My research focuses on international security and international relations, and in particular on contemporary and historical nuclear politics. I’m particularly interested in issues of identity and status as they apply to the nuclear programs of Israel, India, and Iran. I take an interdisciplinary perspective on international security that draws from political science, history, and sociology.
My current book project begins with the common distinction in international politics between nuclear and non-nuclear issues: nuclear weapons are treated very differently than non-nuclear weapons, and nuclear states are treated differently than non-nuclear states. This distinction between nuclear and non-nuclear is politically-consequential but the meaning between nuclear and non-nuclear is not always clear. The difference is sometimes seen as a material one, measured by progress in the uranium enrichment cycle, sometimes as a legal question that is located in the politics of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and sometimes as a social and political question as when the United States sees Iran as a nuclear threat despite its unclear nuclear status. My research looks at how contemporary nuclear politics are shaped by all three of these ideas about what makes a nuclear state. I argue that being nuclear or non-nuclear is negotiated, contested, and constructed. As such the distinction becomes a discursive resource for states: it provides a language by which states enact their identities and interests.
From a technical perspective, ambiguities in the difference between civilian and military nuclear technology result in contestation and manipulation of the material components necessary for nuclear statehood. I track how Israel’s diplomatic history with the United States unfolds through this sort of manipulation. From a legal perspective, I examine both the history and legal text of the NPT in order to show how it shapes India’s self-understanding in the global nuclear regime and becomes a resource for its continuing dissent to the treaty. Finally, the distinction between nuclear and non-nuclear states is also driven by normative understandings of what it means to be a responsible nuclear state. I show how Iran’s recognition as nuclear or non-nuclear hinges on its recognition as responsible or irresponsible.
Photo Credit: UN Photo/Milton Grant