Jonathan Austin

Jonathan AUSTIN

Postdoctoral Researcher, CCDP
Lead Researcher, Violence Prevention (VIPRE) Initiative
Visiting Professor
Spoken languages
English, French, Arabic
Areas of expertise
  • Armed conflicts, violence
  • Critical security studies
  • Social theory
Geographical Region of Expertise
  • Middle East


Jonathan Luke Austin is a political sociologist and Lead Researcher for the Violence Prevention (VIPRE) Initiative at the CCDP. His research explores – principally – the global ontologies of political violence, with his expertise thus focused on social theory and philosophy, the possibility and prevention of political violence, Middle Eastern politics, and related topics, as well as the roles of art and literature in world politics. He possesses over a decade of research and field experience on/in the Middle East (Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Turkey) and regularly consults for NGOs and the media on ongoing conflicts. Austin’s work has been published in leading journals including European Journal of International Relations, International Political Sociology, Security Dialogue, and beyond – as well as numerous other outlets. He is a member of the editorial team for Contexto Internacional: Journal of Global Connections, based at PUC-RIO, and is communications officer on the executive board of the Science, Technology, and Art in IR (STAIR) section of the International Studies Association.

As Lead Researcher for the VIPRE Initiative – a multi-year and multi-researcher project designed by Austin and funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation – Austin is investigating novel (pragmatist) sociological approaches for achieving the prevention of war crimes and human rights violations (torture, the targeting of civilians, genocide) by translating cutting-edge social theory into empirical and practical purchase. Austin’s previous work exploring the conditions of possibility for violent human rights abuses like torture forms the core theoretical, conceptual and empirical base underlying the Initiative.

Austin received his PhD summa cum laude avec les félicitations du jury in International Relations from the Graduate Institute in 2017. His doctoral research was again funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Previously, Austin was a Doctoral Researcher at the CCDP (2016-2017), a Visiting Scholar at the Centre for the Resolution of International Conflicts (CRIC) at the University of Copenhagen (2015-2016), and a Research Affiliate at the Max Weber Foundation’s Orient-Institut Beirut (OIB) in Lebanon while conducting a yearlong fieldwork project (2014-2015). He has also taught for the Graduate Institute’s Masters in International Affairs and Masters in Development Studies programmes, instructing a variety of postgraduate-level seminars and carrying out other teaching duties. In 2017-2018, Austin is teaching for the Anthropology and Sociology (ANSO) department of the Graduate Institute, whilst also giving regular guest lectures in Geneva and carrying out other ad-hoc teaching activities. Earlier, he completed his undergraduate education at the University of St Andrews, reading Arabic and International Relations. He also studied advanced Arabic language and literature at the University of Damascus across several years.

Aside from academia, Austin’s work has taken him extensively to the Middle East, where he has lived, worked, and carried out ethnographic field research in Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Kurdistan, Jordan, and Turkey. During this time he worked worked with United Nations agencies across the Middle East and NGOs focused on educational programmes. Austin also worked as a freelance photographer in the Middle East for governmental bodies and other organizations, with his work being published and distributed by leading photojournalistic agencies including Reuters. Today, he continues to consulate and write policy or research documents for, present his work to, and collaborate with organisations including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the Danish Institute Against Torture (DIGNITY), the Swedish Red Cross (Svenska Röda Korset), the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, the World Bank, the Canadian Development Agency, the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), and beyond.



  • Forthcoming: Small Worlds of Violence: A global grammar for torture ( Manuscript in preparation for submission to University of Minnesota Press.


  • 2018: Doing and Mediating Critique. Security Dialogue, 50 (1-2), with Rocco Bellanova and Mareile Kaufmann.

  • 2018: (De)Securitization Dilemmas. Review of International Studies, Forthcoming 2018.

  • 2017: We have never been civilised: Torture and the Materiality of World Political Binaries. European Journal of International Relations, 23 (1): 49-73.

  • 2017: Becoming a Torturer: Towards a Global Ergonomics of Care. International Review of the Red Cross, DOI: 10.1017/S1816383117000261.

  • 2016: Torture and the Material-Semiotic Networks of Violence Across Borders. International Political Sociology, 10 (1): 3-21.

  • 2011: Facebook and Fanatics: Islam and the Arab Revolutions. Regulating Religion, Summer 2012.


  • Forthcoming: Post-Critical International Relations? How to change the world political. Manuscript in preparation for submission. Contributors including Christian Bueger, Anna Leander, Mareike De Goede, Audra Mitchell, Jef Huysmans, Joao Nogueira, Keith Krause, Vincent Pouliot, Michael C. Williams, Claudia Aradau and Ole Waever. See

  • Forthcoming: World Political Compositions: Making sense of the International (with Anna Leander). Manuscript in preparation for submission. Contributors including Roland Bleiker, Naeem Inayatullah, Aida Hozic, L.H.M Ling, Charlotte Epstein, Arlene B. Tickner, Anna Leander, Michele Acuto, Sally Butler, Elisabetta Brighi, and Elspeth Van Veeren. See


  • 2019: Normative Reserves and their Practice. In Norms, Practice, Normativity: Towards a New Theory of International Relations (NIRT), Liste, Philip. & Wiener, A. (Eds.) Berlin: VS Springer.

  • 2018: Popular Culture and the Elicitation of Practice. Accepted in How to do Popular Culture in International Relations, Salter, Mark. & Yao, Sandra. (Eds). London: Routledge.

  • 2018:The Chair Sits on the Man: The Non-Human Perpetration of Violence. Accepted in Routledge Handbook of Perpetrator Studies, Knittel, S. & Goldnerg, Z. (Eds.). London: Routledge.

  • 2018: Visibility: Practices of Seeing and Overlooking, with Anna Leander. In Mapping International Practices, Bueger C., Drieschova, A., and Hopf, T. (Eds).

  • 2018: Hot Tea With Sugar and the Translation(s) of Torture. In Translations of Security, Berling TV., Gad, UP., Peterson, JL. and Wæver, O. (Eds), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • 2018: Meaning Making and the Grammar of the City, with Oliver Jütersonke. In Sustaining Peace in the City: New Perspectives on Urban Safety and Peacebuilding, Wennmann, A. (Ed), London: Routledge.

  • 2017: The Futures Mutamash of the Middle East. In Transient Ontologies: A Patchwork of Middle East Futures, Riccardo B. & Mallard G. (Eds).


  • 2018: Doing and Mediating Critique, Security Dialogue, 50 (1-2), co-edited with Rocco Bellanova and Mareile Kaufmann.


  • 2017: The Germination of Abusive Violence and its Restraint. Geneva: The Violence Prevention Initiative.

  • 2017: The Private Sector and Violence Prevention in Kenya, 2007-2013. Commissioned for the United Nations and World Bank, Preventing Violent Conflict, a UN-World Bank Group Study, World Bank Group Chief Technical Specialist Fragility, Conflict and Violence Group, Geneva.

  • 2016: The Private Sector and Violence Prevention in Kenya, 2007-2013. Commissioned for the project ‘The Business Community as a Peacebuilding Actor’ undertaken by CDA Collaborative Learning, the Africa Centre for Dispute Settlement (ACDS), and the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), with Achim Wennmann.

  • 2016: Guarantees of Non-Recurrence and the Violence Prevention (VIPRE) Initiative. Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding: Geneva.

  • 2016: Understanding the Grammar of the City: A semiotic perspective of the urban safety-peacebuilding nexusGeneva Peacebuilding Platform White Paper Series, for theTechnical Working Group on the Confluence of Urban Safety and Peacebuilding Practice, UN Habitat. With Oliver Jütersonke.

  • 2011: Hamas and the Peace Process: Resistance, Rejectionism, Reconciliation? Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, The University of St Andrews.