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Alejandro Colas

Professor of International Relations

Programme Director MSc Food, Politics and Society, and MSc International Security and Global Governance

Alejandro (Alex) Colás joined Birkbeck from Sussex University in 2003 and is Professor of International Relations. He studied Politics at Bristol University and completed his Masters and PhD in International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Alex directs the MSc in International Security and Global Governance and MSc in Global Environmental Politics and Policy. He teaches courses on Global Conflict, Security and Humanitarianism; Space and Power in International Politics; Empires: A Historical Sociology of International Relations and Food, Politics and Society. He is a member of the Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Prize Committee and has published on subjects ranging from piracy, Spanish responses to terrorism, imperialism, internationalism and global governance in journals like International Affairs, the Review of International Studies, Development and Change, Millennium, the European Journal of International Relations and Contemporary Politics.




    • With Liam Campling, (2017) 'Capitalism and the sea: sovereignty, territory and appropriation in the global ocean', Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. Online First, 6 November 2017.
    • ‘Barbary Coast in the Expansion of International Society:  Piracy and Corsairing as Primary Institutions’’ Review of International Studies, Volume 42, Issue 5, December 2016, pp. 840-857.
    • ‘No Class!: A Comment on Simon Bromley’s “American Power and the Prospects of International Order”’ Cambridge  Review of International Affairs, Vol. 25, No.1, 2012, pp. 39-52.
    • ‘Taking Sides: Cosmopolitanism, Internationalism and “Complex Solidarity” in the Work of Fred Halliday’, International Affairs, Vol. 87, No.5, September 2011, pp.1051-1066.
    • With Gonzalo Pozo-Martin ‘The Value of Territory: Toward a Marxist Geopolitics’, Geopolitics, Vol.16, No. 1, January 2011, pp. 211-220.
    • ‘An Exceptional Response?: Security, Development and Civil Society in Spanish Policy After 11-M’, Development and Change, Vol. 41, No.2 March 2010, pp. 313-333.
    • With George Lawson ‘Fred Halliday: Achievements, Ambivalences, Openings’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, Vol. 39, No.3, 2010, pp. 1-28.
    • ‘Windows on Empire: Perspectives from History, Culture and Political Economy’ Roundtable  Discussion’ Journal of Critical Globalisation Studies, No.2, 2010, pp. 1-29.
    • ‘Open Doors and Closed Frontiers: The Limits of American Empire’ European Journal of International Relations Vol. 14, No. 4, December 2008, pp. 619-643.
    • ‘The Reinvention of Populism: The Islamist Response to Capitalist Development in the Contemporary Maghreb’ Historical Materialism, Vol. 12, No.4, 2004, pp. 231-260. Reprinted in an abridged version, Dunn, B and H. Radice (eds) Permanent Revolution: Results and Prospects 100 Years On, London: Pluto, 2006.
    • ‘Imperious Civility: Violence and the Dilemmas of Global Civil Society’ Contemporary Politics, Vol. 11, No.2-3, June- September 2005, pp. 179-188.
    • ‘The Power of Representation: Democratic Politics and Global Governance’ Special issue, Review of International Studies, Vol. 29, Special Issue, December 2003, pp. 97-118. Reprinted in Armstrong, D et al. (eds), Global Governance and Resistance Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
    • ‘Politics in Spain: Geographies of Violence and Democracy’ Radical Philosophy, No. 126, July/August 2004, pp. 2-7.
    • ‘The Promises of International Civil Society’ Global Society: Interdisciplinary Journal of International Relations Vol. 11, No. 3, September 1997 pp. 261-277. Reprinted in Roland Robertson and Kathleen E. White (eds) Globalization: Critical Concepts in Sociology, Vol. III: Global Membership and Participation, London and New York: Routledge, 2003.
    • ‘Los desafíos del Magreb’ (Challenges for the Maghreb), Ciências & Letras (Brazil), Nos.21/22, 1998, pp. 173-190.
    • ‘The Limits of Mediterranean Partnership: Civil Society and the Barcelona Conference of 1995’, Mediterranean Quarterly Vol.8, No. 4, Fall 1997, pp. 63-80
    • ‘Internationalism in the Mediterranean, 1919-1942’ Journal of North African Studies Vol. 1, No.3, Summer 1997, pp. 211-233
    • ‘Middle East Studies in Spain: A Report on Research Sources’ Journal of North African Studies Vol. 2, No.3, Winter 1997, pp. 46-59.
    • ‘La izquierda y “lo internacional”’ (The Left and 'the international') Nueva Sociedad, (Venezuela) No. 41, January-February 1996, pp.67-75.
    • ‘Putting Cosmopolitanism into Practice: the Case of Socialist Internationalism’ Millennium: Journal of International Studies, Vol. 23, No. 3, Winter 1994, pp. 513-34.

    Chapters in books

    • Colas, Alejandro (2017) The infrastructure of the global economy: the shipping container as a political artefact. In: McCarthy, D. (ed.) Technology and World Politics: An Introduction. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
    • ‘Hegemony’ in Felix Berenskoetter (ed), Concepts in World Politics, London: Sage, 2016.
    • ‘A Perverse Symbiosis: The State, Islam and Political Dissent in Contemporary Algeria’ in Boo-Teik Khoo and Vedi Hadiz (eds) Islam and Political Dissent: Studies and Comparisons from Asia and the Middle East London and New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.
    • ‘International Political Economy’ in A. Saad-Filho, B. Fine and M. Boffo (eds), The Elgar Companion to Marxist Economics, London: Edward Elgar, 2012, pp. 169-174.
    • With Bryan Mabee, ‘Introduction’ in Pirates, Mercenaries, Bandits and Empires: Private Violence in Historical Perspective, London: Hurst and New York: Columbia University Press, 2010, pp. 1-32.
    • With Bryan Mabee ‘The Flow and Ebb of Seaborne Private Violence in Global Politics: Lessons from the Atlantic World, 1689-1815’ in Pirates, Mercenaries, Bandits and Empires: Private Violence in Historical Perspective, London: Hurst and New York: Columbia University Press, 2010, pp. 83-106.
    • ‘The International Political Sociology of Empire’ Robert A. Denemark (ed) International Studies Encyclopaedia, Bognor Regis: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. pp. 4399-4417.
    • ‘The History of Empires and Conflicts’ in Encyclopaedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS), Developed under the Auspices of the UNESCO, Oxford: Eolss Publishers, 2010. [], pp. 1-14.
    • With Jason Edwards ‘Radical Democracy, the State and Capitalism Today’ in Jonathan Pugh (ed) What is Radical Politics Today? Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, pp. 247-255.
    • With Richard Saull ‘Introduction’ in A. Colás & R. Saull (eds), The War on Terror and American Empire After the Cold War London: Routledge, 2005, pp. 1-31.
    • ‘Neo-Liberalism, Globalisation and International Relations’, in Alfredo Saad-Filho and Deborah Johnstone (eds) Neo-Liberalism: A Critical Reader London: Pluto Press, 2005, pp. 70-80.
    • ‘Global Civil Society: Analytical Category or Normative Concept?’ in David Chandler and Gideon Baker (eds) Global Civil Society: Contested Futures London and New York: Routledge, 2004, pp. 14-28
    • ‘Exploitation and Solidarity: Putting the Political Back into IPE’ in Mary-Ann Tétreault and Kenneth Tomas (eds) New Odysseys in International Political Economy London and New York: Routledge, 2003, pp. 195-210.
    • ‘The Class Politics of Globalisation’ in Mark Rupert and Hazel Smith (eds), Historical Materialism and International Relations London and New York: Routledge, 2002, pp. 191-210.
    • ‘Materialismo histórico’ entry for Diego Guerrero (ed) Manual de Economía Heterodoxa (Handbook of Heterodox Economics) Madrid: Sistema, 2002.
    • ‘The Popular Front and Internationalism: the Tunisian Case in Comparative Perspective’ in T. Chafer & A. Sackur (eds), Popular Front and Empire London: Macmillan, 1999.


Research interests

  • Empires and Imperialism
  • Geopolitics
  • International relations theory
  • Social movements in international relations
  • Historical sociology and international politics of the Maghreb region

Areas of research supervision

  • International relations theory; the international politics of the Maghreb; the historical sociology of the international system, with special attention to the history of empires.
  • If you are interested in pursuing research in any of these areas, you should first read our advice on how to apply for MPhil/PhD research before submitting an application.

Teaching interests

  • Global Politics, Governance and Security
  • Geopolitics, Population and Environment
  • Food, Politics and Society
  • Empires

Alejandro Colas

Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 3926 1664


Empire: The features of American global power

Doctor Alex Colas looks at the differences and similarities between the USA and historical empires – the characteristics of USA relations with non-state actors, civil societies and other global powers.

Listen to the podcast