[skip to content]

Centre for Gender Studies

Ms Emily Jones



Staff Silhouette
Ms Emily Jones
Email address:
Thesis title:
Outrunning the Boundaries of International Law, the Sovereign State and Feminist Theory
Internal Supervisors

PhD Research

Feminist approaches to international law have long been caught between resistance and compliance; caught between using international law as a tool to help women’s immediate circumstances whilst trying to critique the very structures and foundations of this tool. Whilst structural bias as an approach was founded at the very conception of feminist approaches to international law, precisely what this means and how far this should go has not been thoroughly explored.

This thesis suggests that there is a need to return to a structural bias approach and articulate what this really means for the feminist international legal project. Using French feminism as a springboard, particularly the work of Irigaray, as some of the most radical feminist scholarship in terms of trying to re-create structures and discourse, this thesis will explore the idea of outrunning boundaries, discourse and categorisation, looking towards the unknown as revolutionary potential.

Implicit in structural bias as an approach is the operation of power relations. This thesis will constantly, therefore, aim to assess the impact of structures on lived experience, considering post-colonial critiques of international law and the impact of gendered narratives, for example.

The test site for this thesis will be the sovereign state. There has been a lack of feminist analysis of the sovereign state in international law and there is a need for a more in depth analysis. Further, despite contemporary erosions of the sovereign state, the sovereign state remains the foundational structure of international law, as imagined. It therefore seems apt to analyse the sovereign state in a project which is aiming to analyse structural bias. Noting the discursive nature of the sovereign state according to context, this thesis will be tested out on four key sites; the bounded sovereign state, absolute sovereignty and sovereign equality, secession and humanitarian intervention.

The key concepts which will be used to analyse and push at the boundaries of the sovereign state will be subjectivity, fantasy and desire and hysteria; drawing on the silenced and unknown to look towards a fuller account of what it means to be human. Using these concepts, this thesis will aim to assess what outruns the boundaries of the sovereign state and subsequently the structural boundaries of international law, as well feminist approaches to international law and feminist theory more broadly, before turning towards queer understandings of the political as a constant process of becoming.

PhD Conferences

  • ‘Using Irigaray to push at International Law’s Boundaries: the Sovereign State’ (2014) Presentation at Bristol University for the Working with Luce Irigaray International Seminar
  • ‘Vulnerable Subjectivity: redefining law’s body’ (2013) Presentation at Newcastle University for the PECANS Workshop
  • ‘How useful is international human rights law for women?’ (2012) Presentation at UCL for Women’s New World with Dr. Shere Hite: in celebration of International Women’s Day