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John Heathershaw

Associate Professor in International Relations, University of Exeter

I am Associate Professor in International Relations with interests in two fields: Central Asian studies, including the former Soviet republics and Afghanistan; Peace and Conflict Studies, including the interdisciplinary study of the politics of conflict, security and political development. I have spent several years working for governmental, international non-governmental and academic institutions in and on Central Asia. I have been elected a director of the Central Eurasian Studies Society, serving from 2011-2014, and the European Society for Central Asian Studies, 2015-2019. I am a member of the International Advisory Board of Central Asian Survey. I am the convenor of the Exeter Central Asian Studies (ExCAS) research network (

I was Principal Investigator of the research project (ES/J013056/1) Rising Powers and Conflict Management in Central Asia (2012-2016) which has received funding from the Economic and Social Research Council.

My approach begins with the premise that distinctiveness of Central Asia’s international relations comes neither from its ostensibly distant location nor its purported backwardness, but from its modern political history. In particular, the region has been distinguished by the fact that the former Soviet republics became independent later than most postcolonies, in an era of globalization, increasingly intrusive and normatively-driven international intervention, and lax regulation of international finance. However, although the post-Soviet Central Asian states have experienced remarkably little political violence and mass political upheaval they have also failed to meet external demands for liberal reform. Thus, rather than considering political behaviour in Central Asia according to certain pre-determined categories of action (democratization, statebuilding, national security), I look at how the regional political environment is found in the emergence of new political formations and coping strategies that conform neither to the Soviet models of the past nor the liberal models of the idealised future. My doctoral work on international peacebuilding in Tajikistan which was published as a book in 2009 makes its argument in this vein.

My most recent book is Dictators Without Borders: politics and money in Central Asia (Yale University Press, 2017), co-authored with Alexander.


  • –present
    Associate Professor in International Relations, University of Exeter