In my work, I examine how creativity, innovation, and situated problem-solving by security practitioners and policymakers propels transformations in international norms, regimes, and regulatory arrangements. This encompasses evolutions in technologies, strategies, and regulatory frameworks. I focus on the ways practitioners share knowledge, contest concepts, experiment with new methods, and creatively revise or reorient their interventions. A key question for me is how practitioners come to use often controversial methods such as through targeted killing, mass data collection, and private contracting—and how this influences the ethical and cultural environment of international relations and conflict..
My book, published in January 2022 by Cambridge University Press, explains the normative transformations underpinning the US’s global counter-terrorism activities in the two decades after the September 11th attacks. In it, I examine targeted killing, torture, and private security contracting as practices emerging out of the US’s needs and solutions during the ‘War on Terrorism’, tracing the processes by which these activities were institutionalised and how international and domestic prohibitions on assassination, torture, and mercenarism were reinterpreted and reconstructed.
In addition, I am continuing a project on privatisation and contracting in the intelligence sector, initially funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Government of Canada). This project studies how the use of private, market actors to perform the intelligence and information management functions of national security apparatuses interacts with normative conceptions of sovereignty. Along with my fieldwork in DC, I will be expanding this project to include Israel and Australia this year.
Alongside these more empirical projects is my ongoing interest in pragmatist social theory, relational historical sociology, and the philosophy of social science. These interests come together with the transformation of security practices in my book, but I have also explored them individually in a number of publications and conference papers. Along with co-authors, I am trying to make greater space within the field of International Relations for philosophical pragmatism to inform the way politics, security, and conflict are framed and discussed.