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School of Politics and International Relations

Dr Joanne Yao


Senior Lecturer in International Relations

Telephone: 020 7882 6814
Room Number: ArtsOne, 2.27C
Twitter: @JoanneYao55
Office Hours: Tuesday 14:30-15:30 and Thursday 16:00-17:00 (in person or online, please email to book).


Joanne Yao joined QMUL 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, historical international relations, international hierarchies and orders, and the development of early international organizations. Her first book, The Ideal River (Manchester University Press, 2022) examines the construction of the ‘ideal river’ in the European geographical imagination and the establishment of the first international organizations. Joanne’s next project focuses on the history of Antarctica and early outer space exploration.

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 Board of Trustees.


POL251 International Theory

POL304 Environmental Politics (Semester A)

POL343 More than Human Politics (Semester B)

POLM099 International Organisations (Semester B)


Research Interests:

My research interests are in IR theory, environmental politics; global historical sociology; history of empires and imperialism, the history of international order(s), and international institutions and organizations.

My first book, published in 2022, examines the construction of the ‘ideal river’ in the European geographical imagination and investigates the ensuing political projects to actualize that vision through the creation of the first international organizations. It charts how the ambition to tame nature shaped the territorial sovereign state, constituted imperial hierarchies, and through IOs, continues to inform the current international order.

My next project on geopolitics, science, and unitary visions of the global focuses on the scramble for Antarctica and early space exploration as moments of ‘completing’ our knowledge of the globe in its entirety. The project aims to highlight how such moments of epistemic completion also constitutes, reinscribes, and legitimates existing imperial and gendered hierarchies in international order.


Journal Article

‘The Power of Geographical Imaginaries in the European International Order: Colonialism, the 1884–85 Berlin Conference, and Model International Organizations’, International Organization, 2022, 76(4):901-928. Available HERE.

‘An International Hierarchy of Science: Conquest, Cooperation, and the 1959 Antarctic Treaty System’, European Journal of International Relations, 2021, 27(4):995-1019. Available HERE.

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

(With Delatolla, Andrew). Racializing Religion: Constructing Colonial Identities in the Syrian Provinces in the Nineteenth Century. International Studies Review 2019, 21(4): 640–661. Available HERE.


The Ideal River: How Control of Nature Shaped the International Order. Manchester University Press: (Winner of the 2023 LHM Ling Outstanding First Book Prize from BISA; book symposium on The Disorder of Things)

Chapters in Books

‘Spatial Orders’, commissioned chapter in the S. Goodard, G. Lawson and O.J. Sending (eds) Handbook of International Political Sociology (forthcoming 2024) with Oxford University Press.

(With Andrew Delatolla), Race and International Relations. Chapter in the B. de Carvalho, H. Leira, and J. Costa Lopez (eds) Routledge Handbook of Historical International Relations

Transboundary Water Management: Conflict and Cooperation. Chapter in Europa Publications (ed) The 2019 Europa Directory of International Organizations, 21st Edition. Routledge 2019.

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


Topics for potential supervision: global historical sociology; environmental politics; critical geopolitics; empires and imperialism; international order(s) and hierarchies; history of international organizations

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