PhD Students

Current PhD students

Rosanne Anholt

A common theme in international security is the concept of resilience, which can be understood as a characteristic of systems, structures, organisations, communities, individuals, materials or biological organisms’ responses to crises, characterised by the ability to absorb the shock, adapt to the new reality, and transform in order to function either as before the crisis, or in a superior manner. It resonates with kindred terms such as adaptability, bouncing back, preparedness, self-protection, ‘building back better’, participation, engagement, and (local) ownership. This particular expression of risk-based thinking has found its way into international responses to protracted crises: fragile contexts characterised by long-term political instability, (episodes of) violent conflict, and vulnerability of the lives and livelihoods of the population. A prominent example is the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (‘3RP’) in response to the Syria crisis, a consortium effort that brings together no less than 200 partners including national governments, United Nations agencies, inter-governmental organizations, and various NGOs in an appeal of more than 5.7 billion US dollars. Ongoing, protracted crises like Syria and Iraq, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Yemen – to name just a few – are increasingly important due to their enormous spill over effects, which include unprecedented refugee and migrant flows, religious radicalisation, and polarisation in host states. In her PhD project, Rosanne intends to analyse the discourses, practices and outcomes of the resilience-based governance of the security of individuals, communities and societies prone to conflict, in conflict, and post-conflict situations. In particular, she aims to look at how diverse power relations express themselves through resilience as it (1) determines a particular worldview, (2) dictates ‘best practices’, and (3) impacts the security of crises-affected populations, for better or worse.

Xue Mi

Since the Saint-Malo declaration in the late 1990s, the EU started to become a true security actor under the framework of European Security and Defence Policy. From the first occurrence of the term ‘strategic culture’ in the European Security Strategy in 2003, to the recent signs of strategic thinking and planning by the formulation of the EU Global Strategy in 2016, and finally to the decision on constructing a new comprehensive defence package (PESCO) for the EU with involvement of four traditionally neutral members in 2017, these events reflect a crucial phenomenon of the strategic field in Europe: the European strategic culture has been undergoing profound changes.
In her PhD project, Xue intends to examine the changing characteristics of European strategic culture over time by focusing on supranational level and national level. The national/member-state level with the dichotomy of elite culture and mass culture will present evidence from three European countries (Germany, Poland and Ireland). Specifically, she aims to locate the main areas of convergence and of divergence between EU strategic culture and national strategic cultures, between elites and publics, thereby depicting the patterns and trends of inhomogeneous European strategic culture from 1998 to 2020. To achieve this, she will conduct qualitative content analysis of strategic documents, collect original data by semi-structured interviews with political elites, and combine statistical analysis of secondary public opinion data. This findings promise to provide innovative insights into strategic-cultural paradigm to understand security policy of both nation-state actors and post-Westphalian actors, and contribute to the debate about European Security and Defence Policy.

Sanne Groothuis

In her PhD project, Sanne researches racism and religious discrimination in counter-radicalisation policies. Specifically, she investigates if, how, and because of which factors national Western European counter-radicalisation policies racialize certain, especially religious, groups. It takes the Netherlands and Switzerland as case studies and aims to find possible explanations for differences between their policies, such as past experiences with colonialism. The research is based on literature from the fields of Critical Race Studies and Critical Security Studies, and uses qualitative discourse analysis as well as semi-structured interviews as its methods. By discovering similarities and differences between the policies, it aims to describe contingencies in processes of racialisation, securitization, and discrimination. It is by knowing these type of contingencies that we are more likely to be able to correct and prevent unintended harmful processes with regard to counter-radicalisation policies.

Former PhD students

Michal Onderco

Michal’s PhD project looked at reasons why states chose to adopt a specific stance on the so-called “rogue states” – norm-breakers in international relations. Drawing on both liberal and realist traditions, Michal’s research argued that it was a mix of domestic norms and power-politics considerations which influenced states’ foreign policy. In the course of his PhD, Michal became interested in the countries of the Global South, and published a book Iran’s Nuclear Program and the Global South: The Foreign Policy of India, Brazil, and South Africa (Palgrave, 2015)

Michal continues to be interested in the Global South, but also in the drivers of coercive behavior, and influence of domestic politics on foreign policy.
Michal’s research had been funded with a grant by the NWO, the Dutch Science Association. He defended his PhD in September 2014. He has been  Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute, Florence, Italy in 2014/15, and he now holds a position as Assistant Professor of International Relations (with tenure) at the Department of Public Administration and Sociology, Erasmus University Rotterdam.

More about Michal can be found here.

Falk Ostermann

Falk’s PhD project has dealt with French security and defense policy in NATO and the EU under president Sarkozy and longer patterns of continuity and change in French security and defense. His research gives testament to changes in the French conceptualization of the European security and defense architecture, suggests a normalization of French CSDP policies, and it unveils an concomitant, ex-post re-signification of France’s NATO reintegration move in 2009. On the basis of these results, he argues that a new French foreign policy identity and a new approach to security and defense cooperation have come into being. This bears broader consequences for European and Euro-Atlantic cooperation in major institutions like the EU and NATO. On the grounds of this work, Falk has published related articles and the book Security, Defense Discourse and Identity in NATO and Europe. How France Changed Foreign Policy (Routledge, 2019). 

Falk’s current research interests include the party politics of foreign and security policy, NATO, CSDP, identity, and practice theory.
His methodological expertise is centered on constructivism, Interpretive Policy Analysis, Critical Security Studies, and  the Discourse Theory of the Essex School, which he has developed further in the realm of Foreign Policy Analysis.

Falk’s research has been funded with a full-time research grant by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. He has defended his PhD in April 2015. After an appointment as Assistant Professor of International Security Governance at the VU University Amsterdam in 2014 and 2015, he is now Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany.

More information about Falk can be found here.

Glenn Diesen

Glenn has researched how the post-Cold War trend towards empowerment of the inter-democratic community affects Russian cooperation with European security organisations. After the Cold War the exclusive inter-democratic EU and NATO have empowered themselves by expanding territory and absorbing responsibilities from the inclusive UN and OSCE. Thus, the post-Cold War trend in European security is characterised by empowerment of exclusive and expanding Western security organisations that are not constrained by veto from excluded states, and the elevated role of liberal democracy in European security by linking democracy directly with security.

The research aimed to assess how Russia cooperates with a self-empowered inter-democratic community, where the elevated role of liberal democracy in European security challenges sovereignty and international law. Russia cooperates with Europe through NATO and EU ‘partnerships’ where Russia does not have veto-power, while the OSCE is transformed and supplemented with Western NGOs to monitor human rights in the East. This security structure creates a teacher/learner relationship between the West and Russia that can be viewed as (1) a ‘socialising’ process where Russia gravitates towards the West as it adapts to liberal democratic values. The other view is that (2) democracy follows traditional ideological / idealist internationalism, where power is centralised in the West and the Russia is subordinated in Europe.

Glenn has defended his PhD in September 2014 and is now an associate professor at the university of Southern Norway.

Biejan Poor Toulabi

In his PhD project, Biejan sets out to investigate under which combinations of conditions states decide to develop or forgo developing nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. For this purpose, he employs Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA).

Today, the spread of weapons of mass destruction is a pressing international concern as ever. This is in part evident by the trove of scholarly works trying to unravel what causes states to seek or forgo nuclear weapons. Theorizing about the causes of proliferation has been particularly fertile since the end of the Cold War, with scholars providing accounts of economic, normative, legal, psychological, prestige-based, and domestic political dimensions of nuclear proliferation in addition to traditional military-security based ones. Two important conclusions can be drawn from this extensive body of work: 1) the nuclear proliferation puzzle is characterized by causal complexity, where no single theoretical account can sufficiently explain why states opt for or forgo nuclear weapons; and 2) little attention is given to the drivers of biological and chemical weapons proliferation other than the assumption that states will opt for them when they are unable to procure nuclear weapons.

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