Faculty of Arts - Politics and International Relations

Dr Katherine Smits

BJur, BA(Hons (Western Australia), MPhil (Cambridge), MA, PhD (Cornell)

Head of Politics and International Relations,
Senior Lecturer

Politics and International Relations, Social Sciences

Email: k.smits@auckland.ac.nz

Extension: 87576 (ph + 64 9 373 7599)

1-11 Short St
Level 8
Room 843

Research interests

Contemporary and historical political thought concerning liberalism, multiculturalism, identity politics, nationalism and feminism.


Current research

My areas of research interest include:

  • Contemporary and historical liberal theory; Multiculturalism and Identity Politics; Nationalism; Imperialism and political thought; Feminist Theory; Deliberative democracy; Reconciliation and restorative justice.

I am currently working on two research projects:

  • A study of policy and discourse around cultural diversity, comparing New Zealand, Australia and Britain; and
  • A study of imperial violence and its impact upon the development of liberal ideas.

Postgraduate supervision

Dr. Smits works with students from the BA(Hons) dissertation level to PhDs, who have had some background in undergraduate theory courses. She is interested in supervising projects in the broad areas of historical and contemporary political theory, particularly in aspects of liberalism, pluralism and multiculturalist theory. She also works with students researching identity politics and gender, ethnic and minority rights issues, in a wide range of national contexts.  Students might consider examining the political claims made by particular ethnic, cultural or religious minorities, and the relationship of these claims to identity politics theory.

Several projects Dr. Smits has supervised apply aspects of contemporary theory on race, ethnicity or gender to indigenous and ethnic groups in the New Zealand or comparative context.

Recent publications


2009. Smits, K. Applying Political Theory. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 320 pp.

2005.Smits, K. Reconstructing Post-Nationalist Liberal Pluralism: From Interest to Identity. New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 198 pp.

Refereed journal articles

2012. Smits, K and Jansen A.  "Staging the nation at expos and world's fairs", National Identities, 14, 2, 173-188.

2011 Smits, K. "Justifying Multiculturalism: Social Justice, Diversity and National Identity in Australia and New Zealand", Australian Journal of Political Science, 46, 1, pp 87-103.

2008. Smits, K. "Deliberation and Past Injustice: Recognition and the Reasonableness of Apology in the Australian Case", Constellations, 15, (2), pp 236-248.

2008. Smits, K. "John Stuart Mill on the Antipodes: Settler Violence against Indigenous Peoples and the Legitimacy of Colonial Rule", Australian Journal of Politics and History, 54, (1), pp 1-15.

2004. Smits, K. “John Stuart Mill and the Social Construction of Identity”. History of Political Thought, XXV, 2, 98-324.

2003.Smits, K. “Liberalism’s Identity Problem”. Polity, XXXV, 3, 347-367.

1995.Smits, K. “International Identity Construction and the Liberal Peace”. Pacifica Review, 7, 1, 47-60.

Book chapters

2012. Smits, K. "Liberal Peace Plans and Cultural Difference: Jeremy Bentham and the Limits of Enlightenment Universalism," forthcoming in Visions of Peace: Asia and the West, edited by Takashi Shogimen and Vicki Spencer, Ashgate.

2009. Smits, K. "The Politics of Biculturalism". In Raymond Miller, ed. New Zealand Government and Politics fifth edition, Auckland, Oxford University Press.

2006. Smits, K. “Multicultural Identity in a Bicultural Context”. In Raymond Miller (ed.) New Zealand Government and Politics, fourth edition. Auckland, Oxford University Press.

Book reviews

2011. Smits, K. Review Public Philosophy in a New Key, by James Tully, in Political Theory 39, 1, pp 161-165.

2010. Smits, K. Review of Kate MacMillan, John Leslie and Elizabeth McLeay, eds., Rethinking Women and Politics: New Zealand and Comparative Perspectives. Forthcoming in Kotuitui

2007. Smits, K. "Review", Paul Kelly, Liberalism, Review in Australian Journal of Political Science, 42, (3).

2003. Smits, K. John Button, Beyond Belief: What Future for Labor? Review in Antipodes, June.

Career history

Katherine Smits graduated with degrees in law and arts from the University of Western Australia.  She served with the Australian foreign service and was posted in Belgrade, in the former Yugoslavia.  She then completed a MPhil. in International Relations at Cambridge, and a PhD in Government at Cornell Univerity (2000).

Dr. Smits taught at Miami University in the USA before joining the Political Studies Department at Auckland in 2004. She is the author of several articles on liberalism and identity politics, and of Reconstructing Post-Nationalist Liberal Pluralism: From Interest to Identity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).

She has recently been engaged in research on reconciliation, apology for historical injustice and democratic deliberation. She is now working on new projects on multiculturalism, biculturalism and national identity in New Zealand, and imperial race relations and violence, and the development of liberal thought.

Dr. Smits teaches undergraduate courses on historical and contemporary political thought and social justice. Her graduate courses include Feminist Political Theory and Identity Politics.

Current teaching

Political Studies
Course Title Availability in 2014
POLITICS 109 Foundations of Western Politics and Law Semester 2
POLITICS 320 Social Justice Semester 1
POLITICS 343 Nationalism and Internationalism in Political Thought Not offered in 2014.
POLITICS 724 Identity and the Politics of Multiculturalism Not offered in 2014.
POLITICS 729 Feminist Political Theory Not offered in 2014.

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