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Anne Harrington

Dr Anne Harrington

Senior Lecturer in International Relations

School of Law and Politics


I am an international relations scholar studying the political value of nuclear weapons and diversity in the United States military.

More than 75 years since the United States first used atomic bombs against Japan in World War II, the possession and use of nuclear weapons continues to be a contentious issue within international politics. My aim is to contribute a new macro-level approach to achieving deep nuclear reductions and help end a dangerous cycle of nuclear brinkmanship.

My publications on nuclear issues have appeared in academic journals including Critical Studies on Security, The Nonproliferation Review, and Millennium. On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the US bombing of Hiroshima, I published a commemorative essay in The New York Times. I am a frequent commentator in the new media on the conflict over Iran's nuclear program.

I also provide public commentary on diversity within the US military. With a background in feminist theory and experience working in the area of equality, dignity and diversity with the US military and on Capitol Hill, my commentary has helped deliver a more inclusive approach.








Adrannau llyfrau



My research interests are located at the nexus of International Relations, and Science and Technology Studies. They include nuclear deterrence, disarmament and nonproliferation, cybersecurity, and diversity in the United States military.

In 2009 I won the $10,000 Grand Prize in the Doreen and Jim McElvany Nonproliferation Challenge for my article "Nuclear Weapons as the Currency of Power: Deconstructing the Fetishism of Force." Two years later, a second article “The Strategy of Non-Proliferation: Maintaining the Credibility of an Incredible Pledge to Disarm” won Millennium’s Northedge Prize.

I am currently working on a book project entitled Power, Violence, and Nuclear Weapons in which I build a macro-level theory of the political value of nuclear weapons. Despite widespread recognition that nuclear weapons have value as a symbol of power and prestige, we know relatively little about the source and utility of that value. Existing literature explores symbolic status as a motive for nuclear proliferation but has less to say about whether or how states capitalize on that value.What determines the political utility of nuclear weapons? Which strategies have states used to leverage the symbolic value of nuclear weapons? And to what ends? This book addresses these questions by developing a theory of nuclear value. The overarching claim it makes is that nuclear weapons have evolved into a distinctive sociopolitical object; in addition to being a weapon of war, nuclear weapons have also become a ‘power commodity.’  Their possession has long brought states either infamy or prestige, but increasingly states have begun viewing their value pragmatically, seeking to ‘trade’ on their possession to secure a range of political, economic, and military outcomes.


Current Modules

PL9320 - International Politics in the Nuclear Age

This course aims to provide students with an interdisciplinary understanding of international nuclear politics from the advent of the atomic bomb project in 1941 to the present day. The first part of the course will be devoted to an episodic study of the history of nuclear politics during the Cold War, with the aim of showing how the danger of atomic and nuclear war decisively shaped the conflict between the US and the USSR—and how it determined its ending. The second part introduces the problem of dual-use and the challenges of nuclear proliferation. It includes a Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty simulation exercise. The third part explores contemporary problems and modes of analysis:  of the key features of nuclear power politics today and major theoretical attempts to understand them. The fourth part provides an overview of five attempts to solve the nuclear dilemma.

PL9331 War and Society

The outbreak, course and consequences of war have and continue to profoundly shape political, cultural, social and economic practice both internationally and within different states and societies. In this module, you will be encouraged to consider war as a lived human experience rather than as a clearly bounded or exceptional phenomenon. You will examine and debate how war and military force, whether interstate, extra state or intrastate in form, shapes and is shaped by different societies, communities and individuals. The module will ask how war is made possible in and through everyday situations and practices as well as geopolitical ones. It will examine how war and violence make, permeate and alter societal institutions, economic practices, language and cultural expression and it will explore the impact and legacies of war for different societies, communities and individuals through a series of issues and case studies.

The lectures are organized according to the different reasons, or ends, societies wage war. Each lecture includes a case study or example of a conflict that highlights the ways and means actors use to pursue that objective. The arc of the module is chronological. It begins with World War I and the Spanish Flu pandemic at the beginning of the 20th and ends with the contemporary conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

PL9220: Gender, Sex and Death in Global Politics

The central focus of this module will be on the ways gender, race and sex matter in global politics. The range of topics studied will include a selection from: militarization, popular culture, the global political economy, the politics of memorialization, the beauty industry, postcolonialism, tourism, black feminisms, nuclear weapons, masculinities, the Women, Peace and Security agenda, the war on terror, and the gendered and raced character of ‘death’ (which dead bodies matter? Which dead bodies ‘count’ and/or are counted?) Central questions underpinning this module are: where are the women in global politics? What work are masculinity and femininity doing? What work is sexuality doing? How does race matter? How and why does gender matter in the high political realm of international/global politics? Where do we ‘see’ gender in global politics? Which gender(s) do we see? Students will be introduced to some of the central concepts in feminist theory, gender theory, masculinity studies, critical race theory and theories of coloniality which will be used to examine key issues in global politics (some of the ‘issues’ may not be ‘obvious’). Texts studied will include conventional texts as well as films, videos, social media/blogs, news reports, art, cartoons etc.

PLT439 Technopolitical Approaches to International Politics

Political decisions are increasingly technologically complex. From advances in weapons and surveillance systems to the collection and analysis of big data, the conditions of political and technological possibility have become more and more interlaced. Scholars have given different names to the processes by which the politics of technology becomes entwined with wider political debates. This module takes its title from the work of Gabriele Hecht, who speaks of “technopolitics,” a term she uses to denote the many processes by which technological systems come to be appropriated for political ends, serving as vehicles through which politics unfold.

Technopolitics as a framework is useful for drawing attention to the complex dynamics wherein political choices shape technologies, which subsequently shape socio-political outcomes. Arguably, when conceived of in this way, the very idea of a ‘political decision’ as a singular act separate from technological processes becomes problematic. Political decisions are so conditioned by the existence of technological systems, which are themselves the product of prior political decisions, that speaking of them as discrete is misleading. The primary challenge of political life today is precisely to understand the implications of what it means for politics and technology to be inscribed in one another.

Taking the notion of technopolitics as a starting point, the course will introduce you to twentieth century debates about transformational technologies including air power, nuclear weapons, and communications technologies. You will be asked to address questions such as: What drives technological change? Does technology have agency of its own? Is technological development inevitable? What is the appropriate role of scientific experts within political processes within democratic societies? How does the authority of experts shape the technopolitical trajectories?

This is a theory driven course which asks you first and foremost to interact with philosophical and political debates about the role of technology in society. The case studies are there as a vehicle for learning how to think critically about the relationship between technology and politics.

Previous Modules

PL9223 Digital Technologies and Global Politics 

The increasing centrality of digital technologies in global politics is raising questions beyond the technical concerns that typically dominate the discussion. Issues such as cyber-security, Internet governance, and online human rights are challenging traditional concepts in International Relations. While other disciplines like law, sociology and computer science have engaged closely with the Information Age, international relations scholars have yet to bring the full analytic power of their discipline to developing our understanding of what digital technologies mean for concepts like war, peace, security, cooperation, human rights, equity and power.

The module consists of four sections, each of which builds on the previous one to help students develop a broad overview of the key debates that are animating the nascent scholarship on digital technologies and global politics. Teaching will also include four evenly spaced seminars in which students will work in small groups to develop the themes taken up in lectures. Assessment for the module will be one essay midway through the semester followed by a final exam.

PL9197 Introduction to Globalisation

Globalisation (or, more commonly, globalization) is a complex and contentious concept, which is variously interpreted as: a form of ‘time‐space compression’ which is ‘shrinking’ our world; a series of opportunities for growth and modernisation; or the institutionalisation and internationalisation of inequalities and injustice. Its advocates argue that it has increased the depth and scope of the application of human rights and lifted millions of people out of poverty. Its detractors point to its connection with the recent global financial crisis and the willingness and ability of powerful elites to manipulate its mechanisms and consequences. The ever expanding literature on Globalisation is inter and multidisciplinary and this is precisely because this elusive debate transcends academic fields; including politics, economics, history and sociology. Throughout this course, you will be encouraged to engage with a series of questions that continue to divide scholars and commentators: Is globalisation ‘real’? If so, is it ‘new’? Is it a force for good and, if not, could it ever be? Who is globalisation for? What are its consequences? Is its progress inexorable? What does the future hold for our ‘globalised’ world?


In 2016, I joined the staff at Cardiff University as a member of the Department of Politics and International Relations where I teach on issues at the intersection of science, technology, and war. 

After earning my Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, I held a Stanton Fellowship at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University; and a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies Middlebury Institute of International Relations in Monterey and Washington DC. During that time I researched and published on topics in nuclear nonproliferation.

In 2013-2014, I worked for the United States Congress as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow in the Office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), where as a National Security Fellow I worked on implementing the repeal of the combat exclusion policy for women servicemembers; the Iran nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action; sexual assault in the US military; and new approaches to cyber threats. Subsequently, as a fellow at the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress, I co-authored a report on "Cyber Operations in DOD Policy and Plans: Issues for Congress."

As a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zuerich in 2015 I continued my research on nuclear issues, publishing on "Next Generation Nuclear Technologies: new challenges to the legal framework of the IAEA from Intense Neutron Sources" with Dr. Mattias Englert, and receiving a grant from the Swiss National Foundation (with Dr. Mahsa Rouhi) to study the dynamics of the Iranian nuclear crisis. 

My research interests are located at the nexus of International Relations, and Science and Technology Studies. They include nuclear deterrence, disarmament and nonproliferation, cybersecurity, and diversity in the United States military. I am currently working on a book project entitled Power, Violence, and Nuclear Weapons in which I build a macro-level theory of the political value of nuclear weapons.

When I am not working I enjoy horseback riding with my wife, Brigadier General Brenda Cartier.