financial crises and election campaigns. Drones, satellites and surveillance cameras watch us around the clock and deliver images that are then put to political use. Add to this that new technologies now allow for a rapid distribution of still and moving images around the world. Digital media platforms, such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, play an important role across the political spectrum, from terrorist recruitment drives to social justice campaigns. My work here includes an ARC Discovery Project on “How Images Shape Responses to Humanitarian Crises” and an edited book on Visual Global Politics (Routledge, 2018).

I have always sought to apply these conceptual inquiries to concrete political issues, most notably to questions about conflict, reconciliation and justice. This practice-oriented part of my work goes back to a diplomatic appointment I held as a Swiss Army Officer in the Korean Demilitarized Zone three decades ago. I am particularly interested in exploring how entrenched conflicts, most prominently the Korean one, can be understood not only in conventional geopolitical or ideological terms, but also as clashes over identities. Through collaborative research I have since applied this work to other contexts, from social justice movements to peacebuilding in Bosnia, Timor Leste and Sri Lanka. Publications here include books on Popular Dissent, Human Agency and Global Politics (Cambridge University Press, 2000) and Divided Korea: Toward a Culture of Reconciliation (University of Minnesota Press, 2005/2008) as well as an edited volume on Mediating Across Difference: Oceanic and Asian Approaches to Conflict Resolution (University of Hawaii Press, 2011).