Centre for Advanced International Theory (CAIT)

2014 Sussex International Theory Prize

The 2014 Sussex International Theory Prize has been awarded to K. M. Fierke (University of St. Andrews) for her book, Political Self-Sacrifice: Agency, Body and Emotion in International Relations  (Cambridge University Press, 2013).

At a time when suicide terrorism is widely considered as a new challenge arising out of political Islam, Fierke shows that political self-sacrifice has been a common response to foreign interference across cultures and religions with a much longer historical lineage. As a weapon of the weak, political self-sacrifice uses the body to give voice to the grievances of oppressed populations, and signals their resistance to their diminished or lost ‘sovereignty’, creating in this way a 'warden's dilemma' for the oppressor. By exploring in detail a range of cases of political self-sacrifice, and analyzing its logic, rationality and, indeed, power, the book implicitly illuminates how much of international theory is based on, and normalizes, the policies of powerful actors, overlooking the systematic, rational and, indeed, powerful nature of the weapons of the weak. The 'warden's dilemma' is as much an integral part of a hierarchical international order as the 'prisoner's dilemma' is of an anarchical international order. Fierke elucidates and weaves together the role of culture, religion and politics for each case without essentializing either.

Prof. Fierke delivered the Prize Lecture at Sussex on 18th of March 2015: