Imagining Empathy: A Counterfactual Study of the US - Iran Nuclear Confrontation
Supervisor: Professor Nicholas Wheeler and Professor Scott Lucas (Co-supervisors)
My doctoral research is concerned with the role of empathy in overcoming interstate conflicts. The question it strives to answer is whether mutual empathy between adversaries can enable actors to overcome the effects of security dilemmas in international politics.
The project draws upon multi-disciplinary approaches to empathy in order to make the case for the concept being central to understandings of how security dilemma dynamics can be overcome. Using the US-Iran nuclear conflict as a case study, the thesis utilises a counterfactual methodology to determine whether a greater degree of empathy at key moments in the relationship could have led to early stages of cooperation over the nuclear issue.
The key aims are: (1) To contribute to security dilemma theorising by exploring its central but implicit proposition that if actors are able to understand the security dilemma – i.e. to contemplate that their adversary is driven by fear and uncertainty and not malevolence, an act which I argue requires empathy – then they will be more able to take the steps necessary to overcome conflicts; and (2), to relate this to the US – Iran nuclear impasse by using a counterfactual methodology to ask whether greater levels of empathy in two specific instances would have led to greater cooperation.
Before joining POLSIS and the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation, and Security (ICCS) in October 2012 I studied at the University of Exeter and the University of Plymouth. During the first year of the PhD I was the research assistant on the ‘Challenges to Trust-Building in Nuclear Worlds’ project within the ICCS. My doctoral research is funded by the ESRC.
BSc (Hons) International Relations with Politics(First Class), University of Plymouth
MA International Relations of the Middle East (Distinction), University of Exeter
International Relations Theory
The Security Dilemma
Empathy and Emotions in IR
Nuclear Weapons and Non-Proliferation
2013/14 - International Security (POLS 218)
‘Making Empathy and Reciprocity Work: Lessons From the Iran Nuclear File’, European University Institute, Florence, June 2013 (written with Nicholas J. Wheeler and Scott Lucas – presented by Wheeler)
‘Breaking the Deadlock in the Iran Nuclear Negotiations’, ICCS Brief, 1: 1, 2012, PP 12-14 (with Nicholas J. Wheeler and Scott Lucas).
Also published online as ‘Iran Special Analysis: Breaking the Deadlock in the Nuclear Negotiations’, EA WorldView, 2012