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MA Thesis Culture and Politics


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA International Relations, track Culture an Politics, and completion of the course Thesis Seminar and Methods in International Relations Research.


A thesis is an academic essay, written by the student in consultation with a supervisor. The thesis must show that the student is capable of analyzing existing literature in a critical manner, and of conducting independent research. Moreover, this process must be recorded in an academically sound report.

Generally speaking, students are encouraged to select the topic of their thesis themselves, based on a Master’s course that they followed. In most cases, the first supervisor of the thesis will be the lecturer responsible for the Master’s course which inspired the thesis. In case of doubt, students can always consult other supervisors within the Humanities Faculty.

During the first semester, students will complete the 5 EC course Thesis Seminar and Methods in International Relations Research in which they will choose a topic for their thesis, formulate a research question, and submit a research proposal and literature review. Students who have not fulfilled the requirements of this course or have not received the approval of the Examinations Committee will not have their MA thesis supervised.

Course objectives

Completion of a 15,000 word thesis based on original and independent research.

Thesis supervision

The following list provides an indication of some of the available thesis supervisors in the MAIR programme. The decision regarding the supervisor is determined within each specialization and subject to the approval of the Board of Examiners. Students may not be able to work with their preferred supervisor and may be assigned a supervisor who is not currently listed here.

Dr. L. Black is ready to supervise students who wish to work on issues related to nation-branding and soft power in Japan’s international relations, as well as the politics of cultural memory in Sino-Japan relations. M.S. Berger supervises students working on Political Islam, as well as Islam and international organizations.

Dr Sara Brandellero specializes in the cultures of the Portuguese-speaking world, with a special focus on Brazil. Her interests lie mainly in literature and visual cultures; urban spaces; migration; the urban night and night-time cultures. She welcomes thesis proposals on topics related to Brazil and cultural connections in Latin American context, or the Portuguese-speaking world.

Dr. M Crandol is a scholar of Japanese film able to supervise students interested in issues relating to East Asian popular media – especially film, television, and animation. He is particularly interested in projects that examine genre in a transnational context and/or the interrelations between Hollywood and East Asian cinemas.

Prof.dr. M. van Crevel is ready to supervise MA projects on the interfaces of modern Chinese cultural production with history, politics, and society.

Dr. Markus Davidsen researches non-institutional religion, new religions and religion education. In the context of the MA International Relations he can supervise empirical projects on how interstate actors (e.g., UN, Council of Europe) seek to influence policies on new religions and religion education, for example in relation to safeguarding human rights.

Dr. Andrea Giolai is looking forward to supervising students who wish to work on 1) music, sound, and protest in East Asia; 2) international organizations and intangible heritage in Asia; 3) artistic reactions to environmental crises; 4) the music industry and the transnational circulation of music.

Dr. Marika Keblusek is an early modernist, specialising in cultural history and in particular the history and theory of collections. She teaches on topics related to (the politics of) cultural heritage, involving current debates on colonial legacies and the handling of "contested heritage" in contemporary museums. Her interest also lies in the connection between museums, monuments and cultural memory, and the ways in which traumatic historic events are processed in a museological and urban context.

Dr. Jessie Morgan-Owens invites projects in the following areas: 1) the literary culture of North America, with particular focus pre-1900; 2) photography and persuasion in political culture and media; and 3) anti-racist projects that consider the legacies of white supremacy in the United States. My own research is based in micronarrative and microspatial methodologies, and I would be happy to guide writers in locating the constellations of discreet ideas or narratives that substantiate their larger arguments.

Dr. N. Schonmann invites students interested in developing thesis projects that examine regional order, foreign policy, and inter-state conflict in the modern Middle East, especially through the lens of culture. Projects could explore usage of linguistic, visual, and material symbols to categorise and represent societal experiences of inter-state conflict; or investigate practices through which the meaning of conflict is collectively produced, communicated, consumed, and challenged from within and outside the region’s societies.

Dr. K. Smith’s research interests cut across the following broad topics: 1) non-western understandings of international relations; 2) foreign policy analysis (particularly of emerging powers and regional powers in the Global South; 3) changes in global order and implications for global governance; 4) the responsibility to protect. She is particularly interested in innovative research that explores how non-western and non-traditional sources can provide us with new insights into existing challenges, as well as raise new questions.

Dr. C. Strava’s expertise is in ethnographic approaches to the study of the postcolonial state, critical approaches to urban governance and planning regimes, and anthropological critiques of lived-neoliberalism, development practices and discourses. Students interested in employing social theory and qualitative methods and those working on topics dealing with contemporary material culture, gendered and youthful practices, and the role of experts across the Middle East and North Africa are also welcome.

Dr. V. Thakur’s research interests are in postcolonial approaches to international relations, with India and South Africa as countries of specialization. He looks forward to supervising theses which explore cultural politics through these lenses/areas.

Dr. J. H. Valk is open to supervising a range of research projects, with particular interest in projects pertaining to three broad domains: 1) Projects that, through interpretivist approaches, seek to unpack how actors or phenomena disclose for us new ways of seeing and acting in the world of international politics and which disclose the scope of possibility and limit surrounding various global challenges. A study of images, symbols, rituals or narratives might play into such projects, and they might draw from traditions of social, moral and political thought beyond standard IR theories. 2) Projects pertaining to religion in international relations, or to how prevailing understandings of the secular, secularization and secularism have shaped the characterization of international politics by bringing certain actors and phenomena into relief while hiding others from view. 3) Projects pertaining to international political theory that explore notions and ideas central to international politics both in the present or in previous eras, notions and ideas like sovereignty, justice, power, authority, legitimacy, or democracy, among others. Such projects might be philosophical in character in so much as they wrestle with particular notions and ideas, or they might be exercises in intellectual history that highlight and trace ideas within the thought of particular figures or schools of thought.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Not applicable.

Assessment method

The thesis for the MA International Relations is a maximum of 15.000 words. The word count is including notes, bibliography and appendices (corresponding to OER art.2). The thesis is supervised by a lecturer in the Humanities Faculty, who possesses expertise in the relevant field. The thesis is judged by two lecturers involved in the program.

In assessing the quality of the thesis, the following aspects play an important role:

  • Formulating and analyzing the research question;

  • Structure of the thesis;

  • Integration of primary and secondary literature into the argument;

  • Argumentation skills;

  • Style, use of language and lay-out;

  • Independent and original research

(see the regulations concerning the procedure surrounding the master’s thesis)

Reading list

Students who need help finding suitable literature for starting the thesis can make a one-on-one appointment.( with the subject librarian. Students can also consult the subject guides, created by the subject librarians, which give an overview of resources on each specific field of study.


Not applicable.


The co-ordinator of studies or your thesis supervisor.