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Our Research

In recent decades, societies the world over have experienced accelerated processes of social and political change, bringing individuals to the centre of political attention, with parties and elites no longer representing the homogenous interest of groups as they once did. Societies integrated through hierarchical organisational structures, core ideologies, and related belief systems were all decried to be the fact of the past. Yet, in Europe and elsewhere, we witness the growing importance cultural identities of core ethnic group are assuming in nation-state politics. Increasingly, political parties, civil society groups and social movements mobilise resident publics around what is often perceived as the interests of domestic majority publics. On the other hand, more and more states choose to provide compactly settled minority groups special opportunities to pursue their group-specific interests, whether in language training, culture-sensitive education, history of their community, and religious practices.

The Centre has three priority development areas:

  • Provide research and teaching on ethnic conflict and divided societies from a  Comparative Politics perspective within the School of Politics and International Studies;

  • Cooperate with research institutions in Ireland, UK, and wider Europe engaged in comparative political research of ethnic conflict and divided societies, allowing for exchange of expertise, research visits and student exchange;

  • Foster exchanges with other research institutions and policymaking bodies across ethnically diverse, deeply divided and post conflict societies that are engaged in comparative politics research of ethnic conflict.

  • Key Objectives

    The School is the leading place in the UK and Ireland for the study of the politics of Northern Ireland, with more staff engaged in research on this question than in any other third-level institution in Ireland or anywhere else. The School also contains on its staff a considerable number of specialists on deeply divided societies and state consolidation after conflict in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. 

    Staff at the Centre has a wide–range of expertise and dynamic research agendas. These all find their place in subject specific modules offered at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, with particular attention being paid to issues of peace building, democratic transition, and post conflict reconciliation, including:

    • securing, and maintaining cease-fires by armed groups;
    • confidence-building measures and problems of public order;
    • obstacles (or perceived obstacles) to political settlement;
    • factors helping (or assumed to help) to promote the environment for political settlements;
    • human and minority rights, rights of migrants, and responsibilities of the state;
    • normative models for political settlements;
    • long-term influences on community relations and intergroup conflict;
    • influence of external factors on peace and stability, especially international organisations.
  • Research Orientation & Expertise

    The Centre reflects the research interests of members of the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy, in relation to the discipline of Comparative Politics and International Relations, and in particular relation to ethnopolitical conflict. The Centre engages in comparative political analyses and works closely with stakeholders to assess how political institutions shape, frame, and change perceptions and preferences in ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse societies.

    The staff at the Centre continuously brings their research expertise and policy advisory experience into teaching, creating informative, dynamic, and engaging curriculum for doctoral, research taught, and undergraduate students. It also encompasses area specialists on Central Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, specialist expertise in security studies, international political economy and international history. 

    The members of staff furnish most of the expertise that goes into supervision of doctoral students working on comparative studies of ethnic conflict, teaching of the School's MA programme “Comparative Ethnic Conflict” and offer series of undergraduate modules on the issue area of ethnic conflict. Additionally, several colleagues are involved with the Institute for Conflict Transformation and Social Justice, and are editors, on the editorial boards of, and contributors to key journals in the fields of comparative politics, ethnic politics, as well as other subject areas.

  • Funding & Prospective Students

    The Centre links together members of staff working on contemporary social and political processes in post conflict and divided societies in a comparative perspective.The focus of Centre's research on the social and political origins of ethnic conflict, policy instruments of conflict prevention, post conflict reconciliation and peace building, and on comparative analyses of intergroup conflicts across the globe is reflected in teaching offered at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. See list of staff members with details of the research interests of the individuals listed.

    The university’s location within a post conflict and divided society and the diverse research interests of staff, are considered to be of benefit to the research and experiences of the many PhD students supervised by the Centre, and also to the postgraduate taught and undergraduate students beginning their studies in this area. The Centre promotes intellectual co-operation among colleagues, students and stakeholders in these fields so as to facilitate joined-up thinking on issues within the subject area. The Centre provides a stimulating environment for the development of academic staff, both in collaborative research, through contacts with other research institutions, and  interaction with our students through teaching and  extracurricular seminars.

     The Centre welcomes expressions of interest from

    • students who seek to pursue their studies at both the MA and PhD levels;
    • students in their doctoral and MA programmes from higher education establishments willing to join our internship programme;
    • researchers from institutions, centres and universities willing to undertake in-residence research at the Centre;
    • researchers from NGOs working on issues of ethnic conflict and politics in deeply divided and/or post conflict societies (particularly Central Eastern European and  EU Eastern Partnership states, post-communist states,  and the Middle East).
Featured Projects
People Diverse Lecture QUB150519-326 800x533
Transforming Divided Societies into Welcoming Community
Funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust

Dr Timofey Agarin (Lead) and Dr Drew Mikhael (Co-Investigator)

Our project is funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust Project and runs from 1 February 2021 – 31 July 2022.

This activity builds on our comprehensive engagement with newcomers in post-conflict power-sharing societies in our past research collaboration. The JRTF grant allows us to collect targeted data in the NI to conduct important capacity building with migrants and policymakers, and produce actionable policy plan to enhance newcomer participation in social and economic life in Northern Ireland.

The NI society is still uncertain about the future constitutional status of the region. In this context, the newcomers are often considered as potentially misbalancing the current status quo. In political environment where parties in government are consumed with the NI’s constitutional status, civil society groups provide a much needed bridge to close the participation gap. Many newcomer NGOs operating in NI are comparably new and in our past projects we have developed strong working relationships with many. Through these working relationships this projects will collate evidence for presentation to local policy makers on the policy updates to improve participation of newcomers in NI. 

The power-sharing logic of Northern Ireland’s governance has not reduced the salience of Unionist and Nationalist identities to ensure the polity is more diverse, nor found meaningful pathways for newcomers to have their voices heard. Newcomers are resultingly not able to enjoy rights and political participation limiting their contribution to society. Instead of finding means to be included on the basis of their own ethnic identities, newcomers are either expected to assimilate into the prevailing ethnic-paradigm or face exclusion and discrimination.

You can read more here about the rationale of the project, project design, and planned impact.

In the spring 2021, jointly with Studyseed we are also offering GCSE Support & Employability Skills as part of our pilot project to help education attainment of Female Newcomer Students

You can follow us on Twitter and contact us at

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Exclusion amid Inclusion: Power-Sharing and Non-Dominan
Funded by the ESRC

Dr Timofey Agarin (Lead), Dr Allison McCulloch (Co-Investigator), Dr Drew Mikhael and Aleksandra Zdeb (Research Fellows). The project was completed in June 2021.

In the search for democratic solutions to global conflicts over the last two decades, one model of post-conflict governance has prevailed. power-sharing, which entails the representation and participation of major societal groups in the process of governing, has facilitated war-to-peace transition in some of the world's most deeply divided places, from Burundi to Lebanon, Kosovo, Macedonia, Northern ireland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Iraq. Yet, while power-sharing has been heralded as a democratic and inclusive approach to managing ethnic difference, it faces a significant trade-off. For the system to stabilise and pacify divided societies, it must marginalise those actors who were not directly involved in the conflict. By making inclusion of the dominant groups in society central to democratic governance, power-sharing excludes other groups who align with alternative identities.

This Economic and Social Research Council project addresses this inherent dilemma in power-sharing of exclusion amid inclusion (EAI). The three year project at Queen’s University Belfast, investigates the institutional bias in power-sharing systems in favour of large groups over “non-dominant minorities” who are not explicitly included in the settlement, such as non-ethnic collectives, women and migrant communities.  This project seeks solutions to this democratic deficit in post-conflict societies. It aims to identify how power-sharing arrangements can be designed to account for the EAI problem and to offer viable recommendations towards its resolution.

You can read more here about the rationale of the project, project design, and planned impact.

The project team includes Dr Timofey Agarin (Lead), Dr Allison McCulloch (Co-investigator), Dr Drew Mikhael and Dr Aleksandra Zdeb (Research Fellows).

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Previous Projects
Civil Conflict in Post-Conflict Societies
Funded by the Department for the Economy

Dr Timofey Agarin (Lead), Dr Aleksandra Zdeb and Dr Drew Mikhael.

Our project is funded by the Department for the Economy - Global Challenge Research Fund and runs from 1 June 2019-31 March 2020. We investigate project the Role of Civil Society in Governance of Post-conflict Societies and seek to understand whether, as widely believed, international support for the NGOs "helps people help themselves", or not.  

Consociationalism, and broader, power-sharing, as a theory of conflict management that advocates inclusion and representation of groups through formal political institutions, has been built around the idea of elite-driven decision-making mechanisms. In consequence, there is little focus in the theory on civil society, despite the fact that it has often been seen as prerequisite for stability and good governance. Civil society is viewed as a natural barrier to excessive concentration of power and the abuse of political office - qualities common in power-sharing places. Our collaborative pilot project is focused on civil society impact on good governance in post-conflict, divided societies - it examines the relation between power-sharing governments and civil society organisations (CSOs) delivering effective governance at the local level.

In our analysis, we build on our past work in Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Lebanon and Northern Ireland, and consider two cases comparatively, Burundi and Kosovo, countries emerging from a violent conflict and rebuilding their governance structures with international help. As a result of the project will create a dataset suitable for the QCA analysis on the correlation between presence and influence of CSOs on governance – “good” or “good enough” depending on the situation in the post-conflict settings. Our second objective is to consolidate a network of practitioners, researchers and policymakers from diverse countries to exchange experience of delivering, overseeing and improving governance in post-conflict societies. In order to do that, we build on existing working relationships with partners, created through the ESRC-funded EAI project (which focuses on Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Norther Macedonia and Lebanon), see here.

Project team includes Dr Timofey Agarin (Lead), Dr Aleksandra Zdeb and Dr Drew Mikhael.

You can follow us on Twitter and contact us at

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Communicating Europe through Learning and Teaching
Professor Lee McGowan, Jean Monnet Chair, 2016-2019

In August 2016 I was awarded by the European CommissIon (as part of the ERASMUS+ programme) a prestigious Jean Monnet Chair in European Integration.

This Chair award – and the first at Queen’s University Belfast since the early 2000’s -  followed a successful application on a proposal that sought to communicate Europe and is designed to develop, deliver and expand teaching and research on the European Union at Queen’s University Belfast as well as using the Jean Monnet chair to communicate Europe to wider civil society. I am honoured to hold this award as it illustrates my knowledge and expertise in the EU (built up from the early 1990s).

In August 2016 I was awarded by the European CommissIon (as part of the ERASMUS+ programme) a prestigious Jean Monnet Chair in European Integration. This Chair award – and the first at Queen’s University Belfast since the early 2000’s -  followed a successful application on a proposal that sought to communicate Europe and is designed to develop, deliver and expand teaching and research on the European Union at Queen’s University Belfast as well as using the Jean Monnet chair to communicate Europe to wider civil society. I am honoured to hold this award as it illustrates my knowledge and expertise in the EU (built up from the early 1990s).

I received the award two months after the UK public voted to leave the European Union. This vote has turned out to be a real game changer. Suddenly (and for me unexpectedly) Brexit has become the dominant theme of my activities and is now expected to take up the teaching, research and communication activities of the three years of the Jean Monnet chair ahead. However, in a different way and manner than originally anticipated. All this work continues beyond 2019. The UK is still a part of Europe and there are still many more questions ahead. I will continue to jeep teaching, researching and communicating Europe.

Major Research Publications, 2016-19

Lee McGowan – Preparing for Brexit: Actors Negotiations and Consequences, Palgrave Pivot, 2018

Lee McGowan and David Phinnemore. ‘The UK: Membership in Crisis’ in The European Union in Crisis, edited by Desmond Dinan, Neill Nugent and William, E. Paterson, Palgrave.

An EPC discussion paper (April 2017) ‘Northern Ireland and Brexit: The European Economic Area Option by Brian Doherty, John Temple Lang, Christopher McCrudden, Lee McGowan, David Phinnemore and Dagmar Schiek has been widely cited

For all the latest on EU personalities, developments and policies see the latest edition of the Dictionary of the European Union. 

A new book on the UK and the European Union will be published by Palgrave in 2021. Please keep looking at my more expansive profile which can be found here.

You can read more the Jean Monnet Chair's contributions here.


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Minority Participation and Representation
EURAC Research Project

Dr Timofey Agarin's project supported by the International Researcher Mobility Scheme of the Autonomous Province Bolzano – Südtirol for Research Collaboration with the Eurac Research, Bolzano (September 2019-December 2020). The project focusses on political participation and representation of minorities in nationally constituted societies, one of the most important challenges for contemporary politics. 

Both internationally and in the individual European states, societies are bound to be identified with a nation-state positing considerable challenge for multiple diversity governance (Marko 2019). The normalization of the privileged status of the majority population; ethnic citizenship regimes; consolidation of societies around culturally defined democratic institutions all out minorities in a less advantageous position when engaging with and contributing to formal political process. At the centre of this challenge stand the nation-state consolidation and the consequences it has on the participation and representation of the members of four Europe’s divided nations in Northern Ireland, South Tyrol, South Schleswig and Polish-speakers in Lithuania. My project is designed as a comparative study of mid-range temporal order: it is delimited by the time of the EU’s Eastern enlargement in 2004 and considers contemporary process closely. The project will offer insights about the constraints on minority participation and representation that result from taking for granted that societies are not bound to national states, in Europe and beyond. As such, I make a significant contribution to the evidence-based policy-making at regional, national and international levels, and will stimulate a critical discussion on the inclusion and mobilization of all citizens affected by the policy-making processes. Crucially, this project will strengthen the continuous cooperation between the leading research institutions in Northern Ireland and South Tyrol.

This research project builds on the research expertise of the applicant and extends his scholarship to the policy world; it will contribute to and promote quantitative excellence of HAPP based researcher in the European and global contexts as a result of participation in a range of international research conferences. The project will result in at least three publications in journals such as Nations & Nationalism, West European Politics, and Comparative Politics or similar. The funding available has allocated additional premium to ensure golden access to two of these publications ensuring ever wider academic takeup on the findings

The main part of research activity takes place during the time of researcher’s sabbatical at Queen’s (January-August 2020) and the time will be used to prepare impact case study for the upcoming REF. In so doing, I will be developing on the expertise from the past research activity funding by the ESRC (“” 2017-2020). Also, the focus on political participation and representation will consolidate the findings of the  (2019-2020) investigating the role of civil society in good governance of post-conflict countries. Building upon this researcher’s past work in Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, Burundi, Kosovo and Baltic States comparatively, ‘Minority Participation and Representation in National Societies’ moves beyond studying political process in countries emerging from a violent conflict to those that have enjoyed considerable interethnic peace over the past decades.

Conjoint expertise from these past projects and close collaboration with Eurac-based researchers will feed into policy advising activities both in the regions covered in the project and at the level of international organisations (EU, CoE, OSCE). The proposed research addresses a significant real-world problem – ensuring representation of all segments of ethnically diverse societies via electoral mechanisms– that informs national and international policy on minority rights regimes and democratisation; all of which feature of the UN Development Goals list. Absence of minority issues from electoral politics is additionally reflected in Northern Ireland politics, affecting broader societal categories (e.g. immigrants, religious groups, socially marginalised, gender minorities, women), challenging the stability and particularly affecting quality of democracy in the region of researcher’s home institution.

This study will demonstrate how minority participation and representation positively impacts on quality of democratic inclusion and will add significantly to research environment in QUB on the issue and consolidate personal research connection between the researcher and the staff at the host institution, and will develop institutional links between QUB and Eurac to maintain close research collaboration beyond the lifetime of the project. Importantly, the project will strengthens the expertise and research profile of the home and host institutions (Centre for the Study of Ethnic Conflict, School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy & Politics, Queen's University Belfast and Eurac Research) in areas of minority rights, cross-border cooperation and democratic consolidation of ethnically heterogeneous societies.

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Still D04
Greek-Turkish Negotiations and Crises 1983-2003
British Academy Project

This dataset is under construction. The project is funded by British Academy grant R1856PAI - SG - 47278. For policy papers and further information please contact Dr. Neophytos Loizides at

Further information on this project can be found here

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Still E05
Referendums in Peace Processes
QUB Project

 To what extent are referendums useful in resolving intractable conflict and bringing peace? If Israelis and Palestinians or Sinhalese and Tamils reach a peace settlement in their decades-old conflicts, would a referendum be useful in ratifying a negotiated agreement and, if so, how should it be designed, monitored and implemented?

To better understand these questions, this project proposes the first worldwide collection of data on referendums in peace processes aiming to identify the conditions under which referendums enable or impede negotiated agreements. Currently the project's website includes a pilot description of seven major case studies aiming to help guide future data collection on the topic. The project’s website will expand to allow users to identify a country of interest and access detailed narratives on the background of each conflict and the conditions leading to referendums or alternative ratification processes (or their absence). It will include data on the design, scope and timing of each referendum, the wording of specific referendum question(s) and data on violence including levels, nature and duration of violent incidents before and after (non)referendums. It will also cover important disputes over territorial boundaries, issues of transitional justice (e.g. amnesty for rebels) and eligibility to vote for certain groups (e.g. recent settlers/migrants). Moreover, the dataset will provide detailed analysis of key actors in referendum campaigns and their main arguments as well as positive or negative media and civil society input and final outcomes along with links to relevant surveys.

Further information on this project can be found here.

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