Research

Outer Space and the Global Commons

I am interested in outer space, and the global commons more generally (the high seas and Antarctica–as well as what others are starting to suggest might be ‘global commons’, such as the internet). I am interested in the ways in which actors cooperate, coordinate, and conflict in establishing governance over areas that are technically ‘neutral territory’–and why they have decided to make those areas ‘neutral territory’ in the first place.

My PhD (LSE Department of International Relations 2008) looked at why actors came to cooperate on specific issue-areas of outer space, by establishing regimes and acting within the context of pre-constituted international institutions–using both regime theory and the English School/ constructivism.

Regime Theory

I am interested in regime theory and the spectrum of analytical frameworks it provides–from realist-oriented approaches that assume strategic, self-motivated and utility-maximizing preference formation on the part of actors, to Grotian approaches that take into account the role of norms and forms of soft power such (such as power over legitimacy). I am also interested in how regimes develop and evolve, and how they interact with each other–in particular how some regimes may become ‘nested’ in others.

Constructivism/ English School

What provides the broader context in which ‘rational actors’ calculate their interests? I also research the role of social norms and institutions in pre-constituting the context in which actors formulate their identity and ergo their interests, and how ‘feedback loops’ complicate straightforward analysis of decision-making processes. My personal belief is that methods such as game theory, while having merit, ultimately over-simplify actors and the social context in which they exist within, and that approaches such as constructivism expand our understand of why things happen the way that they do.

Critical Theory

I am also very interested in the way in which dominant discourses come to be accepted as ‘reality’, and find myself often deconstructing those discourses from a critical perspective. I am skeptical of deterministic or essentialist lines of thought, and think it is always worth ‘stepping outside’ (to the degree that we ever can) the narrative or intertexual discourse and having a think about where it came from. I have written about gender and politics, and am also interested in issues relating to race, queer theory, and historical sociology. In this sense, I am interested in epistemology and ontology.