GPU in Conversation

  • AESTHETICS AND RESEARCH IN INTERNATIONAL POLITICS – Holly Eva Ryan’s Lines: Making Friends; Crossing Borders

    This post is part of the two-part special series of GPU’s podcast, “Aesthetics and Research in International Politics”, which examines non-conventional IR research methods.

    In the first part of GPU’s Aesthetics and Research in International Politics, we explored through James Eastwood’s exhibition Cradles how aesthetics could prompt emotions and reflection about the phenomenon of child removal and disappearance in the world. In this second part, GPU takes you on a journey across frontiers through twinning with Dr. Holly Ryan’s exhibition Lines: Making Friends; Crossing Borders, displayed in February 2023 at Queen Mary University of London.

    Entering the exhibition space, one could see some imposing posters with juxtapositions of black and white lines hanging heavily on the graphite walls of Arts One’s Bloc room. Despite the prison-like feeling conveyed by the starkness of the space and the narratives of inequalities perspiring through some of the art pieces on the walls, Holly also showed how twinning emboldens global solidarities and disrupts international borders.

    Display in Arts One’s Bloc Room. Image Courtesy: Holly Evan Ryan

    Holly sat with Keren Weitzberg and Sarah Wong, her gallery assistant and Ph.D. student from LSE who focuses on the intersection of international politics and visual culture, to discuss her artistic process and the aesthetic turn in International Relations with GPU.

    Denver-Nairobi twinning. Image courtesy: Holly Evan Ryan
    Leicester-Masaya twinning. Image courtesy: Holly Evan Ryan

    No matter how fine-grained, precise, and peer-reviewed an academic research paper can be, it will never really reach its goal if it does not cater to the right audience. Art, like in Holly Ryan’s Lines, or aesthetics, as we’ve seen through James Eastwood’s Cradles, are excellent means to propel important political messages in the public sphere.

    Moreover, the beauty of exhibitions resides in the fact that they are unrestricted spaces allowing the collaboration between quote-unquote “creators” – artists – and researchers, for whom the creative environment can be transformed into powerful research channels, ultimately establishing a fertile ground for the birth of powerful creations.

    At last, in Holly’s words, you do not necessarily need to be an artist if you want your audience to feel an emotion about your message or be an academic researcher to legitimate the seriousness of it. The power of art, aesthetics, or simply showing something, is that people will feel and talk – positively or negatively – about what you want to put in the world once they encounter it.

    Théa Rakotondrajao

  • AESTHETICS AND RESEARCH IN INTERNATIONAL POLITICS – James Eastwood’s Empty Cradles: Israel’s Disappeared Children

    This post is part of the two-part special series of GPU’s podcast, “Aesthetics and Research in International Politics”, which examines non-conventional IR research methods.

    In September 2022, I had the chance to visit Dr. James Eastwood’s Empty Cradles: Israel’s Disappeared Children exhibition at SOAS Brunei Gallery. Centered on the testimonies of families whose children were forcibly removed in the 40s and 50s in Israel, the exhibition’s archival, photographic, and monumental translation work shed light on the political, colonial, and racial dimensions at the heart of a controversy still boiling in Israel today.

    Entrance of the gallery. Image courtesy: James Eastwood

    Why would a scholar dissect complex subjects, such as imperialism or racism, through an exhibition and not a traditional academic paper? It’s pretty simple. No words or arguments could have summed up the pain I felt through the pictures and the sense of discomfort conveyed by the injustice implicit in the testimonies. Most importantly, No paper could have made me want to do more justice to these families than to hear their voices in their original language, Hebrew, echoing in the gallery.

    Testimonies and their translation from Hebrew to English. Image courtesy: James Eastwood

    Following my visit, I met James’ collaborators on the exhibition: Tom Pessah and Maayan Nahari, two activists working with AMRAM, the association seeking to reunite the missing children with their families together; Joanne Rosenthal, freelance curator, and museum consultant; and Raz Weiner, a post-doctoral researcher in the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning at the Technion University, who helped James with the archival work between the UK and Israel.

    Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words. With this exhibition, James was able to combine theoretical and archival material in a way that convinced the audience to seek justice for these families. In addition to this, the exhibition space provided those who were affected with means to express themselves indirectly – via James’s work – and directly.

    Archival tapes of families’ testimonies. Image courtesy: James Eastwood

    If you are interested in learning more, or if you believe that you might be able to help the families, you can find all information related to the Yemenite, Mizrahi, and Balkan children’s Affair on AMRAM’s website: (

    Théa Rakotondrajao

  • IN CONVERSATION: “On Stuckness”

    For its first “In Conversation” event on 23 January 2023, GPU discussed the meaning of “stuckness” with Olivia Umurerwra Rutazibwa, Laleh Khalili, and Razan Ghazzawi. The conversation revolved around its various political (carcerality, migration, the covid-19 pandemic) and academic implications.

    Speakers :

    Dr. Olivia Umurerwa Rutazibwa, Assistant Professor of Human Rights and Politics, Department of Sociology, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

    Professor Laleh Khalili, Professor of International Politics, School of Politics and International Relations, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL)

    Razan Ghazzawi, Associate Tutor, Media, Arts and Humanities, Gender Studies, University of Sussex