Doctoral student Prof. Wiener (since April 2022)
Contesting Nuclear Norms: How suppressing contestation affects the legitimacy of global nuclear weapons governance (Doctoral Dissertation, ongoing)
Throughout the history of the global governance of nuclear weapons, norm generative practices were primarily reserved for an elite of scientists and politicians - the unequal access to contestation remains among the central features of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and its related norms, practices, and institutions. Contestation efforts, however, appeared in a number of ways, often overlooked or willingly suppressed. In the global order, “conditions for engagement are not equal” (Wiener 2018, p.1) - this is particularly true for the realm of nuclear weapons governance. For this research, I identify three areas of nuclear contestation that are of particular interest: Feminist contestation, post- and decolonial contestation and states contesting the non-proliferation regime.
Throughout their history, feminist movements considered (nuclear) disarmament key (e.g. Cohn 1987). They advocated both for equal access to the nuclear weapons governance decision-making bodies as well as for the dismantlement of patriarchal structures and narratives around nuclear weapons. With nuclear testing mainly occurring in colonies or in regions where a countries minorities were prevalent, those affected by nuclear weapons and at the same time contesting their governance often were of different ethnicities than those governing. (e.g. Jacobs 2013) In connection to the individuals, marginalised states, particularly those in the global south, were also largely removed from having an influence on nuclear weapons governance, with the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty’s (NPT) distinction between nuclear “haves” and nuclear “have- nots” as a striking example.
The lack of meaningful contestation taken seriously might have led to a lack of legitimacy, which was underestimated by the majority of academic accounts, and ultimately to the movement which produced the nuclear ban treaty (TPNW), which is itself contesting yet a result of contestation.
Following from the theoretical and empirical considerations, the key research question is: “How does the systematic suppression of contestation efforts undermine the legitimacy of the norms of nuclear weapons governance?” Building on theories of norm contestation, this PhD should systematically trace the history of nuclear norm contestation, reveal processes of how and why contestation efforts were suppressed or heard and add a case to the scholarship of norm contestation while advancing both theory and empirical research along the way.