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School of Politics and International Relations

Dr Joanne Yao


Lecturer in International Relations

Telephone: 020 7882 6814
Room Number: Arts One, 2.27C
Office Hours: Wednesdays 11:30am-12:30pm and Fridays 2:30-3:30pm (F2F or Online)


Joanne Yao joined Queen Mary in 2019. Previously, she taught at Durham University and the LSE, where she completed her PhD in 2017. In addition, she has worked in the US public sector and for international nongovernmental organizations including CARE International. Her research centers on environmental history and politics (her current empirical projects include international rivers and Antarctica), historical international relations, and the 19th century development of international organizations and global order. Joanne was also one of three editors of Millennium: Journal of International Studies for Volume 43 (2014-2015) and is currently a member of Millennium’s the Board of Trustees.

Office hour joining link 


Research Interests:

My research interests are in International Relations theory, historical sociology, global/international history, international institutions and organizations, critical geography, and environmental politics.

My current work approaches environmental cooperation from a historical perspective and analyses how and why the first international organizations were established in the 19th century to manage a contested transboundary issue—the international river. I focus on discourses of civilization, scientific control, and abstraction in the establishment of these early IOs and in legitimating the current international order. My next project uses these themes to study international governance in Antarctica and explores the use of science as a gatekeeper that legitimates international hierarchies. I am particularly interested in meaning creation as a historical process and how the co-constitution of social meaning and physical geographies impacts international cooperation and conflict.

In addition, I am interested in research on gender and diversity in the IR curriculum, both in formal content as presented through reading lists and in pedagogical practices in the classroom. Published blogposts include why diversity in the curriculum is important (The Disorder of Things) and challenging the gender citation gap (International Affairs blog). Information about my most recent gender and diversity project at Durham University can be found here.


Chapter in book

Yao, Joanne (2019) ‘Transboundary Water Management: Conflict and Cooperation’ chapter in The 2019 Europa Directory of International Organizations, 21st Edition (ed. by Europa Publications) with Routledge (2019).

Wilson, Peter & Yao, Joanne (2018). International Sanctions as a Primary Institution of International Society in International Organization in the Anarchical Society. Knudsen, Tonny Brems & Navari, Cornelia Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. 127-148.

Journal Article

Yao, Joanne (2019). 'Conquest from barbarism': The Danube Commission, international order and the control of nature as a Standard of Civilization. European Journal of International Relations 25(2): 335-359.

Delatolla, Andrew & Yao, Joanne (2018). Racializing Religion: Constructing Colonial Identities in the Syrian Provinces in the Nineteenth Century. International Studies Review


Yao, Joanne. The Ideal River: How Control of Nature Shaped the International Order. Forthcoming from Manchester University Press.

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