OxPol is launching a new series in which contributors are invited to review recent books written by Oxford academics. This series hopes to encourage greater cross-divisional engagement of the Oxford graduate community with the work of the university’s top academics.

We interviewed Raphaël Lefèvre about his new book Jihad in the City: Militant Islamism and Contentious Politics in Tripoli, available now. OxPol: What motivated you write your book? Raphaël Lefèvre: I wanted to shed light on a little-known historical event with large contemporary echo: the creation by a militant Islamist movement of an “Islamic Emirate” on the city of Tripoli, Lebanon in 1982-1985. This movement has modern parallels​ with the “Islamic Caliphate” created by ISIS in parts of Iraq and Syria after 2014 and with similar attempts by Al-Qaeda to create “Islamic Emirates” on the territories it has sporadically controlled recently, from Southern Yemen and Northern Mali to Northern Syria. I am not suggesting that the 1982-1985 “Islamic Emirate” in Tripoli …

COVID-19 has hit European citizens dramatically, not only creating a general risk-driven environment with a wide array of economic vulnerabilities but also exposing them to pervasive digital risks, such as biosurveillance, misinformation, and e-democracy algorithmic threats. Over the course of the pandemic, a debate has emerged about the appropriate techno-political response when governments use disease surveillance technologies to tackle the spread of COVID-19. Citizens have pointed out the dichotomy between state-Leviathan cybercontrol and civil liberties. Moreover, the giant technological flagship firms of surveillance capitalism, such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook, have already assumed many functions previously associated with the nation-state, from cartography to the disease surveillance of citizens. But particularly, amidst the AI-driven algorithmic disruption and surveillance capitalism, Smart City Citizenship sheds light on the way citizens …

Anette Idler summarizes some of the findings from her new book Borderland Battles, which reveals how violent non-state groups compete for territorial control, co-operate in illicit cross-border activities and replace the state in exerting governance functions in borderlands. Borderlands are like a magnifying glass on some of the most entrenched security challenges of the world. In unstable regions, border areas attract violent non-state groups ranging from rebels and paramilitaries to criminal organisations who exploit their neglect by central governments. These groups compete for territorial control, cooperate in illicit cross-border activities, and substitute for the governance functions usually associated with the state. Studying the Colombian borderlands where armed conflict and organised crime converge demonstrates that the gap between state-centric views on …
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Some six months before Theresa May called a surprise general election, The Road to Somewhere was published. In it, David Goodhart argues that the old political divide, between left-wingers and right-wingers, has been superseded. The electorate, Goodhart claims, is now better divided between “anywheres” and “somewheres”.  Peter Wiggins looks at the Goodhart argument in the context of the 2017 general election. Of “Anywheres”, “Somewheres” and “Inbetweeners” According to The Road to Somewhere, roughly 25% of the population are “anywheres” – they are mobile, metropolitan, liberal, tolerant, at home wherever they may be, and wary of group attachment. These voters are likely to be highly educated, and they tend to approve of “mass immigration,” subscribing, as Goodhart puts it, to “progressive …

What is the United Nations? What does it do and how does it do what it does? Together with Sam Daws, Natalie Samarasinghe has recently co-edited a leading eight-volume reference text on the United Nations – The SAGE Major Work on the United Nations. It is dedicated to the structures and the role of the UN over the course of its history and at the present juncture. In this Q&A, Natalie Samarasinghe, Executive Director of the United Nations Association (UNA-UK), responds to the questions of Oxford graduate Genevieve Woods.

Democracy in Africa: Successes, Failure and the Struggle for Political Reform testifies to the ability of African states to democratize against the odds. It effectively introduces a framework for understanding how leaders choose to respond to the pressure to liberalise their political systems, covering the recent history of African politics and providing great detail on the return of multiparty politics in Africa since the early 1990s. In this Q&A, Ian Cooper of the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) at the University of Cambridge interviews Professor Nic Cheeseman, Associate Professor of African Politics, Jesus College, University of Oxford, on his recent publication.