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Graduate Student Conference

The PhD students present their research proposal at the end of their second semester (October). The public presentation is called Graduate Student Conference (GSC).
The presentation (partly) determines admission to their second year of the Programme. Students are asked to prepare a written proposal (6000-8000 words plus references) and a 15-20 minute presentation: both the proposal and its presentation are part of the evaluation.
The next Graduate Student Conference (PhD students of the 36th cohort) will be held on 18 October 2022, Room 001, Palazzo Prodi.

Evaluation Committee​: 

  • Stefano BENATI - chair;

  • Emanuele Massetti;

  • Umberto TULLI.


14:00 - 14:30 

PhD student: Munqeth OTHMAN AGHA
Supervisor: Anna CASAGLIA
Title: Urban Basis of Political Division in Syria From Dual Cities to Divided Cities

Abstract: Abstract: During the Syrian uprising in 2011, most of the communities were divided politically. Still, after the uprising descended into an armed conflict, division lines have taken a territorial shape, but simultaneously drawn upon other historical divisions including socio-economic, urban, and ethno-sectarian. This research aims to grasp the spatial component of the transformation from a social movement to a civil conflict across different urban settings. It will specifically answer the question of how place-specific characteristics (urban and demographic) shaped the political affiliations of its inhabitants, or, in other words, determined the ability of each neighbourhood to mobilise, sustain mobilisation, and then transfer that into territorial control.
The Site-Event Nexus will be employed to answer this question, involving a three-step model: examining the site (neighbourhoods), the event (protests), and then the interaction between them. The main argument of the research is that each stage of the interaction between the action and the space has different effects across neighbourhoods, including or excluding new neighbourhoods from the movement according to the compatibility of their place-specific characteristics with the dynamics of the current stage.
The research will apply an explaining-outcome case-centric process tracing model to trace the complex conglomeration of theorised and non-systemic mechanisms that provide a sufficient explanation for the outcomes of each stage of the event. The relationship between the dependent variables derived from the causal mechanisms and three independent variables (mobilisation, resistance and control) will be measured by logistic regression.

14:30 – 15:00 

PhD student: Laura Chiara CECCHI    
Supervisors: Sara LORENZINI
Title: Renewing Eurafrica. Euro-African relations between enlargements and Cold War, 1969-1989

Abstract: According to most common narratives in European integration historiography, the
European integration project was driven by two overarching concerns: securing peace among European states and creating a West European bulwark against the Soviet menace. Recently, an emergent body of literature has shown that a third, powerful driver of European integration was the desire to perpetuate colonial ties with Africa. In an attempt to expand this
historiographical perspective to the more mature years of the European Economic Community, we aim to reconstruct Euro-African relations from 1969 to 1989, investigating the persistence of colonial forma mentis and modus operandi in the European approach to African newly-independent states.
In order to do so, the inception and evolution of the Lomé Conventions – the agreements that would regulate Euro-African relations from 1975 onwards – are considered in relation to the Community institutional level, Member States’ interactional arena, and their position in the international system. The African states’ perspective is taken into consideration as well, so as to reconstruct their agency in the negotiation processes that shaped the Lomé Conventions.
Given the multipolar nature of the subject, sources are drawn from a variety of archives. The Historical Archives of the European Union in Florence are extensively consulted. In light of Paris’ centrality in shaping the European approach to Africa since 1957, we consider French national archives as well. British national archives provide sources that let us investigate how the other major colonial power affected Euro-African relations from 1973 onwards. Finally, we consult Senegalese and Ghanaian national archives in order to reconstruct the composition of Francophone and Anglophone African positions. By bringing together such diverse sources and approaching them through an original theoretical framework, this reconstruction of Euro-African relations could provide a new understanding of European integration history and European external relations.

15:00 - 15:30 

PhD student: Valeria FAPPANI
Supervisor: Luisa ANTONIOLLI
Title: Evaluating the Business and Human Rights frameworks of the EU and China: Comparative legal perspectives in a geopolitical framework

Abstract: The EU and China have been considered partners and collaborators as well as rivals. The impact of all these concepts has changed throughout the years. Although their trade relation still remains strong, both regions have some constraints on trade in terms of values to be shared abroad. For the EU, trade is also a channel to foster human rights. While the preferential channel for this fostering human rights was traditionally a series of institutionalised dialogues, business can also be considered an area affected by human rights. 
Business and human rights are an area of significant regulatory developments, both at the international and local levels. The regions have important differences in this area: the EU relies on due diligence to impose appropriate behaviours on firms; China relies on a mandatory form of Corporate Social Responsibility (qiye shehui zeren) to push businesses to contribute to social progress. These two frameworks conceive the important role of human rights in the field of business in dramatically different manners, the different elements that constitute them must be investigated, focusing on their structural and functional differences. The main aim of this research will be to test the two different approaches in a comparative legal manner, to check whether these two frameworks can contribute to their strategy on human rights and try to respond to the question “Which role do business due diligence and corporate social responsibility play in the EU, in China, and in their relations?”

15:30 - 16:00

PhD student: Elif Cemre BEŞGÜR 
Supervisors: Arlo POLETTI, Andrea FRACASSO
Title: Understanding the Determinants of Investment Screening Mechanisms

Abstract: Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is traditionally perceived as an indicator of competitiveness and opportunity for the recipient country regarding growth. However, this positive view has been challenged by the increasing volume of inward FDI from non-OECD countries in strategic sectors of the European Union (EU). Thus, it can result in a loss of critical infrastructure and its impact on specific sectors such as health, and transportation, elements which have sharpened member states’ focus on FDI on the grounds of national security and public order. To address these concerns, the EU has adopted the FDI Screening Regulation (2019/452) to enhance cooperation among the member states to identify and assess risks deriving from FDI. However, the Regulation presents a loose cooperation framework that the member states could agree on. There is abundant room to analyse the determinants of member states’ national preferences for FDI screening mechanisms. This research examines the variation in the design of FDI screening mechanisms across the EU member states by considering two main dimensions: legal sectoral scope and threshold. It will analyse the conditions under which member states decide to adopt a broad/specific legal sectoral scope or high/low threshold. It will articulate the different combinations of threshold and legal sectoral scope by conducting four different case studies: Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Finland. This analysis will provide a richer understanding of how investment screening regimes fit into the broader picture rather than basic national security concerns. 

16:00 - 16:30

PhD student: Ayaz RZAYEV
Supervisor: Paolo ROSA
Title: In the Shadow of the Bear: Alignment Dynamics of Former Soviet States

Abstract: The sudden collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 resulted in to the emergence of  fifteen independent states. Having achieved their independence, these small states were confronted with the challenges of being autonomous political actors in the international system. Critical among these challenges was the quest for security. Threatened by the conditions of anarchy and having limited internal resources to confront emerging threats to their sovereignty, former Soviet republics had to rely on others in order to ensure their own survival. Although these newly independent states had similar launching positions, they chose divergent paths in terms of strategic alignment. On one hand, some states like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Belarus, Armenia have opted for strategic alignment with their former imperial center and joined the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). On the other hand, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania started developing closer political, economic, and military ties with Europe and the United States, eventually joining NATO and the EU. While applicable to a degree, current theories of balancing and bandwagoning alliances do not adequately explain the wide range of alignment outcomes in the post-Soviet space. The alignment choices of former Soviet states still remain a theoretical puzzle that needs to be solved. This research aims to tackle the theory-driven challenge of alignment behavior of former Soviet states by focusing on the following question: what explains the diversity of alignment outcomes in the post-Soviet space? The research project has two interrelated objectives. First, there has yet to be a study that gathers all major arguments of balancing and bandwagoning theories under one roof to be empirically tested. The aim of this research project is to test traditional theoretical explanations of balancing and bandwagoning empirically to find out under what conditions small states will balance or bandwagon. The second objective is to present an alternative theoretical model for explaining alignment patterns of small states and then test that theoretical model against empirical behavior of former Soviet States. It aims to advance cumulative knowledge on alignment outcomes and assist academics and practitioners alike by improving their understanding of small states’ alignment patterns.

16:30 - 17:00

PhD student: Raffaele VENTURA
Supervisors: Paolo ROSA
Title: The depletion of renewable natural resources and its effect on interstate disputes: the case of Africa

Abstract: The depletion of renewable natural resources and its effect on
interstate disputes: the case of Africa This research aims at contributing to a broader understanding of the relationship between environmental and climate threats and their impact on interstate interactions. I want to demonstrate how transboundary renewable resources have been affecting interstate relations in a period of increased climate and environmental changes. This project seeks to provide a comprehensive picture of how threats resulting from natural resource variation are addressed by African states. Based on the proposed methodology, it will be possible to determine whether the depletion of one type of renewable natural resource will increase the likelihood of disputes.
According to the IPCC Sub-Saharan Africa is the area of the world most vulnerable to climate change and has experienced an increase in intense competition for natural resources in the last decades. Economic and political instability, demographic growth, and climate change have been shaping African internal and external security agendas. However, the scholarship on the environment and conflict nexus is contested, especially regarding the security implications of the depletion of renewable natural resources. The project will consist of two parts. The first one will try to understand the correlation between different types of renewable natural resources and the levels of cooperation and conflict, using ordinal regression models, time series, and spatial econometrics. In this phase, I will try to integrate models borrowed from natural sciences, population ecology, hydrology, and forestry sciences. The second part will attempt to test the results of the statistical analysis in the cases of South Africa and Botswana. Process tracing will be used to comprehend the decision-making processes that led to cooperation or conflict in these two countries. The processes that causally link environmental degradation and the political decisions on interstate conflict or cooperation will be meticulously addressed. The main hypothesis of the project is that cooperation will be more likely than conflict if the resource remains renewable. Conversely, once a resource ceases to be renewable, its depletion will lead to greater levels of interstate disputes. In conclusion, by incorporating natural science theories in the study of the impacts of environmental degradation on international politics, this project will contribute to the environmental-conflict nexus scholarship.

The next Graduate Student Conference will take place in October 2023.

The previous conference was held on 12 October 2021.



PhD Programme in International Studies, School of International Studies

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