Article | Designing-With/In World Politics

Myself and Anna Leander have published an article entitled Designing-With/In World Politics: Manifestos for an International Political Design. The article explores the contemporary relationship between social sciences that explore world politics and design theory, calling for a radical extension of the quotidian praxis of the former into modes of material-aesthetic making.


Austin, Jonathan Luke and Leander, Anna. (2021). “Designing-With/In World Politics: Manifestos for an International Political Design,” Political Anthropological Research on the International Social Sciences, 2 (1).


Why is the praxis of the International Social Sciences (ISS) so limited? Why are word counts and abstracts so much more integral to our quotidian workday than datasheets or color palettes? Why do we do little more than write texts and give lectures with – perhaps – the odd foray into photography or film-making? Why are we so reluctant to practically (and so not simply conceptually) engage with the full gamut of material, aesthetic, and technological making? This essay addresses these questions by advocating for the emergence of an International Political Design. It begins from the intuition that conceptual and empirical shifts across ISS towards embracing the material-entanglements of world politics, the centrality of affect and emotion to human praxis, and relational ontologies of emergence, prefiguration, and complexity, all logically demand a radical re-thinking of our praxis. Specifically, we argue that limiting our activities to the alphabetical (or visual) mediation of knowledge about world politics constrains our politicality and impoverishes our conceptual and empirical vitality. Considered in conjunction with the contemporary prevalence of global violence, injustice, and oppression, we suggest that integrating a far broader range of material-aesthetic practices into ISS is now an ethical imperative.Without taking up that responsibility, we abdicate the possibility of a more worldly and socially-embedded social science. Based on these core contentions, our discussion elaborates on how we might imagine an International Political Design: a conceptually rich, empirically-grounded, and ‘applied’ material-aesthetic approach to ISS. We do so in the form of a manifesto or – rather – collage of manifestos that each militates, in one way or another, towards the necessity of designing-with/in world politics.


You can read or download the article through this link or below.

The Poetry of Moans and Sighs

I have a new piece published in Frame: Journal of Literary Studies, which discusses how we can think about ‘designs for and against evil.’ The piece draws on the work of Iraqi novelist Ahmed Saadawi, alongside architectural theory and praxis, to describe the ‘poetry of moans and sighs’ that afflict world politics. It begins with the idea that we can think about war and violence in ‘a-subjective’ terms (i.e. without an intentionally acting human subject), but then moves to asking what – if that’s true – we can ever imagine doing about it? To approach an answer, I draw on the philosophy of Donna Haraway, as well as work from Hanna Arendt and Franz Kafka, to suggest the necessity of moving beyond the epistemic and reflexive and towards the performative, artistic, material, and designed.

You can download the piece here, or read it below.

International Political Design | Call for Contributions

* Deadline extended to 20th March 2020.

This Autumn, myself and Anna Leander are organizing a section at the European International Studies Association’s annual meeting (EISA-PEC 20) in Malta. We are soliciting contributions (papers, panels, round tables, objects, art-installations, and more) for an ongoing and developing research project termed International Political Design (IPD), being carried out in collaboration with colleagues from forensic architecture, activist civil society groups, engineering and other applied scientists.

The IPD project asks, quite simply, how is world politics made: materially, technologically, and aesthetically? How is it designed? Through a deliberate consideration of form and object? And how, if we understand all that, can we re-make its contours? In ways that alter the very fabric of the world political? Building-up, quite literally, a different set of material-aesthetic infrastructures around which its events might flow? International Political Design (IPD) explores questions like these. IPD will call attention to growing efforts at exploring the (extant, possible, and future) relationships between International Relations (IR), critical, speculative, and transnational design studies, and artistic or aesthetic studies. While the field of design has become increasingly concerned with topics core to international affairs (war, violence, climate change, inequality, etc.), IR has also moved towards a far deeper understanding of the importance of materiality, technology, aesthetics, practice, visuality, and related phenomena for international affairs. The time is thus ripe for a sustained exploration of how these fields currently – and may in the future – interact in ways that have the potential to transform the critical, normative, and ethical status of the discipline.

As an EISA section, IPD invites contributions from across IR that coalesce around questions of (social and political) design and its relevance to the analytical, normative, and practical aspects of (intervening in to) world affairs. IPD is in particular concerned with developing a forum through which scholars increasingly concerned with engaging the International through non-epistemic means can explore novel theories, methodologies, and tools to expand the praxis of IR beyond what Frederic Kittler called the continuing ‘monopoly of writing’ within social science. That includes the possibility of constructing (making) concrete technological objects, the importance of producing deliberately aesthetic interventions into world politics, and inquiring into a world political status quo that appears to radically exceed the still dominant focus on cognition, reflexivity, and political deliberation. This mission is of especial relevance to scholars working across a transdisciplinary set of sub-fields, including international political sociology, critical security studies, feminist theory, science and technology studies, practice theoretical approaches, the visual turn, and cognate fields of inquiry across the discipline.

The IPD section seeks, following these goals, to redefine perceptions of what appropriate avenues through which to engage critically with world politics constitute and understandings of what explicitly political social scientific practices can involve. In line with these goals, we are particularly focused on 1) encouraging non-traditional modes of conducting and presenting scholarly work relevant to work affairs, 2) reflecting on the ethico-political implications of such work, and 3) soliciting contributions and engagement from scholars outside the boundaries of IR.

We welcome submissions (panels, roundtables, individual submissions, or other formats) that explore:

  • The relevance of ‘making’ or ‘crafting’ or ‘designing’ to understanding, intervening-in, or changing world politics;
  • The relationship(s) between technology and social scientific practice;
  • The emancipatory potential of the technological, despite its ‘impure’ (Haraway) and often violent pasts and presents;
  • The relationships between design, politics, and critique;

We are especially open to non-traditional submissions and presentation formats as part of the section, which we will accommodate as fully as possible. This includes the presentation of non-linguistic research objects and interventions (i.e. aesthetic, material or technological ‘things’) made by participants, as well as unusual modes of data or theory visualization and presentation, and beyond.

For queries please contact or



Submissions Portal:
Submission Deadline: 20/03/2020

University of Malta – Msida, Malta
September 16-19 2020
Section Title:
International Political Design: International Relations Beyond Writing [S18]


Publication | The Departed Militant



My latest publication – The Departed Militant: A Portrait of Joy, Violence, and Political Evil – is now forthcoming at Security Dialogue.

This is a quite personal piece in which I offer a narrative or portrait of the contours of what is usually termed ‘terrorism’ based on my own friendship with an Islamist militant fighting in Syria in the Lebanese city of Tripoli.

The article explores how subjectivities are fractured towards political violence through fundamentally joyous, spiritual, and affirmative encounters with different cultural, religious, ritualistic, and personal phenomena, concluding with a discussion of the ontology of political evil read through my own meetings with those branded with this term.

To (try to) make all this happen, I blend together a mix of social theory, empirical studies of violence and war, Sufi spiritual thought, Surrealist aesthetic theory, Arabic poetry/aesthetics, as well as photographic representations of what I discuss.

The paper can be downloaded here.

European International Studies Association Meeting in Sofia

The 2019 Pan-European Conference, hosted by the European International Studies Association (EISA), took place this September in Sofia, Bulgaria. The 2019 conference theme focused on the ‘seen and unseen of international relations,’ drawing together leading scholars from across the world.

In Sofia, I presented several papers exploring the relationship between material technological design and world politics, and another on the place of photographic methods in studying international affairs. I also spoke at one of the opening plenaries for the conference and two roundtables focused on International Political Sociology.

Celebrating the forthcoming release of a special edited I have edited (Composing Global Security), the European Journal of International Security also hosted an open reception during the event.

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Programme | Post-Critique in Rio de Janeiro

Next week, I am organising a workshop on the theory, practice, and methods of post-critique for International Relations in Rio de Janeiro, at the Institute of International Relations of PUC-Rio. The workshop will draw on a diverse range of critical perspectives, including international political sociology, critical security studies, feminist theory, decolonial theory, and beyond.

Participants at the workshop include myself, Anna Leander, Jimmy Casas Klausen, Michael C. Williams, Paulo Chamon, Jef Huysmans, Audrey Alejandro, Rebecca Adler-Nissen, Esme Bosme, Roberto Vilchez Yamato, Christian Bueger, Farai Chipato, Joao Nogueira, Paula Sandrin, Jean-Francois Drolet, Andrea Gill, Thiego Braz, Matt Davies, Stefano Guzzini, and more.

The workshop has the following structure:

    1. What’s (the problem with) post-critique?
    2. Crisis and Critique
    3. The Theory of Post-Critique
    4. The Practice of Post-Critique
    5. Methods for Post-Critique
    6. Post-Critique Beyond the West

The programme for the workshop can be downloaded here.




© J.L.Austin

Post-Critical IR in Rio de Janeiro | Call for Papers

Post-Critical IR moves its discussions to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August (29-31) 2019.

A number of places at the Rio workshop are available for new participants. Our goal is to use these places to extend our discussions beyond their current boundaries. We are particularly keen to hear from interested participants with a focus on feminist, postcolonial, activist, anti-capitalist, speculative philosophical, ethnographic, and other perspectives on the critical study of world politics. However, we remain open to any perspective. Participants at any academic level are welcome.

This is a great opportunity to explore the future of critical approaches to IR outside Europe and North America with a leading group of scholars including Joao Nogueira, Vincent Pouliot, Michael C. Williams, Ole Waever, Rebecca Adler-Nissen, Anna Leander, Marieke de Goede, Isabel Bramsen, Isabel Rocha de Siqueira, Iver B. Neumann, and more.

Selected participants will have their return flights to Rio de Janeiro, along with hotel accommodation and lunch/dinner, covered for the duration of the workshop. Participants will need to arrange their own visas, if necessary, as well as insurance and other formalities.

To apply to participate please visit the post-critical IR website.

Politics Beyond Technology

In a few days (May 6th) the first Politics Beyond Technology workshop will begin, co-organized with the VIPRE Initiative and NORDSTEVA. The workshop brings together academics and practitioners focused on the place of technology in world politics, with a particular focus on the role of Digital Fabrication (3D Printing) in world politics. Co-convened by myself and Anna Leander, I will be presenting on my latest work on International Political Ergonomics. A keynote lecture will be delivered by Professor Nishant Shah on ‘Against Appified Politics: Feminism, Intersectionality, and Digital Governance.’

The programme for the workshop is available below.

View this document on Scribd

Towards an International Political Ergonomics

This article introduces International Political Ergonomics (iPER). iPER is a novel research programme focused on achieving political change through the ergonomic (re)design of world politics.

This is an unusual article for me. It combines critical theory, behaviouralism, practice theory, deterrence theory, and more to suggest a radical transformation in the vocation of IR.


The article begins with the old Marxist cliche: our goal is not only to interpret, but to change the world. And that’s what the piece is about: how, today, IR can/cannot make its knowledge production ‘matter’ on/in the world. I get there by noting, first, that a consensus has emerged, across IR and social science of all kinds: knowledge production (ideas, epistemics) *alone* almost never produces social change in and of itself. A simple example: only *telling* a smoker that their habit will kill them. A complicated example: only *telling* governments that torture does not produce good intelligence and damages their standing. People keep smoking, governments keep torturing: whatever you tell them.

So, what to do?

Comparing IR to applied fields (design theory, ergonomics) and applied sciences (economics), I note how these fields materialise – make concrete – their knowledge. They design things. Build them. Distribute them. And quite literally re-construct society. IR doesn’t do that, yet. I suggest it starts doing so. Drawing on design theory, ergonomics, cognitive philosophy, post-structuralist thought, micro sociology, and more, I argue that material intervention is the most powerful mode of societal intervention. iPER provides a theory of disruptive material-political interventions that can *increase* human deliberative and/or rational capacities in situations of social controversey. It shows how we can do much more than seek the ear of the prince: transforming IR’s vocation.

The piece applies its theory to violence prevention, detailing some of my collaborations with engineers, design theorists, and others. And concludes by exploring some of the (many) ethical and political dilemmas iPER brings up, some of which even imply it’s, yes, a bad idea.

The article is now available online first at European Journal of International Relations here. A full version can also be downloaded directly here.