Taboo or Not Taboo? Mapping the Use of Chemical Weapons and Deterring Future Threats in the 21st Century
PhDs and postgraduate research
Self-funded PhD students only
School of Area Studies, History, Politics and Literature
Applications accepted all year round
This project is now closed. The details below are for information purposes only.
View our current projects here.
This 3-year, self-funded PhD will be based in the School of Area Studies, History, Politics and Literature in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and will be supervised by Dr Patricia Shamai, Dr Kevin McSorley and Professor Tamsin Bradley, with external advice from Dr Carlotta Minnella [Duke University, USA.]
The work will include:
- Compiling the use and attempted use of chemical weapons since 2000, using opensource data
- Conducting elite interviews with government policy specialists and academics
- Using comparative analysis to explore the understanding and transformation of the chemical weapons taboo in three different contexts from which the taboo originally evolved (assassination, terrorism, civil war and asymmetric conflict)
- Contributing to academic literature to address norm formation and the institutionalisation of normative practices
- Contributing to pressing policy-related work into measures to deter chemical weapons (as well as other weapons of mass destruction) in the 21 st century
- Presenting research papers at academic conferences
This PhD offers an excellent opportunity to contribute to important policy debates around the strength and effectiveness of the chemical weapons taboo in the 21st century.
Recognition of the taboo around chemical weapons use has formed the basis for the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which prohibits the development and use of chemical weapons and has near universal membership.
The success of the CWC would indicate that the taboo is now an established and embedded international norm, but the use of chemical weapons in Syria (since 2013) and the Salisbury attacks in June 2018 demonstrates that this may not be the case.
Using open source data, you’ll compile information about the use and attempted use of chemical weapons since 2000. This will create a detailed record of the extent of their use, and the circumstances under they have been used within a 21st century context – and in doing so, address a crucial gap in existing research.
You’ll also use open source documents and conduct elite interviews with government policy specialists and academics to explore the understanding and transformation of the taboo in three contexts from which the taboo originally evolved: assassination, terrorism, civil war and asymmetric conflict. Using comparative methods, you’ll develop a comprehensive account of the robustness of the CW norm today.
Your research will make a significant contribution to academic literature addressing norm formation/the institutionalisation of normative practices, and to policy-related work to deter the use of chemical weapons (as well as other weapons of mass destruction) in the 21st century.
Fees and funding
Funding Availability: Self-funded PhD students only
PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only).
2020/2021 fees (applicable for October 2020 and February 2021 start)
Home/EU/CI full-time students: £4,407 p/a*
Home/EU/CI part-time students: £2,204 p/a*
International full-time students: £14,300 p/a*
International part-time students: £7,150 p/a*
*All fees are subject to annual increase
- You must be a UK or EU resident and hold a good honours degree (2:1 or above) from a recognised higher education institution.
- English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.
You should meet the following essential criteria:
- A background in the broad area of International Relations and Political Science. Applicants with other disciplinary backgrounds (Sociology; Language-based Area Studies; Cultural Studies; Anthropology; Psychology) will be considered, although preference will be given to applicants with an expertise, or strong interest in security and defence related subjects
- Good written and communication skills
- Good time management
In addition, it is desirable that you:
- Hold a Master’s degree
- Have experience of advanced research skills (postgraduate level or equivalent)
- Have experience of working with government decision makers and the policy community
- Have an awareness of chemical weapons non- proliferation and arms control initiatives
How to apply
Please contact Dr Patricia Shamai (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting both the project code and the project title.
When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form and select ‘Area Studies, History and Politics’ as the subject area. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.
Please also submit a research proposal (up to 1000 words), detailing how you would develop this project:
- What research questions would you pose?
- How would you design the project?
- What research methods would you use?
- How would you engage with/ build on existing research?
Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.
Please note, to be considered for this self-funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code SASH4370219 when applying.