Social Distance in International Relations (SoDiIR)
Individual Fellowship

I am thrilled to announce that I obtained an Individual Fellowship under the EU Horizon2020, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions for my project on Social Distance in International Relations (SoDiIR)!

The below gives you a bit of a preview of what I will do… but more will come.

To offer a more comprehensive account of humanitarian selectivity, this project studies the socio-emotional microfoundations of foreign policy decisions. I look specifically at ‘social distance’ and the emotional reactions and socio-emotional norms that shape people’s, and therewith countries’, political priorities and willingness to engage with the hardship of others.

Whilst international relations are generally understood as a set of inter-state relations, I explicitly look at international relations as a set of socio-emotional relations between people(s). From this perspective states are not unitary actors. They are constituted by the people that live inside them and the ideas, norms, pre-dispositions and historical understandings that dominate in a society. Within this socio-normative context, a context that enables certain and constrains other types of behaviour, events are interpreted and reactions to those events are formulated. Although generally distinguishing between civil society and the distinct group of (foreign policy) ‘decision makers’, only recently have IR-scholars started to study the people that constitute the state as emotional beings. Building on this constructivist literature on emotions in IR, I am interested in how narratives on human suffering are created, the extent to which they are influenced by socio-emotional relations between the ‘self’ and the ‘other’ – the experienced social distance – and how these narratives ultimately inform foreign policy.

Process Tracing course — ECPR Winter School in Methods and Techniques

I’ll be offering an introductory course on process tracing methodology at the upcoming ECPR Winter School in Methods and Techniques, February 14-21, at the University of Bamberg. For more information and a full course outline: ECPR website. Or, for more on my process tracing activities; see here.

… and the course is booked out! With 25 students we will have a full house. Luckily, I could recruit an excellent Teaching Assistant: Ivan Bakalov.

WB104 – Introduction to Process Tracing
Process Tracing (PT) is a within-case method that focuses on tracing causal mechanisms – the actual ‘link’ between a trigger (conventionally called the x) and an outcome (y). This course will introduce you to the essentials of this method, its main underlying assumptions and its applicability.

We will discuss what causal mechanisms are, how we can ‘trace’ them and what kind of causal inferences we can draw on the bases of a process-tracing study. Moreover, to position PT in the broader methodological field we will look at how PT relates to, but differs from, other (larger- and small-N) case study methods and discuss what understanding of causality underlies process-tracing. This introduction to PT will take a hands-on approach, applying the new insights to concrete examples and, when possible, to participants’ own research projects (more…).


Advanced Process Tracing workshop at BIGSSS, July 18-19

After a successful introductory course to Process Tracing in November 2018 at the Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences (BIGSSS), I was asked to report back with a more advanced, yet also hands-on, practical, follow-up course. Which I was happy to do.

Reporting this after workshop only… which already took place on July 18-19… I will follow the BIGSSS course evaluation to claim a minor success for the follow-up course as well! If you are curious about how I got into giving workshops on Process Tracing, this page should provide somewhat of an answer.

Presenting a new data-set: ‘The UN Security Council Debates’ (1995-2017)

We are proud to present a whole new speech corpus with all 65.393 individual contributions as part of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) debates between January 1995 and December 2017.

Available at Harvard Dataverse

Curious about what this is and what you can do with it?! We added a paper that explains in more detail how the data-set is constructed and that gives some first examples of what the data-set can reveal and what it can be used for. This paper is available on the arXiv as well as here on my website.

Developed together with:

  • Mirco Schönfeld, Technical University Munich (@TWlyY29)
  • Steffen Eckhard, University of Konstanz (@s_eckhard)
  • Ronny Patz, Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich (@ronpatz)



Politicologenetmaal, June 13-14

Together with Tim Haesebrouck (Universiteit Gent), I am hosting a workshop at the upcoming ‘Politicologenetmaal’ — the Dutch /Flemish 24hrs political science conferenceat the University of Antwerp this week:

Understanding Foreign Policy: The Interplay Between Domestic and International Politics

You can find the original call for papers here and for those who could not join this year, perhaps we will see each other in 2020!

60th ISA Annual Convention, March 27-30

I’ll be joining the IR-crowd at the upcoming International Studies Association (ISA) Annual Convention this week in Toronto, Canada. Trying to combine it with my first year full-teaching Assistant Prof. position it will be a bit of a shorter visit but you can still find me in the following three panels, presenting two papers in the first whilst chairing the last.

… and if I may pick a favourite: I am thoroughly enjoying working on the later paper at the moment, ‘The Politics of Pity‘, which I will present on Friday.

First paper:

Paper: Saving Strangers: On Social Distance, Socio‐emotional ‘Othering’ and State Foreign Policy
Slot: TC67: Thursday 1:45 PM – 3:30 PM
Panel: Psychological Dimensions of Foreign Policy
Deborah W. Larson/ Femke E. Bakker

Second paper:

Paper: The Politics of Pity
Slot: FD14: Friday 4:00 PM – 5:45 PM
Panel: The Politics of Pity
Andreja Zevnik/ Asli Calkivik

And I will be chairing:

Panel: Group Identities and Identification
Slot: SC66: Saturday 1:45 PM – 3:30 PM
Discussant: Bahar Rumelili
Panelists: Martha (Dee) Phelps; Amoz Hor; Michal Kolmas; Luca Dorottya Pihaj; and Arthur Duhé


For the conference website and full program, click here.

‘We don’t do that’ — got a year, volume and issue number

A little update on my latest paper in Cooperation and ConflictIt just got up-graded from online first and now has an volume and issue number! … funny how unspectacular that has become. See also my list of publications, including a post-print (open access) copy of the paper.

‘We don’t do that’: A constructivist perspective on the use and non-use of private military contractors by Denmark
 In this article I put forward a social constructivist perspective on state use of Private Military and Security Contractors (PMSCs). I will argue that state outsourcing decisions are, to a large extent, shaped by nationally shared values, understandings and dispositions. Concretely, I first provide a detailed overview of the extent of domestic and deployed contracting by the Danish Defence and, thereafter, based on a number of semi-structured interviews, I expose the dominant understandings that shaped how PMSCs have come to be understood in Denmark. By so doing I can show that the employment of PMSCs by the Danish Defence remains comparatively limited because it is largely perceived as inappropriate and as incompatible with what it means to be ‘Danish’. Although Denmark too has to balance its international engagements with limited resources allocated to defence (the typical functional pressures) Danish particular ‘soft’ neoliberalism and ‘hard’ commitments to IHL speak against using private actors to make that possible. This means I take in the more abstract, macro-level discussions on the end of the Cold War and the advent of neoliberalism but go beyond by asking whether, and if so how, these and other collective experiences and understandings actually (co-)shape(d) outsourcing decisions.

van Meegdenburg, H. (2018). ‘We don’t do that’: A constructivist perspective on the use and non-use of private military contractors by Denmark. Cooperation and Conflict, 54(1), 25-43.

Call for Papers — Understanding Foreign Policy: The Interplay Between Domestic and International Politics

Workshop at the Dutch/Flemish ‘Politicologenetmaal’ — 24-hour Political Science Conference. June 13-14, 2019, Universiteit Antwerpen.

Conveners: Tim Haesebrouck (Universiteit Gent) and Hilde van Meegdenburg (Universiteit Leiden).

Although US Senator Vandenberg’s 1947 assertion that “politics stops at the water’s edge” is a popular quote among International Relations (IR) scholars, research into actual international relations often includes domestic-level explanations. In fact, domestic factors were constitutive to the sub-field of Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA), are prominent in liberal and constructivist theories, and even realist scholars are increasingly incorporating domestic-level explanations. Over the past two decades, research exploring the role of domestic institutions, societal norms, party positions, public opinion, civil society and the media has illustrated the value of taking domestic factors into account. This ‘domestic-turn’, however, comes with a particular challenge: How can we combine domestic and international level explanations into a sophisticated, integrated framework that captures the complex interplay between the two levels?

In this workshop, we invite papers that further our understanding of this interplay. We aim to bring together scholars with diverse substantive backgrounds that share the aim of studying foreign policy as shaped by both domestic and international factors. We welcome both theoretical and empirical contributions from scholars at all academic career stages. Rather than focusing on individual conditions, papers are encouraged to combine domestic and international factors or to think through how these could be combined most fruitfully.

The workshop is open to all methodological and ontological approaches but innovative and multi-method papers are strongly encouraged. To that end, we also welcome papers that draw on frameworks and approaches beyond the traditional IR-theories, integrating concepts and theories from adjacent fields (from public policy to psychology and sociology). The working language of this workshop is English. The workshop is part of the NKWP/VPW jointly organized ‘politicologenetmaal‘ held June 13 – 14, 2019, at the Universiteit Antwerpen (Belgium). Call for papers: PDF.

The deadline for paper proposals is March 15, 2019. Proposals should include an abstract (max. 250 words), name, affiliation and contact e-mail. Abstracts can be send to: h.van.meegdenburg[@]

Call for Papers — Methoden der Außenpolitikanalyse Ansätze, Daten und Perspektiven

Workshop der DVPW-Themengruppe „Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik“

Die theoriegeleitete Außenpolitikforschung hat sich auch im deutschsprachigen Raum als eigenständiges Feld innerhalb der politikwissenschaftlichen Disziplin Internationale Beziehungen etabliert. Aus methodologischer Sicht fehlt bislang jedoch eine eingehendere Auseinandersetzung mit vorhandenen Ansätzen, zugrundeliegenden Daten und Entwicklungsperspektiven zur Erforschung von Außenpolitik. Für welche Forschungszwecke sind welche methodischen Ansätze geeignet und was sind die Voraussetzungen für deren Anwendung? Mit welchen qualitativen und quantitativen Daten arbeitet die Außenpolitikanalyse und wie wirkt sich die technologische Entwicklung auf die Datengewinnung aus? Und welche Perspektiven bestehen für die weitere Entwicklung des vorhandenen Methodenspektrums?

Im Rahmen eines zweitägigen Workshops am 26. und 27. September 2019 an der Universität Erfurt soll diesen Fragen nachgegangen werden. Wir suchen hierzu grundlegende Beiträge zu etablierten und neueren Ansätzen und Methoden und deren Anwendung auf außenpolitische Fragestellungen. Darüber hinaus begrüßen wir auch Beiträge, welche die Vor- und Nachteile bestimmter Methoden vergleichend analysieren, sich mit Fragen der Datenerhebung und Datenanalyse auseinandersetzen, oder welche die methodologische Praxis innerhalb der Disziplin kritisch beleuchten.

Die Veröffentlichung einer Auswahl an Beiträgen ist in einem deutschsprachigen Publikationsformat geplant. Dies soll zum Abschluss des Workshops erörtert werden. Nach Zusammenstellung des Programms beabsichtigen wir die Einwerbung von Drittmitteln zur Finanzierung von Reise- und Übernachtungs-kosten der Workshop-TeilnehmerInnen.

Wir bitten um Einsendung von Abstracts (max. 250 Wörter) mit kurzen biografischen Angaben bis 31. Januar 2019 an Call for papers: PDF.

Der Workshop ist eine Veranstaltung der Themengruppe „Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik“ der Deutschen Vereinigung für Politikwissenschaft (DVPW). Die Organisatorinnen und Organisatoren des Workshops sind Hilde van Meegdenburg (Universiteit Leiden), Patrick A. Mello (Universität Erfurt) und Falk Ostermann (Universität Gießen).