My research interests revolve around questions of state-society relations, state transformation, governance, political
economy, sovereignty and intervention, particularly in postcolonial countries. My particular empirical expertise is in
the politics, political economy and international relations of Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific more generally,
though I have also worked on Iraq, South Africa and Israel/ Palestine.
Working in the tradition of critical, historical-sociological approaches in International Relations, my work draws out
the importance of domestic and transnational social conflict and political economy for international politics. From an
‘outside-in’, perspective, I examine how conflict between social classes and other groups generates different forms of
state, regime, and foreign policy, including different forms of intervention and international governance arrangements.
From an ‘inside-out’ perspective, I explore how external interventions - such as sanctions, state-building interventions
and other attempts to transform domestic governance - are mediated through social conflicts and change political
outcomes in target states.
My work has been particularly influenced by the critical political economy approach pioneered at the Asia Research
Centre at Murdoch University in Australia, the state theory of Bob Jessop and Nicos Poulantzas, and more recently
by critical political geography, particularly its emphasis on scale and rescaling socio-political conflicts and state
My first book, ASEAN, Sovereignty and Intervention in Southeast Asia, investigated the interventions of the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Cambodia, East Timor and Burma from the 1960s onwards.
Attacking the overwhelming scholarly and journalistic consensus on ASEAN as a group of states that never interferes
in any other states' internal affairs, I argue that ASEAN has indeed intervened, both within ASEAN and without, often
very seriously and with sometimes devastating consequences.
My second book, Governing Borderless Threats, co-authored with my long-term collaborator Prof Shahar Hameiri,
investigates how non-traditional security issues are governed. Drawing on state theory, political economy and
political geography, it builds a new analytical framework - the State Transformation Approach - that draws attention to
efforts to transform domestic state apparatuses managing particular security issues, networking them across state
borders and encouraging them to impose international discipline on other parts of their state and society. This state
transformation process is, we show, profoundly shaped by social conflict rooted in the political economy of specific
issue areas. We present case studies of environmental degradation, pandemic disease and transnational crime in
the Asia-Pacific. Many scholarly articles also arose from this Australian Research Council-funded project.
My third book, Societies Under Siege: Exploring How International Economic Sanctions (Do Not) Work, does exactly
what the title suggests. Moving past the debate on whether sanctions work, it explores how they work, or fail to work.
Via a new framework, Social Conflict Analysis, it suggests that sanctions condition the power, resources and
strategies of societal groups in target states, thereby conditioning processes of socio-political conflict and the
transformation (or otherwise) of states and regimes. Tracing this societal “transmission belt” helps reveal the reasons
why most sanctions regimes fail. Case studies include South Africa, Iraq and Myanmar. This research was funded by
the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council. For more details click here.
My other work has show how social conflict and political economy relations condition various outcomes in domestic
and international politics, including: the making of foreign and security policy in Southeast Asia; state-building
interventions in East Timor; the failure of the ASEAN Economic Community; and the evolution of Myanmar’s
economy and regime.
My current research is focused on a new project with Prof Shahar Hameiri (University of Queensland): state
transformation and the rise of China. We are exploring how the state transformation processes identified in
Governing Borderless Threats - the fragmentation, decentralisation and internationalisation of state apparatuses -
are conditioning China’s rise in its near abroad. Against mainstream IR approaches that depict China as a classically
“Westphalian” state pursuing a coherent “grand strategy”, we are investigating how state transformation is generating
fragmented, incoherent and sometimes contradictory policy outputs, with serious consequences for China’s foreign
and security policies and their effects overseas. A “prospectus” article has appeared in the European Journal of
International Relations and is currently (as of March 2016) that journal’s fourth most-read article of all time. We are
seeking funding to scale up the project and enable the extensive fieldwork required.
Total of £422,257 since 2009, comprising:
£70,500 from the British Academy/ Newton Fund for a Newton Advanced Fellowship for Dr Cheng-Chwee
Kuik (February 2016).
£6,000 from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to provide a training course on Myanmar and Bangladesh
£26,000 from the National University of Singapore/ Stanford University for the Lee Kong Chian Distinguished
Fellowship on Southeast Asia, 2014/15.
£1,000 from SPIR for a workshop on the Political Economy of the New Security Agenda.
£3,000 from ASEASUK for ‘Securitisation and the Governance of Non-Traditional Security in Southeast Asia
and the Southwest Pacific’ (April 2011)
£127,557 from the Economic and Social Research Council for ‘How Do Economic Sanctions (Not) Work?’,
AU$310,000 (c.£192,000) from the Australian Research Council for ‘Securitisation and the Governance of
Non-Traditional Security in Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific’ with Dr Shahar Hameiri, November
£4,000 from the Westfield Trust for ‘Securitisation and the Governance of Non-Traditional Security in
Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific’, April 2010
I would be delighted to supervise doctoral theses in the following areas:
the international politics of Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific
the politics of sovereignty and intervention
international economic sanctions
historical sociology/ historical materialism/ political economy/ state-society relations and international
global or regional governance
I am happy to discuss ideas with prospective students - please email me with a short (2,000 word) research proposal
and your CV. However, for procedural information on how to apply for doctoral studies at Queen Mary, please see the
My current PhD students are:
Lan Katarina Schippers: Internalisation of external interests and the strategic dimensions of statehood: The
impact of trade-related technical assistance on the Lao and Vietnamese forms of state.