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Patricia Owens

Patricia Owens


Professor of International Relations and Tutorial Fellow at Somerville College
IR, Political Theory
Somerville College

Patricia Owens is Professor of International Relations. She went to a state school in London and as the first in her family to go to university did not even think to apply to Oxbridge... She particularly welcomes applications from students at non-selective state schools.

Her research interests include twentieth-century international history and theory, historical and contemporary practices of Anglo-American counterinsurgency and military intervention, and disciplinary history and the history of international and political thought. She is Principal Investigator of the Leverhulme Research Project on Women and the History of International Thought and a Co-Investigator on a Danish Council for Independent Research Project, which is a collaboration between scholars with expertise on war, visual methods, quantitative methods and AI/machine learning.

Her most recent book, Economy of Force (Cambridge, 2015) won BISA's Susan Strange Prize for the Best Book in International Studies, the ISA Theory Section Best Book Award, and was Runner up for the Guicciardini Prize for Best Book in Historical IR. Patricia's first book, Between War and Politics: International Relations and the Thought of Hannah Arendt, was published by Oxford in 2007/09. 

Patricia's current book project is a revisionist history of the practices, genres and audiences of international relations expertise in early to long mid-twentieth century Britain. The book takes up a set of figures largely unknown to IR to shed new light on the field’s racial and gendered history and the attendant consequences on its range and intellectual quality. It is thematically organized around professional contexts, kinship and intimate relations, fields and disciplines, and race/nation.

This summer, Patricia will be a Summer Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. She is a former Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute; Jane Eliza Proctor Research Fellow at Princeton; Visiting Kathleen Fitzpatrick Professor in History at Sydney; Seton-Watson Fellow at Oriel College, Oxford; Visiting Professor at UCLA; Visiting Scholar at UC-Berkeley; and Postdoctoral Fellow at USC. 

Patricia is co-editor of the leading undergraduate textbook in IR, The Globalization of World Politics (Oxford, 2020), OUP's highest selling social science textbook, now in its 7th edition and translated into nine languages. With former colleagaues at Sussex, she was co-editor of European Journal of International Relations and now sits on the editorial boards of EJIR, Security Dialogue and Political Studies. She was previously on the boards of Journal of International Political Theory and Humanity and was managing editor of Cambridge Review of International Affairs during her M.Phil. at Cambridge.

Research Interests

Patricia is the Director of the Leverhulme Research Project Grant, Women and the History of International Thought. This multidisciplinary and multi-methodological project systematically recovers and evaluates the international thought of women both inside and outside academe during the early to long mid-twentieth-century, focusing on Britan and the United States. Already published or forthcoming work include edited volumes, multiple journal articles, a monograph, doctoral dissertation, new Oral History archive and web resource, multiple journal special sections and roundtables on the Project, and a Public Exhbition to open in London in the Spring of 2022. Patricia's co-investigators are Katharina Rietzler and Kimberly Hutchings.

She is also Co-Investigator on a Danish Council for Independent Research (2019-2024) project that uses large-N quantitative visual methodologies, including AI/machine learning, and qualitative methods to examine how gender norms are reproduced or challenged in war photography, using a massive trove of images from the US-Iraq War provided by award-winning photojournalists, including from The New York TimesBodies as Battleground: Gender Images and International Security is led by Professor Lene Hansen (Copenhagen).  

Political Theory Feminism Gender History International relations Power



Patricia teaches Somerville PPE undergraduates the core IR paper and the two historical papers, IR in the Era of World Wars and IR during the Cold War. She teaches IR M.Phils students part of the core paper, The Development of the International System, and optional course, Critical Historical Methods for IR.

She recieved a Teaching Excellence Award from the Social Science Teaching Audit at Oxford and was nominated for university-wide teaching awards at QMUL and Sussex.

Patricia welcomes applications from prospective DPhil students working across a range of IR themes and approaches to twentieth-century international history and theory, disciplinary history and the history of international and political thought, and Anglo-American counterinsurgency and military intervention. She is particuarly keen to supervise projects that overlap with her current research projects. 



Discipline and Difference: A History of International Thought (working title, monogaph in progress)

Economy of Force: Counterinsurgency and the Historical Rise of the Social (Cambridge University Press, 2015)

  • Winner, BISA’s 2016 Susan Strange Best Book Prize; Winner, International Studies Association Theory Section Best Book Award; Runner up, Francesco Guicciardini Prize for Best Book in Historical IR; Special section, Security Dialogue

Between War and Politics: International Relations and the Thought of Hannah Arendt (Oxford University Press, 2007)

  • Subject of special section in International Politics; Japanese translation; nominated for PSA W.J.M. Mackenzie Book Prize

Edited Volumes

Women’s International Thought: Towards A New Canon co-editor with S. Dunstan, K. Hutchings, K. Rietzler (Cambridge, forthcoming)

  • Subject of forthcoming fora or special sections in International Theory, International Politics Review, Journal of Contemporary Political Theory, H-Diplo, The Journal of the History of Ideas blog, and review essay in International Relations

Women’s International Thought: A New History co-editor with Katharina Rietzler (Cambridge, 2021)

  • Subject of forthcoming fora or special section in International Theory, International Politics Review, Journal of Contemporary Political Theory, and H-Diplo, and a review essay in International Relations

The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations 8th edition (Oxford, 2020) co-editor with J. Baylis and S. Smith and previous editions in 2008, 2011, 2014, and 2017

  • Translated into Arabic, French, Korean, Polish, Greek, Turkish, Slovene, Macedonian, Kazakh, and Hungarian

Articles (select)

Women Thinkers and the Canon of International Thought: Recovery, Rejection , and ReconstitutionAmerican Political Science Review, 2021 firstview (with K. Hutchings)

  • OOIR’s ‘top trending’ of all political science articles in the week following publication

Claudia Jones, International Thinker, Modern Intellectual History2021 firstview (with S. Dunstan)

Women and the History of International Thought, International Studies Quarterly, 62(3) 2018: 467-481

Decolonizing Civil War, CAL: International & Interdisciplinary Law Review, 4(2) 2017: 160-169

Racism in the Theory Canon: Hannah Arendt and ‘the one Great Crime in which America was Never Involved’, Millennium, 45(33) 2017: 403-424

The International Origins of Hannah Arendt’s Historical Method, Political Power and Social Theory (32) 2017: 37-62

The Limits of Military Sociology, International Affairs, 96(3) 2017: 460-1462

International Historical What? International Theory, 8(3) 2016: 448-457

On the Conduct of Sociological Warfare: a reply to special section on Economy of Force, Security Dialogue, 47(3) 2016: 215-222

Introduction to the Forum: Historicizing the Social in International Thought, Review of International Studies, 41(4) 2015: 652-653

Method or Madness: Sociolatry in International Thought, Review of International Studies, 41(4) 2015: 655-674

From Bismarck to Petraeus: The Question of the Social and the Social Question in Counterinsurgency, European Journal of International Relations, 19(1) 2013: 135-157

Human Security and the Rise of the Social, Review of International Studies, 38(3) 2012: 547-567. Highly commended by the Article Prize Committee. Subject of a panel at 2018 ISA

Not Life but the World is at Stake: Hannah Arendt on Citizenship in the Age of the Social, Citizenship Studies, 16(2) 2012: 295-305

The Supreme Social Concept: The Un-worldliness of Modern Security, New Formations, 71: 2011: 14-29

Torture, Sex and Military Orientalism, Third World Quarterly, 31(7) 2010: 1147-1162

Reclaiming “Bare Life”? Against Agamben on Refugees, International Relations, 23(4) 2009: 567-82; reprinted in Betts and Loescher (eds.) Refugees in International Relations (Oxford)

Distinctions, Distinctions: “Public” and “Private” Force? International Affairs, 84(5) 2008: 977-90; reprinted in Colás and Mabee (eds.) Mercenaries, Pirates, Bandits and Empires (Columbia)

Humanity, Sovereignty and the Camps, International Politics, 45(4) 2008: 522-530

Beyond Strauss, Lies, and the War in Iraq: Hannah Arendt’s Critique of Neoconservatism, Review of International Studies, 33(2) 2007: 265-83; among top ten most cited articles during 2013-15

Xenophilia, Gender and Sentimental Humanitarianism, Alternatives, 29(3) 2004: 285-304

Theorising Military Intervention, International Affairs, 80(2) 2004: 355-365

Accidents Don’t Just Happen: The Liberal Politics of High-Tech Humanitarian War, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 32(3) 2003: 595-616

Book chapters (select)

Introduction: Toward a History of Women’s International Thought with Rietzler in Owens and Rietzler (eds.) Women’s International Thought: A New History (Cambridge, 2020)

Introduction: From International Politics to World Politics, with Baylis and Smith in Baylis, Smith and Owens (eds.) The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations (Oxford, 8ed.)

How Dangerous it can be to be Innocent in M. Goldoni and C. McCorkindale (eds.) Hannah Arendt and the Law (Hart, 2012): 251-270

The Return of Realism? War and Changing Concepts of the Political in S. Scheipers and H. Strachan (eds.) The Changing Character of War (Oxford, 2011): 484-502

The Ethics of War: Critical Alternatives in D. Bell (ed.) Ethics and World Politics (Oxford, 2010): 309-323

Walking Corpses: Arendt on the Limits and the Possibilities of Cosmopolitan Politics, in C. Moore and C. Farrands (eds.) International Relations Theory and Philosophy: Interpretive Dialogues                                (Routledge, 2010): 72-82

Hannah Arendt, in J. Edkins and N. Vaughan-Williams (eds.) Critical Theorists and International Relations (Routledge, 2009): 31-41

The Ethic of Reality in Hannah Arendt, in D. Bell (ed.) Political Thought and International Relations (Oxford, 2008), pp.105-121

Hannah Arendt, Violence, and the Inescapable Fact of Humanity in A.F. Lang and J. Williams (eds.) Hannah Arendt and International Relations (Palgrave, 2005): 41-65

Other (select)

Women’s Anticolonial International Thought, Blog for Leverhulme Project Website (with S. Dunstan)

Women Thinkers of the World Economy, Blog for Leverhulme Project Website

Sex, Gender and Canon, Blog for Leverhulme Project Website

On the Heirs to Agnes Headlam-Morley, Blog for Leverhulme Project Website

What Happened to Women’s International Thought, Blog for Leverhulme Project Website

A Political Economy of the “Exception”?, Security Dialogue/PRIO blog

Lucy Philip Mair, Early International Relations scholar, LSE History Blog

Susan Strange, Never Meant to be an Academic, LSE History Blog

Critical Dialogue between Jessica A. Stanton, author of Violence and Restraint in Civil War and Patricia Owens, author of Economy of Force, Perspectives on Politics, 15(4) 2017: 1102-1107

Economy of Force: a symposium, The Disorder of Things, opening post and reply to special section on Economy of Force (Cambridge, 2015)

Interview/Profile, E-International Relations, January 2015

Selected professional activities

Patricia is a Tutorial Fellow of Somerville College, sitting on its Governing Body, and is a member of DPIR's Equality & Diversity Working Group

During 2018, Patricia was consultant on a project on Hannah Arendt at the Joint Research Centre at the European Commission. In Spring 2022, she will co-curate a Public Exhibition on women's international thought in London, with the opening to coincide with a major international conference.