Dr Karen Smith

  • Physical Address: 5.21, Robert Leslie Building, Upper Campus)
  • Postal Address: Department of Political Studies, University of Cape Town, Private Bag, Rondebosch 7700.
  • Tel.: +27 21 650 3350, 6503799 (fax)
  • Email: karen.smith@uct.ac.za


BA (Hons), MA, DPhil (Stellenbosch)

Teaching specialisations:

  • International Relations
  • International Relations Theory
  • International Organisation
  • Foreign Policy Analysis
  • South Africa's Political History

Research interests:

  • The developing world (Africa in particular) as an object of IR study and an agent of IR knowledge
  • South Africa's foreign policy
  • The emerging powers and global governance
  • IBSA


Recent publications:

(2016) “South Africa in Africa and the world: the foreign policy strategies of a global regional power” in Jacqueline Braveboy-Wagner (ed.) Diplomatic Strategies of Leading Nations in the Global South. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

(2016) “South Africa’s past, present and future foreign human rights policy and diplomacy” in Doutjie Lettinga (ed.) Shifting Power and Human Rights Diplomacy: South Africa. Amsterdam: Amnesty International.

(2015) with J. van der Westhuizen. “Pragmatic internationalism: public opinion on South Africa’s role in the world” in Journal of Contemporary African Studies, vol. 33, no.3: 318-347.

(2015) “South Africa, the BRICS and human rights: in bad company?” in Gilbert Khadiagala, Prishani Naidoo, Devan Pillay and Roger Southall (eds) New South African Review 5. Johannesburg: Wits University Press.

(2015) with J. van der Westhuizen “Promoting South Africa’s foreign policy through public diplomacy and branding” in C. Landsberg, L. Masters, J. Van Wyk and S. Zondi (eds) The South African Foreign Policy Review, vol. 2. Pretoria: Africa Institute.

(2015) "La alternativa de los BRICS: implicancias para la gobernanza global" in A. Pelfini, G. Fulquet & K. Bidaseca (eds) Los BRICS en la construcción de la multipolaridad: ¿Reforma o Adaptación? Colección Sur-Sur. Buenos Aires: Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales (CLACSO) y Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO).

(2015) “Policy Brief: R2P and the protection of civilians”. Johannesburg: South African Institute of International Affairs. Available online at: http://www.saiia.org.za/policy-briefings/r2p-and-the-protection-of-civilians-south-africas-perspective-on-conflict-resolution

(2015) “Opportunities and obstacles to cooperation between the BRICS: a view from South Africa” in BRICS: New Configurations of Global Power. Rio: IBASE.

(2014) with Thomas Mandrup, “South Africa’s ‘diplomacy of ubuntu’: an African approach to coexistence?” in L. Odgaard, T. Mandrup and C. de Coning (eds) BRICS and Coexistence: An Alternative Vision of World Order. London and New York: Routledge.

(2013) “International Relations in South Africa: a case of ‘add Africa and stir’?” in Politikon, vol.40, no.3: 533-544.

(2012) “Soft Power: the Essence of South Africa’s Foreign Policy” in South African Foreign Policy Review, vol.1. Pretoria: Africa Institute of South Africa.

(2012) “India’s Identity and its Global Aspirations” in Global Society, vol.26, no.3: 369-385.

(2012) "Contrived boundaries, kinship and ubuntu: a (South) African view of the 'international”, in Tickner, A. & Blaney, D. (eds) Thinking the International Differently. London: Routledge.

(2012) “Africa as an agent of International Relations knowledge: a preliminary investigation” in Fantu, C., Shaw, T.M. and Cornelissen, S. (eds) Africa and International Relations in the Twenty-First Century: Still Challenging Theory? Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


  • Research associate, Institute for Global Dialogue, South Africa
  • Board member: Africana, Journal of African Union Studies (JOAUS), and Journal of International Relations Research (JIRR)
  • Editorial board member: Review of International Studies, Foreign Policy Analysis, Africana, Journal of African Union Studies (JOAUS), and Journal of International Relations Research (JIRR)
  • South African Association of Political Studies (SAAPS) Council member

Current Doctoral Supervision



Berry, Neil (in Political Studies) Why has the norm of LGBTI Human Rights not diffused evenly across Southern Africa?
Sachikonye, Tawanda (in Political Studies) Diplomacy and development: South Africa’s foreign policy and the domestic developmental agenda.

Past Supervision (from 2012)




Daniel, Omaduore Rosaline
Assessing changing relations between the Russian Federation and South Africa since the end of the Cold War. (thesis not available online yet)
Eyde, Sam
2012 (conferred June 2013)
Chinese and Norwegian foreign aid approaches to sub-Saharan Africa: a comparative analysis. download
Flanagan, Gerald
The global financial crisis and its implications for global financial governance. download
Herfurth, Margaretha 
(degree and thesis with distinction)
Tracking the Evolution of the Norm of Refugee Protection. download
Kotze, Christoff
A changing Global South? The emergence of the basic grouping. download
Kuhnert, Kira-Leigh
2013 (conferred June 2014)
The impact of private international donor foundations on sexual and reproductive health organisations in South Africa. download
Long, Abigail
2013 (conferred June 2014)
A silver lining's playbook: IBSA's role in international peace and security. download
McGurk, Holly
2012 (conferred June 2013)
(thesis with distinction)
Leading the African agenda or following the African consensus? South Africa’s implementation of the African agenda in the United Nations Security Council. download
Mugo, Tiffany
Problematising the diffusion of LGBTI rights in Africa: The case of Malawi. download
Sweenie, Kaitlin 2015 The Relationship between Norms and Hegemony: Exploring International Drug Prohibition over the Last 100 Years. (thesis not available online yet)