Research

Patricia is the Director of a £286,000 Leverhulme Research Project Grant, Women and the History of International Thought, which will run from the summer of 2018 until 2022.

The aim of this research is to systematically recover and evaluate the international thought of women both inside and outside academe during the early to mid-twentieth-century. With few exceptions, women are absent in existing histories of international thought and the discipline of International Relations. Yet preliminary research shows that significant numbers of women were present in the early years of the discipline. Women have thought deeply about the relations between peoples, nations, and states. This multidisciplinary and multi-methodological project fills an important gap by remedying the invisibility of women’s significant contributions to IR and the history of international thought. 

Patricia is also Co-Investigator on a project funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research (2018-2022). Bodies as Battleground: Gender Images and International Security is led by Professor Lene Hansen (Copenhagen). The team will use both qualitative and large-N quantitative visual methodologies to examine how gender norms are reproduced or challenged in war photography, using a massive trove of images from the US-Iraq War. 

Patricia's most recent monograph, Economy of Force: Counterinsurgency and the Historical Rise of the Social (Cambridge University Press, 2015), won BISA's Susan Strange Prize for best international studies book, the ISA Theory Section Best Book Award, and was Runner up for the Francesco Guicciardini Prize for Best Book in Historical International Relations. Research for the book was supported by a competitive fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard.

This new history and theory of counterinsurgency has major implications for social, political and international thought. Retrieving the older but surprisingly neglected language of household governance, Economy of Force shows how the techniques and domestic ideologies of household administration are highly portable and play a remarkably central role in international and imperial relations. In two late-colonial British emergencies in Malaya and Kenya, US counterinsurgency in Vietnam, and US-led campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, armed social work was the continuation of oikonomia - not politics - by other means. Though never wholly successful, counterinsurgents variously sought to draw on and innovate forms of household governance to create units of rule in which local populations were domesticated. They did this through the selective delivery and withholding of humanitarian supplies; inside and through small-scale family homes, detention and concentration camps; depopulation and re-concentration in new villages and strategic hamlets; the creation or shaping of tribes and sectarian militias; and inside newly formed or reformed post-war national-states. Military strategists conceived such population control as 'sociological warfare' because the social realm itself and distinctly social thought are modern forms of oikonomikos, the art and science of household rule. There is an important story to be told of when and why the social realm first emerged as the domain through which human life could be intervened in and transformed. Economy of Force tells this story in terms of modern transformations in and violent crises of household forms of rule.

Security Dialogue hosted a special section on the book (Vol.47, no.3) with contributions from Tarak Barkawi, Patchen Markell, Julian Go, and Vivienne Jabri and The Disorder of Things hosted a symposium with contributions from Paul Kirby, Jairus Grove, Elke Schwarz, and Andrew Davenport.

Patricia Owens' first book was Between War and Politics: International Relations and the Thought of Hannah Arendt (Oxford University Press, 2007)

Other research has focussed on the history and theory of warfare and politics (including military intervention, ethics of war, civilian casualties, refugees, counterinsurgency, human security, military orientalism, gender); international political theory (including work on Arendt, Strauss, Schmitt, Habermas, Agamben, Marx); international theory (including classical realism, critical theory, liberalism, cosmopolitanism); and political theory (thought of Hannah Arendt).

I am happy to consider supervising research projects in any of these areas.

Current doctoral researchers include

Jo Wood, Historical women and rewriting the disciplinary history of American IR

Morgan Williams, Dissent and democracy promotion in post-'Arab Spring' Tunisia

Kate Cherry, Feminist historical materialism and the transition to neoliberalism

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