Ben Richardson is a professor of international political economy in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick. Along with three other colleagues in the department - James Brassett, Lena Rethel, and Juanita Elias - he is involved in a project called I-PEEL, which stands for the international political economy of everyday life. Volume 16 Issue 2, Reinvention JournalLink opens in a new window dedicated a special section to papers written for this project by Warwick and Monash students.

How did the project start?

We started the project with a website, and that website took everyday objects and practices and used them as an entry point for a broader discussion about some of the more theoretical themes that international political economy covers, like global capitalism or financialization. You know, topics that are sometimes quite difficult to grasp in abstract terms, but by having this website, where we got academics to take a familiar starting point, we felt students latched on to it a bit more easily.

The next phase of the project was a textbook that the four of us co-authored together. In that way, we focused more on the learning experience of students. We put more thought into how students could apply these insights to the way that they thought about the world through different kinds of exercises.

And then out of that, the third phase was born when we set up this project [the essays published in Reinvention] with colleagues in Monash University (Australia) to get pairs of students from the two institutions to co-author a short piece of writing, which consisted of taking an everyday object or practice as their starting point and using that to think about broader topics in IPE. The thematic area that we took to try and give it some coherence was COVID-19, because everybody had some experience with it one way or another and it was also directly relevant to all of those themes in IPE that I mentioned earlier about global capitalism, financialization, state power, wage labour and so on and so forth.

And how did this collaboration with both Reinvention and Monash come about?

It was principally because of the arrangement between the two universities. They provided funding for teaching projects, and this was helpful to provide things like research assistants. This is important because there is quite a bit of coordination with a project like this where you're working with nearly 30 students across two very different time zones. And the other reason for working with Monash is that we knew people there, so we had some links with academics.

When you're doing a project like this, I think it is really helpful to have a good working relationship as a starting point, because being physically separate meant that we had to do a lot either on teams or via email and it it's just helpful if you have some previous experience of knowing how each person works and being sure you are on the same page in terms of how IP is and how it can be studied, for example.

Do you think supporting and publishing undergraduate research is important?

I think it is great. I don't recall anything like that being available when I was an undergraduate student in the early nineties. I think I would have been quite intimidated at the prospect [laughs].

There are students that have been involved in this project, who have been very appreciative. I have had some lovely emails from some on the Warwick side and on the Monash side, generally expressing their delight that they've been able to work as part of this project. Certainly, having the opportunity to publish in Reinvention was really important for the project because I think it gave us a big pull for the students, both in terms of getting them into the project and also getting them through it. Having that as a as a goal to work towards was a real incentive I think, and so it was helpful instrumentally as well, getting everyone focused on achieving this collective output.

What do you think the undergraduate students that participated in the project have learnt from it?

It reiterated the importance of time management in their work. Because we had project meetings, and having the deadline with the journal both for submission and for revised submissions, it did feel a bit like we were frantically emailing everybody. I was getting replies back from students saying “yeah, yeah, yeah, we're working on it, we'll get it to you, don’t worry

I mean, obviously you get that to an extent with essays. But I think because it was group work, there is a little additional pressure in that coordination element as well. That's something that I've experienced in my working life, so maybe it was a bit unenjoyable at the time, but hopefully it's a useful skill to have.

I guess ultimately just as I was saying earlier, I really like to think and hope that the students just learn from each other, in particular by speaking with someone that goes to completely different university, in a completely different country, likely with a very different kind of background to their own set of interests. And I sometimes think we don't do enough to encourage those kinds of conversations at university. Maybe they happen by chance in seminars and so on, but we don't often structure teaching and learning in such a way as to force people to speak across different kinds of divides and work together. So again, I hope that was a constructive experience for them.

What were the biggest challenges that the students and the project itself had to overcome?

My experience of speaking to students about group work whilst at Warwick in general has been that it's always quite challenging [laughs] well, for the usual reasons. And then you add into that the fact that on this project there was no in person meeting, and there was a time difference.

I think just getting to know their partner and agreeing what to write on and how to write it would have been the biggest challenge. It's been for me when I've co-authored, and probably harder for people co-authoring with me because of my pedantic approach to editing and so on.

It is really difficult, you know, even when you've got a lot of time and you've built up a relationship. I was so impressed with the students for just pulling things together. And again, from some of the conversations I've had, they genuinely seemed to get on with their project partner and learn from them, which was ultimately the main purpose of the activity. I think that was the biggest challenge.

Next to that was emphasising on navigating the difference between essay writing and research writing, an essay writing being a bit more synthetic and research writing demanding a bit more originality and contribution to the literature. That was really what was harder in this project because we asked students to give us just a couple of thousand words rather than the standard longer journal articles, that Reinvention and all other journals normally publish.

So just finding that balance of sufficient references and engagement with the literature, but a degree of novelty, and it has got to be concise as well. That was a big ask. And so those two things together, the group work element and the specific nature of the output that we wanted, those would the two big challenges.

Do you think that international aspect played a big role and had a positive impact on the project?

Yeah, I think so. Reading the articles that the students wrote, you couldn't accuse them of being parochial. They all had an international dimension, one way or another, and often, I mean this is just my assumption, often I think you could see the personal experiences and backgrounds of the two students reflected in the country cases or topics that they covered. So, I think that really brought out the international dimension of IPE. Which was great because often in that field (I've probably been guilty of this as well myself to an extent) you talk about international political economy, but really you just write about the country you're familiar with, which in my case is the UK.

It was refreshing to read about all these different experiences, and I think it provided a really nice sort of tapestry of the variegated experiences of COVID. It really threw into relief the different ways that countries and states had dealt with the pandemic. But also, you could spot maybe some cross cutting practices as well. So yeah, that was a real strength of the project.

What positive impact does publishing on journals such as Reinvention have on students?

Publishing in the journal is a bit of a calling card for the next tranche of students for us to be able to say “hey, look what the group did. You could be part of a group that does something similar”. And that has been a definite benefit for us of working with the journal and hopefully a kind of legacy for that special section as well.

I have a lot of students that express concern that they haven't done enough to prepare for their future career, whatever that is going to be, specifically that they haven't got an internship. And I always say that there are loads of things you can do to demonstrate how amazing you are without doing an internship, but I had never thought about this before. Publishing something in Reinvention will be a really good way for undergrads to showcase their skills. It is something that I'm going to try and remember to encourage students to do.

i-PEEL is working on the project again this year, this time with the addition of students from the Monash campus in Malaysia. Read more about i-PEEL here:

Interested in publishing your research with Reinvention as well? Find out more at Reinvention: an International Journal of Undergraduate Research ( or get in touch via