Jonathan Luke Austin is a political sociologist and Lead Researcher for the Violence Prevention (VIPRE) Initiative at the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding of the Graduate Institute, Geneva. 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 and at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio). 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.