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School of Politics and International Relations

Dr Joanne Yao


Senior Lecturer in International Relations

Telephone: 020 7882 6814
Room Number: Arts One, 2.27C
Twitter: @JoanneYao55
Office Hours: Semester A: Wednesdays 11:30am -12:30pm and Thursdays 2:30-3:30pm


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.

Office hour joining link 


Research Interests:

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

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, Available FirstView.

‘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:

Chapters in Books

(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: international order(s) and hierarchies; global historical sociology; critical geopolitics; environmental history; history of international organizations

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