28 April 2017

James Hollway works on network approaches to study governance

This specialist in international relations and political sociology presents his current research projects and publications.

Born in New Zealand, James Hollway has been Assistant Professor at the Graduate Institute since 2015. A specialist in international relations and political sociology, he presents here his current research projects and related publications.

Can you please introduce yourself?

I am affiliated with the Department of International Relations/Political Science, the Centre for International Environmental Studies, the Centre for Trade and Economic Integration and the Programme for the Study of International Governance. Before coming here, I took my DPhil at the University of Oxford and was postdoctoral research fellow at ETH Zürich and USI Lugano. One area in which I am involved is developing relational theory. I collaborate with political scientists, economists and organisational theorists to develop theory about how actors relate to each other and resources through institutions. Broadly speaking, I am interested in the governance of complex fields of social activity, such as the environment or trade. However, I continue to be especially fascinated by the empirical topic of my dissertation, global fisheries governance. Lastly, I contribute to the development of methods, especially statistical network methods, for use in researching social phenomena. I am also active in teaching these methods.

Can you briefly present the major findings of the paper you recently published?


I have been fortunate to publish a few pieces recently together with really excellent co-authors from across Switzerland and beyond, which relate to ongoing research projects. Jean-Frédéric Morin (Université Laval), Joost Pauwelyn (Graduate Institute) and I have a primarily programmatic piece coming out in the next issue of the Journal of International Economic Law that proposes that the evolution of the trade regime and even the norms within it – we traced environmental norms – can be usefully understood as a complex adaptive system. Our analysis suggests that both exploratory and exploitative processes are at work over time. For me, this builds upon work I have done with Karolina Milewicz, Claire Peacock and Duncan Snidal (all of the University of Oxford) on the diffusion of non-trade issues in trade agreements (forthcoming in the Journal of Conflict Resolution). The next paper in the current research project focuses in on the exploratory element to make an endogenous, structural argument about where legal innovation happens. We hope that by understanding how new elements emerge from old we can better inform debates about international institutional choices.

Are you involved in other research processes?

Yes, I have a piece coming out in the next issue of Network Science (“Multilevel Social Spaces and the Network Dynamics of Organizational Fields”) with Francesca Pallotti (University of Greenwich), Christoph Stadtfeld (ETH Zürich) and Alessandro Lomi (USI Lugano) that updates a network conceptualisation of social space in a multilevel and dynamic way. We illustrate our argument with an example of (health) organisations’ cooperative and affiliative choices and recommend that (network) models should aim to recreate context-specific multilevel and dynamic social spaces. This relates to a “topological typology” I originally proposed in my doctoral thesis on global fisheries, which I am now working with Stephanie Hofmann and Cédric Dupont (both of the Graduate Institute) to convert into a piece comparing the structure of environmental, trade and security regime complexes. We aim to understand how these different settings create and drive the evolution of different topologies or social spaces to better inform debates about fragmentation and coordination in different policy domains.

Lastly, Christoph Stadtfeld, Per Block (both of ETH Zürich) and I have been working on a statistical network model for analysing the dynamics of network ties from an actor-oriented perspective. The first paper in a series we have planned is due to be published as the lead paper of a symposium in Sociological Methodology this year. It proposes a model that, where data allow, enables precise inference about the sequence and structural setting of actors’ coordination choices. We demonstrate the model using two datasets: one of teenagers’ intimate relationships and the other, my own, of international fisheries agreements. One of my follow-ups with Christoph Stadtfeld aims to introduce this model more directly to those analysing political and international affairs, arguing that this area is awash with the kind of data that allows the precision and additional properties of the model to be exploited. We wish that by making such methods available, researchers will be inspired to ask and seek to answer multilevel, dynamic questions of their data that we haven’t even thought of yet.

James Hollway’s personal website >


  • “The Trade Regime as a Complex Adaptive System: Exploration and Exploitation of Environmental Norms in Trade Agreements” (with Jean-Frédéric Morin and Joost Pauwelyn). Journal of International Economic Law, 20(2) (forthcoming).
  • “Beyond Trade: The Expanding Scope of the Non-Trade Agenda in Trade Agreements” (with Karolina Milewicz, Claire Peacock, and Duncan Snidal). Journal of Conflict Resolution (forthcoming).
  • “Multilevel Social Space: The Network Dynamics of Organizational Fields” (with Francesca Pallotti, Christoph Stadtfeld, and Alessandro Lomi). Network Science, 5(2) (forthcoming) .
  • “Dynamic Network Actor Models: Investigating Coordination through Time” (with Christoph Stadtfeld and Per Block). Sociological Methodology, 47 (forthcoming).