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Benedict Coleridge

Benedict Coleridge

Research topic:
Democratic Deliberation and the Mediational Intelligence of Form
Degree course:

Research Themes:
Political Theory Human rights Democratic theory Democracy and Democratisation Ideology Liberalism Public Sphere Democracy and Democratic Theory Norms, legitimacy and justification 

Academic Profile

I am a final year doctoral candidate in political theory, supervised by Professor Lois McNay. 

My work focuses on the mediational role performed by aesthetic form and procedural formalism in contemporary theories of democratic deliberation. My thesis explores the manner in which the modernist and equalising orientation of the secular state, with its concentration of power and its penchant for standardisation, enumeration and legal universality engages critical and utopian hopes for social transformation - the hopes to which Jurgen Habermas holds in his effort to further ‘the project of modernity.’ The modernist horizon is not easily dismissed, even for those convinced that the power of the secular state and its primary instrument, ‘rationally’ authored law, acts forcibly to redefine social and ethical life in ways that assert ‘acceptable’ cultural forms under the guise of methodological neutrality. My aim is not to expel emancipatory or eschatologically intoned hopes - and their attendant political, social and aesthetic genealogies - in favour of a romanticised traditionalism. It is, rather, to envision a more committedly pragmatist view of mediation between ethical traditions - one that facilitates ‘commonality’, ethical natality and social transformation without resort to the singularity of modernist form.

Outside of my doctoral research I am interested in analytical jurisprudence (Kelsen, Hart and Raz), the interaction of art and ritual within early modern claims to political legitimacy, the political and epistemological thought of Nicholas Cusanus, and in the imbricated histories of empire and international law.

Prior to commencing my doctorate I completed an MPhil in Political Theory at the University of Oxford and a BA (Hons) at the University of Melbourne, where I double majored in History and Russian Language. 

Before coming to Oxford I worked as a policy and field researcher in Brussels and the Balkans, with a focus on the latter as a transit route for forced migration flows to Europe and on the conditions prevailing in reception and detention centres throughout the region.

Throughout my doctorate I have spent several extended research and writing periods in Cairo and in south India pursuing research interests in comparative political thought, intellectual history and sacred art. 



2019 Department of Politics and International Relations Writing Up Grant, University of Oxford.

2014 Mannix Travelling Scholarship 

2011 Brian Fitzpatrick Prize for Best Thesis in Australian History, University of Melbourne 



  • ‘Nostra Aetate and the Call to Dialogue,’ Dharmaram Journals - Asian Horizons 8 (September 2014): 553-568.


  • “From Back Door to Front Door: Forced Migration Routes from Macedonia to Croatia,” Jesuit Refugee Service Europe (2013).
  • “The EU’s Dysfunctional Asylum System,” The Interpreter, The Lowy Institute for International Policy (2013).
  • On Russian Foreign Relations in the Caucasus: “Sochi, the Caucasus and Russian Romanticism,” Open Democracy (2014).
  • On Religion and Foreign Policy: “Sensitivity and Multivalence: The Call to Religious Literacy,” ABC Religion and Ethics (2016).

Media Engagement

  • ‘Calais Migrant Crisis,’ interview, BBC News (television), August 2015, available online.

Conference Papers and Presentations

Conference Presentations

-  ‘Deliberation Through Difference: The Merits of Hermeneutical Conversation,’ Trinity College Dublin, Interdisciplinary Conference on the Role of the Church in a Pluralist Society’, June 2016.                

-  ‘The Politics of Moral Learning: Critical Dialogue and Engaged Understanding,’ Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Religious Pluralism, European University Institute, January 2015.

-  ‘The Liberal Politics of Mandatory Detention,’ London Graduate Conference in the History of Political Thought, June 2014

-  ‘From Back Door to Front Door: Forced Migration Routes Through Macedonia to Croatia,’ Jesuit Refugee Service Europe Policy Paper Launch, Brussels, June 2013.


Invited Talks

-  'The Road to Calais: Migration, Trauma and the Challenges of Local Reconciliation', COMPAS Oxford, February, 2016.