My research focuses on international security and international relations, and in particular on contemporary and historical nuclear politics. I look at the place of nuclear weapons in the diplomatic relations of Iran, Israel, and India. My primary interest is in how nuclear weapons are used as political resources and I take an interdisciplinary perspective on international security that draws from political science, history, and sociology.

My dissertation titled, “The Politics of Nuclearity: Identity Relations in the Global Nuclear Regime,” 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