Patricia Owens


Professor of International Relations, DPIR
Tutorial Fellow, Somerville College
Political Thought Network
Political Theory Network
International Relations Network
Somerville College

Patricia Owens is Professor of International Relations. She went to a state school in London and, as the first in her family to go to university, did not even think to apply to Oxbridge. For undergraduate admissions, she particularly welcomes applications from students at non-selective state schools.

Her research interests include twentieth-century international history and theory, historical and contemporary practices of Anglo-American counterinsurgency and military intervention, and disciplinary history and the history of international and political thought. She was Principal Investigator of the multi-award winning Leverhulme Research Project on Women and the History of International Thought and a Co-Investigator on a Danish Council for Independent Research Project.

Her forthcoming book Erased: A History of International Thought Without Men will be published by Princeton University Press in late 2024.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, women played a prominent role in the creation of a new cross-disciplinary intellectual field in imperial Britain: ‘international relations’. Born of crises of Empire, this new field of knowledge relied on women’s intellectual labours and expertise on empire and colonial administration, anticolonial organising, non-Western powers, and international organisations. Figures such as Margery Perham, Eileen Power, Merze Tate, Claudia Jones, Coral Bell, and Susan Strange were among the leading international thinkers of their generation. Many others shaped the development of the new field as scholars, journalists, public intellectuals and information managers, as heterosexual spouses and in intimate partnerships between women. Patricia Owens interweaves interpersonal, institutional, and intellectual stories of a cohort of women to recast the history of international relations in a new kind of critical disciplinary history. Using archival sources, Erased: A History of International Thought Without Men returns to key moments and locations in the effort to form international relations as a separate academic discipline in Britain. Challenging existing histories in which women and people of colour are missing, Erased includes the thinkers, fields, and approaches against which a small group of men tried to redefine international relations, revealing the intellectual and institutional practices of misogyny and racism in its earliest institutions. With a story of power, knowledge, and erasure, Owens offers a new diagnosis of international relations’ failure as an intellectual project and sources for its renewal.

Patricia's most recent monograph, Economy of Force (Cambridge, 2015) won BISA's Susan Strange Prize for the Best Book in International Studies, the ISA Theory Section Best Book Award, and was Runner up for the Guicciardini Prize for Best Book in Historical IR. Her co-edited volume Women's International Thought: A New History (Cambridge 2021) won the ISA History Section Prize for Best Edited Volume and the ISA's Theory Section Prize for Best Edited Volume. And the co-edited volume Women's International Thought: Toward a New Canon (Cambridge 2022) won the ISA Theory Section Prize for Best Edited Volume. An article with Kim Hutchings won APSA's Okin-Young Award in Feminist Political Theory for Best Article in English Language.

Her first book was on war in the thought of Hannah Arendt (Oxford, 2007).

She is a former Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard; Jane Eliza Proctor Research Fellow at Princeton; Visiting Kathleen Fitzpatrick Professor in History at Sydney; Seton-Watson Fellow at Oriel College, Oxford; Visiting Professor at UCLA; Visiting Scholar at UC-Berkeley; and Postdoctoral Fellow at USC. 

Patricia is co-editor of the leading undergraduate textbook in IR, The Globalization of World Politics (Oxford, 2023), OUP's highest selling social science textbook, now in its 9th edition and translated into nine languages. With former colleagues at Sussex, she was co-editor of the European Journal of International Relations and now sits on the editorial boards of EJIR, Security Dialogue and Political Studies. She was previously on the boards of the Journal of International Political Theory and Humanity and was managing editor of the Cambridge Review of International Affairs during her MPhil at Cambridge.

Professional Responsibilities

Patricia is a Tutorial Fellow of Somerville College, sitting on its Governing Body, Standing Committee. She is Director of Research Methods for International Relations.

During 2018, Patricia was consultant on a project on Hannah Arendt at the Joint Research Centre at the European Commission. In Spring 2022, she co-curated a Public Exhibition on women's international thought in London.


Patricia was the Director of the Leverhulme Research Project Grant, Women and the History of International Thought. This multidisciplinary and multi-methodological project systematically recovered and evaluated the international thought of women both inside and outside academe during the early to long mid-twentieth-century, focusing on Britain and the United States. Already published work and forthcoming work includes edited volumes, multiple journal articles, a monograph, doctoral dissertation, new Oral History archive and web resource, multiple journal special sections and roundtables on the Project, and a Public Exhibition in London. Patricia's co-investigators were Katharina Rietzler and Kimberly Hutchings.

She was also Co-Investigator on a Danish Council for Independent Research (2019-2024) project on images. Bodies as Battleground: Gender Images and International Security is led by Professor Lene Hansen (Copenhagen).  

Patricia's research interests include Political Theory, Gender, Political thought and ideologies, Feminism, Gender, History, International relations, Power.


Patricia teaches Somerville PPE undergraduates the core IR paper and the two historical papers, IR in the Era of World Wars and IR during the Cold War. She teaches IR MPhils students part of the core paper, The Development of the International System, and the optional course, Historical and Interpretive Methods.

She received a Teaching Excellence Award from the Social Science Teaching Audit at Oxford and was nominated for university-wide teaching awards at QMUL and Sussex.

Patricia welcomes applications from prospective DPhil students working across a range of IR themes and approaches to twentieth-century international history and theory, disciplinary history and the history of international and political thought. She is particularly keen to supervise projects that overlap with her current research projects.

Patricia Owens



Erased: A History of International Thought Without Men (Princeton University Press, forthcoming)

Economy of Force: Counterinsurgency and the Historical Rise of the Social (Cambridge University Press, 2015)

  • Winner, BISA’s 2016 Susan Strange Best Book Prize; Winner, International Studies Association Theory Section Best Book Award; Runner up, Francesco Guicciardini Prize for Best Book in Historical IR; Special section, Security Dialogue

Between War and Politics: International Relations and the Thought of Hannah Arendt (Oxford University Press, 2007)

  • Subject of special section in International Politics; Japanese translation; nominated for PSA W.J.M. Mackenzie Book Prize

Edited Volumes

Women’s International Thought: Towards A New Canon co-editor with S. Dunstan, K. Hutchings, K. Rietzler (Cambridge, forthcoming)

  • Winner of the ISA Theory Section Prize for Best Edited Volume and Honourable Mention for Feminist and Gender Studies Section Best Book Prize
  • Subject of forthcoming fora in International Theory, International Politics Review, Journal of Contemporary Political Theory, H-Diplo, The Journal of the History of Ideas blog, and review essay in International Relations

Women’s International Thought: A New History co-editor with Katharina Rietzler (Cambridge, 2021)

  • Winner of the ISA History Section Prize for Best Edited Volume and Winner of the Theory Section Prize for Best Edited Volume
  • Subject fora in International Theory, International Politics Review, Journal of Contemporary Political Theory, and H-Diplo, and a review essay in International Relations

The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations 9th edition (Oxford, 2023) co-editor with J. Baylis and S. Smith and previous editions in 2008, 2011, 2014, 2017, and 2020

  • Translated into Arabic, French, Korean, Polish, Greek, Turkish, Slovene, Macedonian, Kazakh, and Hungarian

Articles (select)

Images of International Thinkers, Review of International Studies (forthcoming)

Polyphonic Internationalism: The Lucie Zimmern School of International studies, The International Historical Review, 2023 firstview (with K. Rietzler)

Women Thinkers and the Canon of International Thought: Recovery, Rejection , and ReconstitutionAmerican Political Science Review, 115(2) 2021: 347-359 (with K. Hutchings)

  • Winner, American Political Science Association Okin-Young Award in Feminist Political Theory for Best Article in English Language in 2021
  • OOIR’s ‘top trending’ of all political science articles in the week following publication

Claudia Jones, International Thinker, Modern Intellectual History, 19(2) 2021: 551-574 (with S. Dunstan)

Women and the History of International Thought, International Studies Quarterly, 62(3) 2018: 467-481

Decolonizing Civil War, CAL: International & Interdisciplinary Law Review, 4(2) 2017: 160-169

Racism in the Theory Canon: Hannah Arendt and ‘the one Great Crime in which America was Never Involved’, Millennium, 45(33) 2017: 403-424

The International Origins of Hannah Arendt’s Historical Method, Political Power and Social Theory (32) 2017: 37-62

The Limits of Military Sociology, International Affairs, 96(3) 2017: 460-1462

International Historical What? International Theory, 8(3) 2016: 448-457

On the Conduct of Sociological Warfare: a reply to special section on Economy of Force, Security Dialogue, 47(3) 2016: 215-222

Introduction to the Forum: Historicizing the Social in International Thought, Review of International Studies, 41(4) 2015: 652-653

Method or Madness: Sociolatry in International Thought, Review of International Studies, 41(4) 2015: 655-674

From Bismarck to Petraeus: The Question of the Social and the Social Question in Counterinsurgency, European Journal of International Relations, 19(1) 2013: 135-157

Human Security and the Rise of the Social, Review of International Studies, 38(3) 2012: 547-567. Highly commended by the Article Prize Committee. Subject of a panel at 2018 ISA

Not Life but the World is at Stake: Hannah Arendt on Citizenship in the Age of the Social, Citizenship Studies, 16(2) 2012: 295-305

The Supreme Social Concept: The Un-worldliness of Modern Security, New Formations, 71: 2011: 14-29

Torture, Sex and Military Orientalism, Third World Quarterly, 31(7) 2010: 1147-1162

Reclaiming “Bare Life”? Against Agamben on Refugees, International Relations, 23(4) 2009: 567-82; reprinted in Betts and Loescher (eds.) Refugees in International Relations (Oxford)

Distinctions, Distinctions: “Public” and “Private” Force? International Affairs, 84(5) 2008: 977-90; reprinted in Colás and Mabee (eds.) Mercenaries, Pirates, Bandits and Empires (Columbia)

Humanity, Sovereignty and the Camps, International Politics, 45(4) 2008: 522-530

Beyond Strauss, Lies, and the War in Iraq: Hannah Arendt’s Critique of Neoconservatism, Review of International Studies, 33(2) 2007: 265-83; among top ten most cited articles during 2013-15

Xenophilia, Gender and Sentimental Humanitarianism, Alternatives, 29(3) 2004: 285-304

Theorising Military Intervention, International Affairs, 80(2) 2004: 355-365

Accidents Don’t Just Happen: The Liberal Politics of High-Tech Humanitarian War, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 32(3) 2003: 595-616

Book chapters (select)

Introduction: Toward a History of Women’s International Thought with Rietzler in Owens and Rietzler (eds.) Women’s International Thought: A New History (Cambridge, 2020)

Introduction: From International Politics to World Politics, with Baylis and Smith in Baylis, Smith and Owens (eds.) The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations (Oxford, 8ed.)

How Dangerous it can be to be Innocent in M. Goldoni and C. McCorkindale (eds.) Hannah Arendt and the Law (Hart, 2012): 251-270

The Return of Realism? War and Changing Concepts of the Political in S. Scheipers and H. Strachan (eds.) The Changing Character of War (Oxford, 2011): 484-502

The Ethics of War: Critical Alternatives in D. Bell (ed.) Ethics and World Politics (Oxford, 2010): 309-323

Walking Corpses: Arendt on the Limits and the Possibilities of Cosmopolitan Politics, in C. Moore and C. Farrands (eds.) International Relations Theory and Philosophy: Interpretive Dialogues (Routledge, 2010): 72-82

Hannah Arendt, in J. Edkins and N. Vaughan-Williams (eds.) Critical Theorists and International Relations (Routledge, 2009): 31-41

The Ethic of Reality in Hannah Arendt, in D. Bell (ed.) Political Thought and International Relations (Oxford, 2008), pp.105-121

Hannah Arendt, Violence, and the Inescapable Fact of Humanity in A.F. Lang and J. Williams (eds.) Hannah Arendt and International Relations (Palgrave, 2005): 41-65

Other (select)

Women’s Anticolonial International Thought, Blog for Leverhulme Project (with S. Dunstan)

Women Thinkers of the World Economy, Blog for Leverhulme Project

Sex, Gender and Canon, Blog for Leverhulme Project

On the Heirs to Agnes Headlam-Morley, Blog for Leverhulme Project

What Happened to Women’s International Thought, Blog for Leverhulme Project 

A Political Economy of the “Exception”?, Security Dialogue/PRIO blog

Lucy Philip Mair, Early International Relations scholar, LSE History Blog

Susan Strange, Never Meant to be an Academic, LSE History Blog

Critical Dialogue between Jessica A. Stanton, author of Violence and Restraint in Civil War and Patricia Owens, author of Economy of Force, Perspectives on Politics, 15(4) 2017: 1102-1107

Economy of Force: a symposium, The Disorder of Things, opening post and reply to special section on Economy of Force (Cambridge, 2015)

Interview/Profile with Patricia Owens, E-International Relations, January 2015