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Fieldwork on EU diplomats nets prize for UCPH politics researcher

Award-winning University of Copenhagen researcher Rebecca Adler-Nielsen's work centres on the actual practice of people who negotiate on the world stage

Rebecca Adler-Nissen has just won the Nils Klim Prize to the tidy sum of NOK 250,000.

Now the University Post asked by e-mail if she had any tips and tricks for aspiring scholars, and to tell us a bit about what research she is involved in. She is in Sydney, Australia at the time of writing,

The Nils Klim Prize is aimed at promising, young scholars and Associate Professor Rebecca Adler-Nissen fits all the criteria. Alongside multiple books, various awards, and numerous other publications and speeches, she has managed to become an Associate Professor at the University of Copenhagen and act as a visiting scholar to McGill University in Montreal and the University of Sydney.

Much of her research revolves around the European Union, international relations and diplomacy and she hopes that her research contributions can help create more peaceful international relations .

Tell us a bit about your research!
“My research primarily revolves around international political sociology, European integration, sovereignty and diplomacy. I am currently involved in research projects on images in international security, status and stigma. I have been working across disciplines with colleagues from Law, Economics, Sociology and the Humanities, which is both challenging and highly rewarding.”

“I identify to a large degree with what has been called ‘the practice turn’ in International Relations. It zooms in on the everyday activities of those that actually produce world politics: diplomats, bankers, refugees, students, militaries and drug cartel members… and from there search for patterns and more general accounts of international relations.”

Fieldwork on diplomacy

The specific works or topics that helped Rebecca Adler-Nissen receive the award is best explained by a passage from the Nils Klim Prize Committee.

“Rebecca Adler-Nissen has renewed the discipline of International Relations by integrating into this predominantly a-sociological field, insights from the sociologists Erving Goffman (‘Stigma management in International Relations’, International Organization 68/4 from 2014) and Pierre Bourdieu (Bourdieu in International Relations, a book edited in 2012). ”

“Furthermore, she is original in the way she combines anthropological field work methods and interviews in the study of diplomats living and working inside the European system with comprehensive analysis of their political negotiations. She is among the key drivers of the so-called practice turn in the study of International Relations.”

Have you received any other awards recently?
“Yes, last year I received the Swedish Political Science Association IR section’s Rising Star Award and lecturer of the year. In February 2015, my book Opting Out of the European Union was the co-winner of the International Political Sociology’s section best book award, which was presented at the International Studies Association in New Orleans.”

Good people around you, focus, and stamina

The award is for promising scholars under the age of 35. How have you managed to be successful at such a young age? Any tips for our students?

“First of all, I don’t think you can achieve much in research—and life in general—without the help of people around you. I have been very fortunate in this respect. I have many colleagues and friends to thank both within my own Department and at the University of Copenhagen, but also former colleagues outside university, my wonderful family and friends around the world who have inspired, supported and encouraged me. ”

“Second, you need to focus on an important topic; something that drives you and keeps you up at night, otherwise it will never be engaging for you—or for anyone else. ”

“Last, I think that good-old hard work and stamina is useful. There will always be ups and downs in research processes and the key is to not give up – not even when things seem dark, difficult or just terribly dreary.”

Twitter negotiating

Danes are likely to hold a referendum on one their opt-outs of EU policy, namely Justice and Home Affairs.

Any future research aspirations at this point that you haven’t been able to address? Any new ideas now that Danes may no longer have an opt-out in Justice and Home Affairs soon?

“Well, the Danish opt-outs are not going to go away in the foreseeable future. The future referendum on the opt-in possibility will still keep Denmark out of most EU asylum, migration policies and a substantial aspect of civil and justice affairs, so I guess I won’t run out of work in the short to medium time.”

“On a more serious note: I am currently involved in a number of research projects, which explore the relationship between images and international relations, confidential diplomacy and public display. Today, most foreign ministers are on Twitter and react to a 24/7 media coverage and simultaneously they are engaged in complex, long negotiations on Greece’s future in the Eurozone or how to handle Russia and the Ukraine crisis. Yet, we know very little on how this increased publicity affects diplomacy and international relations. It is methodologically challenging, but we critically need systematic research of these processes if we are to understand world politics in the 21st century.”

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