School of Law

Dr Isobel Roele, LLB (King's London), LLM, PhD (University of Nottingham)


Lecturer in Law

Room Number: Lincoln's Inn Fields


Dr Isobel Roele joined QMUL in September 2014, having previously held a lectureship in law at Cardiff University and after completing her PhD at the University of Nottingham. She is the deputy director of QMUL’s Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context and an elected member of Senate.

Dr Roele’s approach to research is informed by engagements with other disciplines, particularly in the arts and humanities, and by theoretical work in and about the social sciences. Her areas of expertise are:

  • Collective security and the United Nations
  • War, international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
  • Global governance and institutions
  • Public international law

Dr Roele is currently engaged in three projects:

  • An examination of global strategies to manage transnational threats to peace and security using Michel Foucault’s analytics of power
  • A sideways look at UN Security Council working methods that uses multi-disciplinary approaches to offer unusual answers to unusual questions about how the Council works
  • An exploration of the re-enchantment of public international law: Is it possible to retain an imaginative or aspirational sense of wonder in such a critically exposed field of scholarship?

Read her papers here:

And here:

Undergraduate Teaching


Dr Roele takes an inter-disciplinary approach to researching the everyday detail of discursive and non-discursive practices of global governance in general and collective security in particular. Her work has been influenced by a formative engagement with Jürgen Habermas’ Theory of Communicative Action (which inspired her doctoral research); enabled by Michel Foucault’s analytical toolkit; and inspired by feats of imagination and flights of fancy in her own and other disciplines.

She is currently working on three research projects:

Foucault and the management of transnational security threats

Dr Roele has already published a number of international peer-reviewed journal articles on the place of Foucault’s analytics of power – particularly his notion of disciplinary power – in global strategies to address transnational threats to peace and security, such as international terrorism, the proliferation of WMD, transnational organized crime and pandemic disease.

She currently has a contract with Cambridge University Press to produce a monograph provisionally entitled Collective Security and its Infra-Law. This book examines the relationship between the positive international legal obligations on states to prevent the spread of transnational threats to peace and security and the mechanisms, techniques and practices involved in supporting their implementation. Dr Roele argues that the dominant strategy for preventing the spread of threats like international terrorism or global pandemics bears a striking resemblance to the sorts of practice Foucault described in Discipline and Punish. She suggests that it seeks to fashion individual states into articulated components of a global machinery designed to danger-proof the globe.

How the UN Security Council works

Unprepossessing though the topic appears, UN Security Council working methods are a vital part of defining what the Council can do, how it does it and whether it is able to achieve its aims. Dr Roele has previously written on the Council’s problematic place in cosmopolitan readings of the UN collective security project. The present project explores the nuts and bolts of the Council’s workaday practices in order to develop a different way of asking questions about how it works and, thereby, to think about why it often fails.

Dr Roele will be working on this project during her research visit to the University of New South Wales Law in 2018.

Re-enchanting public international law

Public international law, and the peace projects and global governance it supports, have long been deservedly and usefully subjected to criticism. In the last decades, much of the most insightful and sustained criticism has come from within the field of public international law scholarship itself. While the near universal recognition of the value of this critical discourse has enriched a sometimes unreflective body of scholarship, it also risks disenchanting the discipline by revealing any and all proposals for peace and order to be not only flawed, but also dangerous.

Dr Roele suggests that this critical move implies an impoverishment of the disciplinary imagination. Inspired by work in literary criticism, history and philosophy on lucid self-delusion, irony and transfiguration, she is exploring how international lawyers might retain a productive sense of wonder, without compromising their critical faculties.


  • Roele, Isobel, ‘Side-lining Subsidiarity: UN Security Council ‘Legislation’ and its Infra-Law’ 79(2) Law & Contemporary Problems (2016) 189-214
  • Roele, Isobel, ‘From illiberal to incorrigible: A new strategy for humanitarian enforcement action in Syria’ 15 Baltic Yearbook of International Law (2015) 104-133
  • Roele, Isobel, ‘Reading UN Security Council Resolutions Through Valverde’s Chronotopes’ 23(3) Feminist Legal Studies (2015) 369-37
  • Roele, Isobel, ‘The Vicious Circles of Habermas’ Cosmopolitanism’ (forthcoming, Law and Critique)
  • Roele, Isobel, ‘Disciplinary Power in the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee’ 19(1) Journal of Conflict and Security Law (2014) 49-84
  • Roele, Isobel, ‘We have not seen the last of the Rogue State’ 13(4) German Law Journal (2012) 560-578
  • Roele, Isobel, ‘Ascertaining Inchoate Threats to International Peace and Security’ in M. Happold (ed.), International Law in a Multipolar World, (2011) Routledge.
  • Roele, Isobel, Book review of Tasioulas and Besson (eds) The Philosophy of International Law, 8 New Zealand Yearbook of International Law (2010) 339

Recent Conference Papers

  • ‘Sidelining Subsidiarity: United Nations Security Council “Legislation” and Its Infra-Law’, International Society of Public Law ICONS Conference, June 2016, Humboldt University, Berlin
  • ‘Collective Security Through Law Norm Cascades and the United Nations’, European Society of International Law Research Forum The Making of International Law, April 2016, Koç University, Istanbul
  • ‘Governing transnational organized crime through disciplinary power’, Institute for International Law and Justice conference on Measurement and Data in the Governance of Illicit Activity, November 2014, New York University
  • “Transnational Collective Security and Sovereign Incapacity” at COST Action IS1003 and Bifrost University workshop on The Changing Practices of International Law, Reykjavik 27-29 August 2014
  • “Side-lining Subsidiarity in Collective Security” at the Hertie School of Governance Workshop on Subsidiarity in Global Governance, Berlin 19-20 June 2014
  • “Illiberal or Incorrigible? Identifying Public Enemies in the Twenty-First Century” at Tallinn, Estonian Academy of Sciences’ Conference on the Approaches of Liberal and illiberal Governments to International Law, 12-13 June 2014
  • “Accounting for Discipline in Collective Security Governance” at the Barcelona Workshop on Global Governance, IBEI and ESADEgeo, 9-10 January 2014
  • “Docile States: Disciplinary Power and the UN Security Council” at the ILA (British Branch) Spring Conference, University of Oxford, 12-13 April 2013


Dr Roele welcomes imaginative research proposals from prospective doctoral students working on any area related to her research interests.

Dr Roele is currently supervising Sanya Karakas, and co-supervising Khalid Khedri with Professor Penny Green and Dr Jessie Hohmann.

Public Engagement