Queen's University

Alexandra Liebich

PhD Candidate and Teaching Fellow, Department of Political Studies


I am a PhD candidate in Comparative Politics & International Relations, and Teaching Fellow in the Department of Political Studies, Queen's University. I am fascinated by how states and societies deal with the diversity inherent within them (i.e. cultural, ethnic, linguistic diversity); and how diversity is “managed” (or mismanaged) in different domains and institutions—particularly in education, government, and media. In other words, diversity is a reality in the contemporary world—how do individuals, groups, organizations, and countries deal with this? Both at the level of elite politics and in everyday life?

My research interests lie in the following areas: nationalism, ethnicity, minority-state (inter-ethnic) relations, institutional design, the politics of education, and conflict management in divided societies. I am also interested in the history of Eastern Europe, and the study of Comparative Politics as a field. My primary regional focus is post-communist Europe and the post-Soviet space; a secondary region is the Middle East. My research is broadly comparative in scope but comprised of case studies with which I have more nuanced familiarity: Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia, and the Baltic states.

My thesis project is a comparative analysis of education policy & practice in post-communist Europe, with a focus on minority education. My work is driven by a belief in education as a vehicle for social and political transformation, or for maintenance of the status quo. I explore how education can contribute to peace, stability, and social cohesion while addressing the realities of diversity in multi-ethnic states.

There are fundamental links between nationalism and inter-ethnic relations, on the one hand, and the politics of education, on the other. Since as far back as Plato and Aristotle, philosophers have been telling us that if we wish to know about government and society, looking at education is a good place to start -- that “what we want in the state, we must put into the school.”  Education is an institution and a means by which individuals and communities invest in their futures. It’s a place of identity formation, socialization of the next generation, and maintenance of culture and language over time. It is also a key domain of contestation in multi-ethnic settings, as school systems can reflect (and amplify) the attitudes, cleavages, inequalities, and power relations within a polity. Education matters for politics. Investigating debates over education can help us understand nation-building, cultural contestation, and the management of difference.

I have taught courses on Nationalism, the Politics of Ethnicity, and Comparative Politics. I have acted as a Teaching Assistant for courses in Research Methods, Democracy & Democratization, and Introductory Political Science. I am passionate about pedagogy, particularly at the level of higher education. I completed SGS*901: Teaching & Learning in Higher Education, and I have been involved with the Centre for Teaching & Learning at Queen’s. I have participated in workshops on themes such as: inquiry-based learning; active learning; integrity in teaching; curriculum development; inter-cultural communication; building students’ research competencies; and scholarship of teaching & learning [SOTL].

I am a CGS Bombardier Scholar, a EUSA Doctoral Fellow, and a member of the Association for the Study of Nationalities [ASN]. I am an Emerging Scholar with the Centre for the Study of Democracy & Diversity [CSDD], and a Researcher with the Divided Cities collaborative project at Queen’s. I have also contributed to a workshop on Migration, Citizenship, and Democratic Participation [MCDP] and the Laboratory on Ethnic Conflict Research [LECR].

I have experience conducting academic research (including extensive field research), and policy and applied research. I am committed to, and especially interested in mentorship, leadership, and professional development within academia. Through my doctoral work and other pursuits, I hope to continually engage in teaching, research, and the sharing of knowledge.

Most Recent Project

The Conversation: Remembering minorities amid eastern Europe's nation-state centenary celebrations

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Over the past year, states across central and eastern Europe have been celebrating the 100th anniversary of the creation or re-creation of their countries. Some will continue to do so through 2019 and 2020 as they mark 100 years since maps were redrawn and nation-state status was granted to groups that were formerly part of vast, diverse empires.

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Other Projects

  • The Politics of Complex Diversity in Contested Cities

    Funded by a five year Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Grant awarded in March 2015, this project examines change in ethnic rivalries in historically contested cities, where established status hierarchies are challenged by “political newcomers” such as immigrants and other newly mobilized ethno-cultural communities.

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  • The "Boomerang Effect" of Kin-state Activism: Cross-border Ties and the Securitization of Kin Minorities

    The kin-state phenomenon is often understood as unifying and inclusive: states reach out beyond their borders to engage with co-ethnics living abroad, thus maintaining historic “national” ties, and fostering connections and contacts. But kin-state activism may also be dangerous and conflictual, when a kin-state's transborder projects anger neighboring governments, leading to the securitization of kin minorities and the destabilizing of inter-ethnic and regional relations.

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  • Perspectives on the Politics of Borders and Belonging

    cover: research paper by Queen's reearcher Alexandra LiebichThis co-edited volume showcases contributions from the Political Studies Graduate Student Association’s inaugural conference in 2016. The conference focused on the theme of “Borders and Belonging at Home and Abroad” and offered insights on border and identity politics from both national and international contexts. The collection is notable for the diversity in theoretical and epistemological approaches taken. The contributing authors highlight the roles and the importance of actors at all levels, from local communities and border guards to policy communities, political parties, and international stakeholders.

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