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.
Gender Approaches to Disarmament and Arms Control and their Role in Peace and Conflict (Special Issue, with SCRAP Weapons, SOAS University of London, ongoing)
Examining the cases of global disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation will help to provide an understanding both of the role of women and the manifestations of patriarchal structures within international security and peace endeavours. The Special Issue embraces a ‘gender’ approach to understanding disarmament policy and practice, as well as peace and violence, with a particular emphasis on the role of women and feminism in relevant political processes and lived experiences. It will provide nuanced perspectives and interrogate issues such as the representation of women, strategies and logics of feminist activism, the role and practice of gender within United Nations processes, and regional questions within Latin America and the Caribbean, South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and the Global North. By including co-produced articles, alongside papers exclusively authored by researchers, we will combine academic theoretical work and methodological rigorousity with the insights and experiences of global practitioners.
There is a need for a greater understanding of how ‘gender’ contributes to the constitution and (re-)production of armed conflict and violence. Carol Cohn, in her foundational 1987 “Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defence Intellectuals”, uses (nuclear) weapons as an example for the performative acts of discursive practices in international security. Her research considered discursive practices accompanying weapons systems, showed how these can constitute and (re-)produce gendered violence, and demonstrated that they can contribute to understanding gendered practices in peace and conflict (e.g. Shepherd 2007). This Special Issue will examine a variety of security discourses, for instance those embedded in the negotiation and implementation of multilateral disarmament and arms control treaties, and the bottom-up contestation of practices through activism.
The concept of ‘gender’ is important in this regard because it goes beyond traditional male-female binaries and considers both female leadership and patriarchal structures as important influences. By ensuring that men and masculinity (e.g. Hutchings 2008; Quest, Messerschmidt 2017) are also considered, and by incorporating intersectional analyses, we can enhance our understanding of what violence is, where power is concentrated, and how to devise solutions that overcome systemic manifestations and mechanisms. Discursive practices on arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament embody patriarchal structures and power as they resemble and reinforce domination, control, and aggression (e.g. Cohn, Hill and Ruddick 2006). The Special Issue will include papers by established academics, as well as papers co-produced by policy practitioners and academics.