Publications


"How to Hold Unjust Structures Responsible in International Relations," with Lauren Muscott. International Studies Quarterly (2021).

Recent public discourse and political theory center on “structural” approaches of assigning responsibility for injustice in con- trast to an “interactional” perspective. The interactional approach corrects discrete harms between agents to return to a just baseline, whereas the structural approach casts a wider net implicating agents in harmful structures for systemic transfor- mation. This theory note advances the understanding of structural responsibility in international relations by defending it against common critiques of underspecification and lack of targeted accountability. We argue that structural arguments are better understood as constituting a framework on the nature of injustice rather than a theory or descriptor of particular harms. We present a “framework, theory, action” heuristic, drawing from constructivism’s evolution from a theory (like realism and liberalism) when it first appeared to a framework (like rationalism) more recently. Our framework heuristic makes available a fuller range of conceptual tools to hold unjust structures responsible, including through targeted blame and liability, and discards the need to invent new actions to discharge structural responsibility. Rather than settle on one definition of structural responsibility—what it means, where it is located, and how it is discharged—we direct scholars to the numerous ways structural responsibility may be theorized and enacted.



"Navigating NGO-Government Relations in Human Rights: New Archival Evidence from Amnesty International, 1961-1986." International Studies Quarterly (2021)

This research note unveils new archival evidence from Amnesty International's first 25 years (1961-1986) to shed light on the realization of international human rights as Amnesty balanced “non-political politics” through multifaceted government relations. The research draws from minutes and reports of 80 meetings of Amnesty's executive leadership and interviews from the 1983-84 Amnesty Oral History project, all collected from the International Institute of Social History. The records show that during this time Amnesty relied on government and foundation funding to exit a severe financial crisis. Amnesty also cultivated a private diplomatic network with governments for access and advocacy and conducted side bargains with closed countries for access and reforms. In one sense, the new evidence complicates the conventional wisdom that Amnesty was only financed from small, individual donors and stayed away from private government dealings. In another sense, the new data extends existing insights about INGO strategic action by revealing Amnesty's pragmatic trade-offs when maintaining arms-length relations with governments to better appreciate the organization's early challenges and accomplishments. The note ultimately contributes to scholarship on the strategic choices of INGOs and provides new data for future research on the agency of nonstate actors in global governance navigating complex government relations.


"Corporate Responsibility." Oxford Research Encyplopedia of International Studies (2020)

Transnational corporations (TNCs) have assumed a greater share of global power vis-à-vis states. Thus, understanding how to assign corporate responsibility has become more urgent for scholars in international studies. Are corporations fit to be held responsible? If so, what are the existing ways of doing so? There are three research themes on conceptualizing corporate responsibility: (a) corporate criminal liability, in which corporations are assigned responsibility by determining criminal intent and liability in domestic law; (b) corporate social responsibility (CSR), in which corporations are assigned responsibility through praise and blame for adopting voluntary standards that conform with societal values; and (c) corporate international responsibility, a subset of CSR in which corporations are assigned responsibility by hardening international law, especially in human rights and the environment. The three themes feature research on corporate responsibility across a variety of disciplines, including law, criminology, global governance, sociology, business, and critical theory. Each theme prioritizes different debates and questions for research. For corporate criminal liability, the most important questions are about corporate intent in assigning blame for criminal behavior and how to deal with corporate criminal liability in domestic law. For CSR, the most important questions are about determining what obligations corporations take on as part of their social compact, how to track progress, and whether CSR leads to nonsymbolic corporate reforms. For corporate international responsibility, the most important questions are articulating on what grounds corporations should be held responsible for transnational violations of CSR obligations in state-based public international law or contract-based private international law. There are a range of ways to evaluate corporate responsibility in the three research themes. As such, the future of conceptualizing TNCs’ responsibility is diverse and open for examination by scholars of international studies.



"Varieties of Social Construction." International Studies Review (2020)

This article presents social construction as a research framework, rather than an explanatory theory in constructivism, to outline different research strategies. Varieties of constructivism thus far conceived in International Relations prefer cleavages where scholars are regarded as thin/thick, conventional/critical, or mainstream/radical. In contrast, I introduce a new landscape of social construction to show unique mechanisms for socially constructing international politics. The new landscape varies on two dimensions. The first, source of socialization, asks whether scholars treat social context as fixed in discrete, observable forms or as fluid in indiscrete, shifting arrangements. The second dimension, focus of analysis, asks whether scholars primarily study social structures, social subjects, or some interaction of the two. The dimensions make visible a multitude of research strategies with implications for the stability of social processes and the potential for causal analysis. Moreover, within this landscape, the article focuses on four processes of social construction – aggregating, assembling, internalizing, and performing – as seen inductively through examining prominent constructivist projects. Disaggregating the many processes avoids the misuse of social construction as a catchall mechanism. Finally, the article applies the select processes to the social construction of international norms to better grasp the relative payoffs of constructivist IR scholarship for research and teaching.



"Assembling International Organizations." Journal of International Organizations Studies (2013)

Typical scholarship on international organizations (IOs) focuses on the effects that IOs have on international relations. As Ian Hurd clarifies, such effects inform an IO’s ontology as actor, forum, or resource. This paper thinks with and beyond such contributions by more closely aligning outcome to process for a relational reconceptualization of IOs. In addition to analyzing what they explain about international politics, sociological approaches to IOs should also treat IOs as entities to be explained. I argue that IOs are assemblages of diverse actors projecting coherence in order to authorize particular identities, knowledges, and actions. Power flows through the construction process of IOs as their roles of actor, forum, or resource are constitutive with their socially mediated processes of assembly. Introducing the vocabulary of assemblage opens up space for understanding IOs as contingent settlements of varied organizational politics and competing tensions. The negotiation of these settlements deserves as much attention as the effects on international politics they make possible.