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Biodiversity and Environmental Justice






Democratic Representation








Historical Imaginings

NEW RESEARCH on Biodiversity; on Representation; on Emancipation

Members of the Centre for Political Thought are involved in three new research projects on the following topics:

  • “Renewing biodiversity through a people-in-nature approach” funded by NERC.
  • “The Representative Disconnect: diagnosis and strategies for rectification” funded by Horizon and UKRI.
  • “Imagining Emancipation: Projects for Abolishing Slavery in the History of Political Thought, 1750-1888”, funded by the University Euro Network Fund.


Renewing biodiversity through a people-in-nature approach (RENEW)

RENEW is a five-year partnership programme to develop solutions to one of the major environmental challenges for humankind: the renewal of biodiversity. It is funded by NERC at £10m (£12.5m fec). The National Trust is a partner on the project, which also involves 33 external partners from multiple sectors. These include Natural England, HSBC, the Poetry Society, the Wildlife Trusts, the NFU, NatureScot, Amazon, and many more.

Professor Catriona McKinnon is one of the Exeter co-directors along with Professor Kevin Gaston (a conservation biologist). She also leads the Community Action theme.


The Representative Disconnect: diagnosis and strategies for rectification (REDIRECT)

REDIRECT is a four-year research project funded (€3 millions) by the Horizon Programme (and UKRI for the Exeter participation). It aims is to enhance our understanding of the current transformations of representative democracy in Europe at national and supranational level, assessing whether the centre of gravity of democratic representation is shifting away from the traditional forms of political intermediation, such as parties, parliaments, and party-based government, towards other forms of political representation. Its focus is on the representative disconnect, a multidimensional phenomenon of regression of the demos-kratos linkage involving institutional, behavioural and affective components, which risks undermining the trust in and legitimacy of the overall system of democratic representation. The two main questions REDIRECT addresses are: a) what are the nature, scope, aspects and causes of the representative disconnect; and b) how can the current representative disconnect be addressed, ameliorated, and/or rectified? The Exeter team comprises Dario Castiglione, Lise Herman, Oliver James, Alice Moseley, and Andrew Schaap. Dario and Andy will work on the more theoretical aspects of the project, while Lise, Oliver and Alice will study the role that Citizens’ Assemblies can play in the changing ecology of political representation. The project comprises seven international partners, from Italy, Belgium, Hungary, Norway, Poland, and the UK.

Imagining Emancipation: Projects for Abolishing Slavery in the History of Political Thought, 1750-1888 

This is an interdisciplinary study examining how 18th and 19th century political thinkers imagined the process of emancipating enslaved peoples in the British, Spanish, French, Dutch, Danish, and Portuguese empires. The project will focus on intellectuals in the broad sense of the term, ranging from philosophers to governors, administrators, and formally enslaved abolitionists such as Quobna Ottobah Cugoano and Toussaint Louverture. We will study how these thinkers grappled with a basic problem: How could emancipation produce a genuine Black freedom rather than a continuation of racialised domination in a new guise? The study will take a global approach, focusing on similarities, differences, and mutual influences when it came to imagining emancipation across the Atlantic world. The project will contribute significantly to the study of 18th and 19th century thinking about slavery and abolition. But it will also have contemporary relevance. First, it can inform debate among contemporary political philosophers over the practical conditions for freedom. Second, the project will also speak to contemporary anti-slavery activists and organisations working to secure a safe transition to life after enslavement for victims of human trafficking, sex slavery, and other forms of modern servitude. The project will also provide valuable resources for public pedagogy on our Imagining Emancipation website which will provide the first searchable database of emancipation projects from across the Atlantic world.  The project is based on the collaboration between Ross Carroll, here at Exeter, and Nicolai von Eggers Mariegaard, an intellectual historian at the University of Copenhagen.


Date: 13 December 2022