The Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society, and Rule of Law (CISRUL) studies the life in the world of political concepts.  The interdisciplinary Centre examines how political principles function within and beyond the contemporary West. Concepts such as citizenship, civil society, and the rule of law are used as often by policy makers as by scholars. Core to CISRUL’s mission is informing academic and public debate on how they are used, and to what effect.

CISRUL brings together an extraordinary range of researchers, including PhD students, to study these and other political principles, including democracy, human rights and pluralism. We consider how they have been fostered historically, debated philosophically and in politics, fought over by social movements, codified in law, transmitted through education and the media, and lived out in everyday life.


Headed by Trevor Stack (Spanish and Latin American Studies), CISRUL’s membership reaches across seven disciplines to house a vibrant, diverse debate about the political concepts which underpin our modern world. It brings to bear expertise in History (Michael Brown, Karin Friedrich, Robert Frost), Law (Matyas Bodig, Tamas Gyorfi), Politics (Pamela Abbott, Andrea Teti, Ritu Vij), Sociology (Cristina Flesher-Fominaya, Nadia Kiwan, Claire Wallace), Divinity (Brian Brock, Michael Laffin) and Education (Rachel Shanks), and works closely with other groups such as the Centre for Early Modern Studies, ArabTrans and the Centre for Global Security and Governance.

Founded in 2009. CISRUL has

  • held 11 major scholarly workshops and conferences, bringing speakers from 42 countries to Aberdeen
  • published a volume Religion as a Category of Governance and Sovereignty (Brill) based on conferences in 2010 and 2012, and a volume Breaching the Civil Order (Cambridge) based on conferences in 2016 and 2017
  • supervised a total of 25 PhD students, including 12 students funded by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie COFUND grant under the rubric of POLITICO (Political Concepts in the World)
  • hosted collaborative research projects on societal responses to Mexican organised crime (ESRC), political awareness in Aberdeen City and Shire schools, as well as an Insight Institute seminar series on Polish migrants in Scotland
  • delivered a successful Sixth Century course ‘What Gives Us Rights?’ with a strong enrolment of 120-140 from across the University, showcasing lecturers from all 3 Colleges of the University
  • engaged with the wider public through an evening lecture series, as well as public conferences on UK Energy Politics and on the Curriculum for Excellence, featuring speakers from public bodies such as Education Scotland and Oil and Gas UK.

For additional information or to get in touch with the Centre, please contact Trevor Stack.

Radical Democratic Citizenship – 2018 CfP


This conference on radical democratic citizenship marks the 50th anniversary of the global wave of protests in 1968, when people occupied workplaces and public spaces, collectively demanding changes in policies and calling for a shift in politics. Movements aimed variously to resist regimes deemed authoritarian and imperialist, fight economic and political elites, dismantle the exploitative forces of capitalism, challenge norms around the role of women and sexuality, and tackle racism and gender discrimination. Despite the differences among them, they shared a “radical approach to citizenship” in that they sought to open spaces for political action beyond the narrow margins set by states as well as, outside the Soviet Bloc, challenging the subordination of states to the interests of the market.

Furthermore, and echoing the Latin term radix (roots), their citizenship was radical in that activists looked to highlight viable alternatives to the status quo, across the economic, political, and social spheres, demonstrating that these alternatives could be generated by grassroots movements far removed from elite circles. “Radical” thus indicates firstly the pursuit of fundamental change or transformation of the economic and political landscape that, secondly, can be effected from the bottom-up (grass roots), and, thirdly, in a radical democratic manner.

Today, faced not only by ever-deepening inequality but also by the prospect of environmental disaster, the demand for radical change is as pressing as in 1968.  Electoral democracy has been rolled out worldwide but with deficiencies ever more painfully apparent, while capitalism has if anything extended its hold over political and social institutions, turning citizenship into a form of consumption and even a commodity for investment and trade (“Citizenship by Investment”).

In response to the host of challenges, grassroots activists are charting a fresh wave of radical democratic citizenship across the world. Obvious examples are the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (Rojava), the Jackson Co-operative, recuperated firms, De-Growth, eco-villages, Anti-University, Co-operative College, Occupy, Black Lives Matter, and Standing Rock. Many such movements are effecting radical and seemingly sustainable changes.

We call for contributions on any aspect of radical democratic citizenship, understood as grassroots political practice, whether past or present, and whether empirical, theoretical or performative. To include as wide a range as possible of perspectives, we encourage contributions from non-academics as well as academics from all disciplines and fields. We also welcome different formats of contributions, ranging from traditional conference papers and posters to workshops organised by participants and performances.

To include as wide a range as possible of perspectives, we encourage contributions from non-academics as well as academics from all disciplines and fields.

Visiting Speakers include Professor Engin Isin, of Queen Mary University of London and University of London Institute in Paris.  Other visiting speakers will be announced.

For information on presentation format and proposal submission, please click here to download our full CfP.