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Political scientists lead post 15 March conversations

Christchurch’s political science experts are leading conversations about terrorism, refugees and inclusive societies in the context of a community forever changed by the terrorist attack on two city Mosques on 15 March.

The University of Canterbury’s (UC) Political Science and International Relations department will host over 100 visitors from around the country and overseas for the New Zealand Political Science Association (NZPSA) Conference on the 27 to 29 November.

The conference themes of “community, security, humanity” will explore the possibilities of inclusive politics in this country and in the wider world, minority representation, the role of the media in politics, and the hotly contested politics of free speech and hate speech.

“This conference, which is the biggest annual gathering of politics scholars in New Zealand, offers us an opportunity to reflect on what we’ve learned and what we still need to learn following the March 15 attack,” conference chair and Senior Lecturer of Political Science and International Relations Dr Jeremy Moses says.

“We can no longer pretend New Zealand exists in a bubble, separate from the violent politics of the rest of the world. And this is not just about political scientists solving the problems of the world; it’s also about reflecting on our own assumptions about politics that form our research and teaching. We all need to talk about what needs to change and what our responsibilities are in creating healthier, more sustainable politics in New Zealand and beyond, and conferences like this are the ideal place to start those conversations.”

Featured conference speakers include Christchurch City Council Mayor Lianne Dalziel;Lead coordinator of the Women’s Organisation of the Waikato Muslim Association Allyn "Aliya" Danzeisen; Imam of Al Noor Mosque Gamal Fouda; Head of the School of Political Science and International Studies and Professor of Politics and Public Policy at the University of Queensland Katharine Gelber; Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman; and Director of the Ngāi Tahu Research Centre at UC Associate Professor Te Maire Tau.

The Political Science and International Relations department also supported Kurdish film-maker, writer and refugee Behrouz Boochani’s visit to Christchurch to discuss his book No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison on 29 November, in collaboration with UC’s Media Journalism and Communication department, the WORD Festival, Amnesty International, the UNCHR, All Right? and Great Scott.

In this environment, it is also necessary to come to terms with Australia’s hostile and divisive treatment of refugees over the past 20 years, Dr Moses says.

“Australia’s offshore detention policy is nothing new – it has been in place since 2001 and is unfortunately seen as a template to follow by other countries in the European Union and the United States. Anti-refugee sentiment has been the defining force in Australian politics for two decades and myths about being ‘flooded by refugees’ persist. This is despite the fact that globally, 80% of refugees are in countries neighboring their own.”

“We see echoes of this in New Zealand politics, media and social media – so we are definitely not immune to such attitudes here. While successive Australian Governments have a lot to answer for, we also have to look at the persistence of racist, anti-refugee sentiment and attitudes in Christchurch and New Zealand. This is not something we can afford to sweep under the rug.”

Read more: The #NZPSA2019 Annual Conference programme and themes.

NZPSA 2019 Conference: Community, Security, Humanity

On the afternoon of 15 March, 2019, a gunman attacked two Mosques in Christchurch, killing 51 innocent civilians and wounding many more. The reverberations from this horrific act of terrorism have overturned many assumptions about New Zealand politics and society, generating vital debates about the nature of our community, the ways we think about security, and our broader sense of humanity.

NZPSA 2019 presents an opportunity to consider how this violent rupture impacts on and transforms our way of thinking about politics locally and globally. These themes emphasise both differences and commonalities; the recognition that each community is composed of many different communities, all sharing the common expectation of a reasonable degree of security and dignity.

Submissions and speakers were invited from all areas of comparative politics, political theory, international relations, media and politics, and New Zealand politics.

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