In politics, there are insiders and there are outsiders.

Where there have been citizens, there are those considered non-citizens. There are documented immigrants and sans papiers. Where there are the rich, there are the poor. Marxists say there is the bourgeoisie and the proletariat – the exploiter and the exploited. Historians recall the times of lord and serf, of monarch and subjects – in politics, there are those who are represented, and those without representation.

What do we mean when we talk about politics at or from the periphery? A periphery exists always in relation to a centre. If the centre represents the seat of power, the dominant institutions, the hegemonic practices that inform policy and shape social structures, the periphery by contrast is a place outside the boundary of established and stabilised power.

The periphery is the place where the outsiders look in, observing social forces and building heterodox ways of thinking that challenges the foundations upon which power resides. The periphery is a place where new ideas are forged.

It is fair to say that although academia has its critics, our institutions are increasingly decentring the white, heteronormative, cisgendered male subject, and in doing so, recovering forgotten and underwritten genealogies, reshaping our ideas of liberty, democracy and citizenship.

Geopolitically, we are arguably moving away from the unipolarity of the American century and towards a multipolar landscape, inviting reflections from regional and subaltern perspectives, and considering the impact of new alliances and emerging relationships.

Politically, all good democrats will claim to be receptive to the periphery, to bear witness to social suffering and those marginalised by social pathologies, critically attuned to the prejudices that permeate, and the assumptions that remain – and yet, our increasingly polarised and divided politics appears unable to resolve these asymmetries of power. We talk a good game, but the problems remain. In this context, new ideas are more than welcome.

The series adopts this spatial metaphor of the ‘centre/periphery’ to explore new ways of political thinking that challenges, discomforts, reinterprets and problematises convention. It brings together a collection of academic blogs that provide exciting new interpretations, practices, methodological approaches, perspectives and objects of inquiry.

The series is a celebration of politics as an increasingly interdisciplinary discipline, with writers from both inside and outside the Department of Politics & International Relations, and contributions from both inside and outside the University of Oxford. We hope you enjoy the eclectic and provocative mixture of topics, approaches and ideas.

 

Scotland held a vote on independence on 18 September 2014, with 55 percent of the voters rejecting leaving the United Kingdom. Yet, the issue was thrust back into the spotlight in 2016, when the UK voted to withdraw from the EU, with repeated calls for a second Scottish plebiscite growing louder ever since. As in 2014, the generally accepted (albeit not universal) position has been that Westminster’s approval is needed to put a referendum on Scottish independence beyond legal doubt. The two British Prime Ministers (PMs) who held office during this time (2016–2021), Theresa May and Boris Johnson, consistently reiterated their opposition to another referendum and ruled out granting any such consent. In doing so, they employed various discourse strategies …

In the context of the U.S. Supreme Court repeal of Roe v. Wade, the struggle for access to abortion and reproductive freedom continues. In Germany, abortion remains a criminal act only granted under specific conditions and requirements. Apart from ethical and legal requirements, abortions are hardly mentioned in most medical curricula. There is a shortage of medical practices that perform abortions, especially in rural areas and if there is no “medical or criminological indication”, the procedure is not covered by health insurance, costing between €300 to €600. §218 of the criminal code that criminalises and regulates abortion is a remnant from the imperial penal code of 1871 (only the GDR legalised abortion in 1972). Radical feminists in Germany were at …

The common view in both scholarship and practice is that politics is an exclusively human concern: a practice by humans for humans. Man, as Aristotle described him, is ‘zoon politikon’, a political animal. For Aristotle, governing and being governed is both the essence and purpose of human beings, and this quality not shared by any other creature that we know of. Crucially, this human-exclusive understanding of politics is still widely shared today. That is not to say, of course, that politics is completely unconcerned about animals. Policy-makers do sometimes turn their attention towards animals, and most states have instituted, for example, a set of animal welfare laws that prohibit practices which are deemed to be ‘cruel’ or to cause ‘unnecessary …