My primary research interests lie in International Relations, British Foreign Policy and Security.
My current research examines the work of British public inquiries into issues of security and foreign policy. Briefly put, a public inquiry is an exercise in social science. It explains the occurrence of social phenomena. Social scientists are aware that their methodological commitments are productive. Methods and methodology ‘make social worlds’ by framing an explanation in terms of specific understandings of causation, structure and agency, and political responsibility. Through a range of qualitative methods this pioneering research explains how inquiries conduct their investigations, shaping contemporary policy debates and public discourse on security and strategy.
Funded by a highly competitive ESRC 1+3 Studentship, I completed my doctoral research in 2014, which examined the relationship between publicity, secrecy and security through the Iraq public inquiries. From 2003 Britain conducted several public inquiries, each obstructed by official secrecy justified on the grounds of national security. This led to an apparent dilemma whereby a liberal ideal of publicity was balanced against security. I rejected this balance. Instead I showed how publicity and official secrecy are both tools of security, and that the inquiries are a site of contestation between them. This research, grounded in a range of qualitative methodologies, showed how attempts to seek either publicity or secrecy constitute security practices. The inquiries and the British case for war were united by the same security practice, thus a resistance to government secrecy in the name of publicity reinforces rather than rejects the basis of liberal war.
My research has also generated important social and policy impact. I have been invited to speak on my research at the European Parliament, the Houses of Parliament, and on BBC radio.
Through my research activities I have developed a successful record of external funding, including awards from the British International Studies Association, the ESRC Festival of Social Science and an ESRC Overseas Institutional Visit award for a Visiting Scholar position at the New School for Social Research