Peer-Reviewed publications

Cruel Intentions: Liberal Logics and Processes of International Criminalisation (with Yuna Han)

Abstract: The prohibition and prosecution of core international crimes are understood as a liberal response to particularly cruel acts that shock the conscience of humanity. But what is the nature of this cruelty and how does it relate to liberalism? Rather than seeing liberalism as monolithic, we examine the different relationships between liberal logics and cruelty, and how they manifest in processes of international criminalisation. We develop a three-pronged typology of liberalism(s) based on their constitutive relationship to cruelty. The first logic expands upon Judith Shklar’s theory of ‘Liberalism of Fear’ that sees cruelty as detrimental to liberal society, foregrounding particularly acute forms of physical and affective cruelty in liberal politics and law; the second logic, ‘Racial Liberalism’, understands cruelty as a condition of possibility for the liberal order built on the exploitation of racialised others; and the third conceives of cruelty as produced by the market logic of trade-offs, referred to as ‘Sacrificial Liberalism.’ Based on this framework, we examine two processes of international criminalisation: the crime of genocide (widely considered to be the ‘crime of crimes,’ and thus an emblematic case of criminalised cruelty directed against collective identities) and the crime of aggression (which followed a more complicated criminalisation trajectory). By tracing how different liberal logics interrelate, come into tension, and thus shape the processes of international criminalisation, we illuminate the shifting legitimations and normative priorities of the liberal international order, but also confront the normative value of criminalising cruelty.

Journal of European Public Policy, 2021 (Online First). DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2021.1881583

Open access version available here:

The use of pseudo-causal narratives in EU policies: the case of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (with Natascha Zaun)

Abstract: The EUTF aims to address the ‘root causes of migration’ by providing development assistance to countries of origin and transit. While it is allegedly based on scientific evidence, scholarly consensus suggests that development assistance is ill-suited to address irregular migration – which is something that some of the actors who designed the EUTF were aware of. We advance a new framework for understanding the emergence and success of pseudo-causal narratives (i.e., narratives relying on unproven and/or disproven causal claims) in EU policymaking. Using frame analysis, we argue that the pseudo-causal ‘root causes’ narrative was adopted against better evidence because it was plausible, compelling and had been used in EU external migration policies before. Faced with the salience of migration and the urgency to act in late 2015, and due to the absence of any clear ideas of what other measures could work, EU actors adopted this narrative to demonstrate that they were actively responding to the ‘crisis’. The narrative met little contestation, since it met the concerns of both those who were keen to stop migration and those who wanted to preserve the core of previous EU development policy.

Review of International Studies, 2021, 46(2), 256-277. DOI: 10.1017/S0260210520000029

Open Access version:

International refugee protection and the primary institutions of international society

Abstract: Refugees are often considered as a source of disorder if not fundamental threat to international society. In contrast, and drawing from an English School approach, this article argues that the figure of the refugee is foundational to the constitution of both modern international society and its agent, the sovereign territorial state; hence refugee protection represents a primary institution of international society. Starting with conceptual and methodological considerations for studying primary institutions, the article then highlights the longstanding and widespread state practice of granting asylum. It is shown that on the one hand, the figure of the refugee serves to consolidate and naturalise the nation/state/territory trinity underpinning the modern state system; and on the other hand, protecting refugees plays a central role in the construction of statist self-identities as liberal, humanitarian, and altruistic agents. The last section of the article turns to the politics of contestation of refugee protection, examining domestic, regional, and international reactions to ‘anti-refugee’ policies in the United States, Hungary, and Australia. The considerable amount of criticism generated by these restrictive policies, it is argued, evidence the enduring importance and relevance of refugee protection in (and for) international society.

Works in progress

Depoliticising EU migration policies: the EUTF Africa and the politicisation of development aid (with Natascha Zaun). Forthcoming in Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

Out of Sight? Anti-impunity thinking and the erasure of economic, social and cultural rights. Under review.

Student experiences with online learning (with Matthias Täger and Zeynep Kaparoğlu).