Work in Progress

Books, Textbooks, and Edited Volumes

With J. Samuel Barkin, International Relations’ Last Synthesis, under contract, Oxford University Press.
We argue that IR theory is currently stuck in a rut much like the neo-neo synthesis of the 1980s, built out of a similarly limiting alliance of the neo-neo synthesis’ opponents. Like the ‘wall’ of the neo-neo synthesis, we argue that the constructivist-critical theory synthesis is (intentionally or not) a political agreement which distracts attention from the ‘big questions’ about global politics which theorizing in IR could and should address. The underspecification and overreached application of genericized constructivisms and critical theorizing in IR make efforts to address these kinds of questions more fraught and less effective. We contend that these implications make it necessary to critically reevaluate figurations of constructivist/critical IR to correct for the failure of clarity in constructivist and critical IR

(Gendered) International Relations, under contract, Oxford University Press.
The textbook opens by providing evidence that gender is a pervasive power structure in global politics, guiding divisions of power, violence, labor, and resources and playing a key role in the preservation of race, class, sexual, and national divisions in global politics. After introducing this theoretical framework, the textbook appears much like a “normal” IR textbook – with chapters on different paradigmatic approaches to the study of global politics. The difference between this text and others on the market (e.g., Goldstein, Baylis and Smith, etc.) is that, as it explains each theoretical approach and provides examples used as evidence to support or rebut each theoretical approach, it also provides a critical feminist analysis of each paradigm. These analyses are accessible and in plain language, relating to the empirical and theoretical interests of IR theorizing traditionally and extending and pushing its boundaries all at once.The distinctiveness of such a textbook is this: this isn’t a book solely for a “gender and IR” class, and “gender” shouldn’t be just a chapter in an IR text that you have to take another course to learn about. Instead, IR is fundamentally different when viewed through feminist lenses, and that argument, while often made, has rarely been explained and supported in textbook form. We tell our students, in monographs and textbooks, that you “cannot think about IR without thinking about gender” – this book means to supply them with the tools to do just that..

With Jessica Peet, Gender and Intentional Civilian Victimization, under contract, Routledge.
Kill the Women First theorizes intentional civilian victimization through gender lenses. It proposes that states attack women as a symbol of state and nation (what Clausewitz would call a center of gravity). The book uses theoretical work with quantitative and case-study empirical analysis to argue that it is possible to understand belligerents’ intentional targeting of civilians through gendered lenses. Desperation does not really explain civilian victimization because military strategists remain convinced that targeting civilians is materially ineffective in producing military gains. Instead of looking for material military gains when they attack civilians, belligerents are looking for symbolic gains (what Carl von Clausewitz called opponents’ “center of gravity”), where they desire to render impotent opponents’ justificatory narratives for war-making and war-fighting.  The symbolic loss that belligerents are looking to inflict on their opponents is “their” women and children, insomuch as women (their children, households, and way of life) serve as a symbolic proxy for the state or nation that the fighters fight for and fighters’ ability to protect them serves as a justification for their fighting and a validation of their masculinity (and therefore self-worth).

Seducing Territory: The Act of Sex and the Constitution of National Borders, drafting.
This book will use detailed, case-study analysis to trace how expressions and acts of sexuality have constituted state borders in global politics. The book’s early chapters will trace pairings between marriage habits, childbearing, and kingdom governance in early modern Europe and during the Qing dynasty in China. Later chapters will discuss ways in which sexual engagement continues to constitute citizenship and migration practices, dyadic (two-state) security relationships, and trade paths in the twenty-first century. The Seducing Territory project has three major goals for contributing to the study of sex, gender, and global politics. First, it looks to extend analysis of how gender expectations have impacted global politics to account for gender expectations about sex and sexuality – particularly, seeing sexual relations as International Relations (IR). Second, methodologically, it aims to take gender analysis in IR beyond its largely post-World War I time focus. Third, it targets a literature in political science which explains conflict through territorial shift, suggesting that, while the there is a tendency to hold sex, gender, and sexuality irrelevant, they are actually core to the foundation and development of the territorial state.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

With Helen Kinsella, project on Feminist Evolutionary Analysis, under review.
In this paper, we critique the subset of evolutionary theorizing in IR self-identified as Feminist Evolutionary Analytic (FEA) in four sections. First, we go over FEA’s main argument that reproductive interests are the original and key cause of violence in global politics. Second, we break down the definitions of gender, sex, and sexuality used in FEA, demonstrating a lack of complexity in this analysis which causes many problems, including but not limited to sex essentialist and heteronormative characterizations. Third, we argue that FEA’s failure to reflect on the history and context of evolutionary theorizing, much less contemporary feminist critiques, facilitates its mistaken endorsement of the state as a vehicle to stop male violence. We conclude by outlining the stakes of failure to correct for FEA’s mistakes for feminist, IR, and security research, as well as international security policy practice.

with J. Samuel Barkin, project on failure in International Relations Theorizing
Referencing the recent debate about the “end of IR theory,” we make an alternative proposition: IR theory is not over, it is failing. We see two constitutive features of the field right now. First, we see a variety of reactions to the failure of the neo(realist)-neo(liberal) synthesis in IR, ranging from a retreat into neopositivist hypothesis-testing to a proliferation of critical and constructivist alternatives to the synthesis – all of which look to (re)create a grand narrative in IR. Second, and relatedly, we see two types of failure in IR theory: intellectual failure to find another grand narrative, and disciplinary failure resulting from the commitment to that impossible goal. IR theorizing currently denies and fights against that failure; we argue that a different position is possible and advantageous. Failure in the grand project of IR theory, we argue, is something to be both celebrated and, at the same time, actively participated in.  We understand failure here in queer theory terms; not as a normative bad, but as a potential paradigm-shift.

With Cameron Thies and Kelly Kadera, “Critiquing the Feminist Peace,” being edited for submission
Are states that exhibit domestic gender equality more peaceful internationally? Recent quantitative work has begun to explore the role of gender equality in a variety of conflict related outcomes, including at the level of interstate relations.  We explore the theoretical foundations of these arguments drawing on feminist theory and the lack of robustness of empirical findings by considering good social science research design. Rather than end with solely a critique, we argue for better measures for representing common understandings of gender equality and external conflict and cooperation, and use them to run statistical analyses of the relationships between gender equality and state behavior. Even with arguably better measures of gender equality and conflict, our results represent a mixed bag of evidence for the feminist peace.

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