Patricia Owens, Erased: A History of International Thought Without Men (Princeton University Press, in press)

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, women played a prominent role in the creation of a new cross-disciplinary intellectual field in imperial Britain: ‘international relations’. Born of crises of Empire, this new field of knowledge relied on women’s intellectual labours and expertise on empire and colonial administration, anticolonial organising, non-Western powers, and international organisations. Figures such as Margery Perham, Eileen Power, Merze Tate, Claudia Jones, Coral Bell, and Susan Strange were among the leading international thinkers of their generation. Many others shaped the development of the new field as scholars, journalists, public intellectuals and information managers, as heterosexual spouses and in intimate partnerships between women. The book interweaves interpersonal, institutional, and intellectual stories of a cohort of women to recast the history of international relations in a new kind of critical disciplinary history. Using archival sources, Erased: A History of International Thought Without Men returns to key moments and locations in the effort to form international relations as a separate academic discipline in Britain. Challenging existing histories in which women and people of colour are missing, Erased includes the thinkers, fields, and approaches against which a small group of men tried to redefine international relations, revealing the intellectual and institutional practices of misogyny and racism in its earliest institutions. With a story of power, knowledge, and erasure, the book offers a new diagnosis of international relations’ failure as an intellectual project and sources for its renewal.

Edited volumes

Patricia Owens, Katharina Rietzler, Kimberley Hutchings, Sarah C. Dunstan (eds.) Women’s International Thought: Towards A New Canon (Cambridge University Press, 2023). Available here

Winner of BISA's Susan Strange Prize for Best Book in International Studies.

Winner, the International Studies Association Theory Section Best Edited Volume Award.

This is the first anthology of women’s international thought, and one of the largest studies of international thought ever compiled, revealing a major distortion in current understandings of the history and theory of international relations. The book demonstrates women’s centrality to early international relations discourses in and on the Anglo-American world order and how they were excluded from its history and conceptualization. It encompasses 104 selections by ninety-two different thinkers from the early to mid-twentieth century, covering the widest possible range of subject matter, genres, ideological and political positions, and professional contexts. It is organized into thirteen thematic sections, each with a substantial introductory essay, providing intellectual, political, biographical context, and original arguments, showing women’s centrality to early international relations discourses. This anthology is for students and scholars of international history and theory, intellectual history and women’s and gender studies.

Patricia Owens and Katharina Rietzler (eds.) Women’s International Thought: A New History (Cambridge University Press, 2021). Available here.

Winner, the Joseph Fletcher Prize for Best Edited Book in Historical International Relations from the International Studies Association.

Winner, the International Studies Association Theory Section Best Edited Volume Award.

Women’s International Thought: A New History is the first cross-disciplinary history of women’s international thought. Bringing together some of the foremost historians and scholars of international relations working today, this book recovers and analyses the path-breaking work of eighteen leading thinkers of international politics from the early to mid-twentieth century. Recovering and analyzing this important work, the essays offer revisionist accounts of IR’s intellectual and disciplinary history and expand the locations, genres, and practices of international thinking. Systematically structured, and focusing in particular on Black diasporic, Anglo-American, and European historical women, it does more than ‘add women’ to the existing intellectual and disciplinary histories from which they were erased. Instead, it raises fundamental questions about which kinds of subjects and what kind of thinking constitutes international thought, opening new vistas to scholars and students of international history and theory, intellectual history and women’s and gender studies.

Journal articles

Kimberley Hutchings and Patricia Owens, "Women Thinkers and the Canon of International Thought: Recovery, Rejection , and Reconstitution", American Political Science Review, 2021 first view available here

Winner, American Political Science Association Okin-Young Award in Feminist Political Theory for Best Article in English Language in 2021

Canons of intellectual 'greats' anchor the history and scope of academic disciplines. Within International Relations  (IR), such a canon emerged in the mid-twentieth century and is almost entirely male. Why are women thinkers absent from IR's canon? We show that it is not due to a lack of international thought, or that this thought fell outside established IR theories. Rather it is due to the gendered and racialized selection and reception of work that is deemed to be canonical. In contrast, we show what can be gained by reclaiming women's international thought through analyses of three intellectuals whose work was authoritative and influential in its own time or today. Our findings question several of the basic premises of underpinning IR's existing canon and suggest the need for a new research agenda on women international thinkers as part of a fundamental re-thinking of the history and scope of the discipline. 

Sarah C. Dunstan and Patricia Owens, "Claudia Jones, International Thinker", Modern Intellectual History, 2021 firstview available here

This article analyzes the early international thought of Trinidad-born Marxist journalist Claudia Joes. We focus on a neglected aspect of Jones's intellectual production in the United States: her interrogation of geopolitics in her Weekly Review articles in the 1940s. We situate Jones in relation to the contemporary popularization of geopolitical thought in this period, reading her alongside another neglected figure in histories of international thought, the African American geopolitical scholar and diplomatic historian, Merze Tate. Jones read together the geopolitical, class, racialized, and anticolonial implications of the expanding Nazi empire, positioning her at the forefront of Marxist theoretical innovation in this period. Moving beyond studies of canonical texts and white male thinkers in international intellectual history, we build on Black women's intellectual history to center a Black working-class woman's popular theorizing of international international relations.

Sarah C. Dunstan, "Women's International Thought in the Twentieth‐Century Anglo‐American Academy: Autobiographical Reflection, Oral History and Scholarly Habitus", Gender and History, 2021 first view, available here

Methodologies of textual and linguistic analysis have long held sway in Anglo‐American practices of intellectual history. Such approaches tend to decouple the ideas being traced from the human subject, or scholar, producing the thought. Taking the lead from the rich theorising work done in feminist, gender, race and cultural histories, this article asks what changes in our understanding of intellectual histories of international thought when we connect the lived and bodily realities of the human subjects producing the ideas to the ideas themselves. In so doing, the article makes a case for the importance of fleshing out what the author calls ‘scholarly habitus’ and suggests the potential utility of oral history as a methodology for reconstructing ‘scholarly habitus’. The article will draw upon an oral history archive comprised of twenty interviews conducted with senior women International Relations scholars from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom to flesh out this argument. The article argues that oral history, as a medium for autobiographical practice, can reveal aspects of how gender, race and class shaped the scholarly practice and career trajectories of these women, as well as shed light on the historical dynamics of the discipline of International Relations as a whole.

Valeska Huber, Tamson Pietsch & Katharina Rietzler, “Women’s International Thought and the New Professions, 1900-1940”, Modern Intellectual History (2019) Available here

This article examines the “new professions” as alternative settings where women thought and wrote about the international. Presenting the case studies of Fannie Fern Andrews, Mary Parker Follett and Florence Wilson, it shows that, in emerging professional and disciplinary contexts that have hitherto lain beyond the purview of historians of international thought, these women developed their thinking about the international. The insights they derived from their practical work in schools, immigrant communities and libraries led them to emphasize the mechanics of participation in international affairs and caused them to think across the scales of the individual, the local group and relations between nations. By moving beyond the history of organizations and networks and instead looking for the professional settings and audiences which enabled women to theorize, this article shifts both established understandings of what counts as international thought and traditional conceptions of who counts as an international thinker.

Patricia Owens, "Women and the History of International Thought", International Studies Quarterly, Vol.62, no.3 (2018), pp.467-481. Download here

Existing surveys and anthologies wrongly convey the impression that women in the past did not think seriously about international politics. This article provides evidence of the magnitude of the exclusion of historical women from the field by analyzing sixty texts in the history of international thought and disciplinary history. It also begins the process of remedying this exclusion. I map a new agenda for research on the history of women's international thought. Work in feminist historiography, as well as new archival research, suggests that a diverse array of historical women thought deeply about international relations, but their intellectual contributions have been obscured—and even actively erased. To illustrate what international studies can gain by pursuing a research agenda on historical women's international thought, I discuss a neglected, but at the time extremely important figure, in what might be called “white women's international relations,” the influential scholar of colonial administration, Lucy Philip Mair.

Journal Fora, Podcasts and Other Media on the WHIT Project

Theorising the History of Women's International Thought at the 'End of International Theory', International Theory forum featuring the WHIT Project and Adom Getachew, Duncan Bell, Cynthia Enloe, and Vineet Thakur

Women's International Thought: A Journal of the History of Ideas Blog Forum with essays by Barbara Savage, Glenda Sluga, Or Rosenboim and an Introduction by Elisavet Papalexopoulou

On Canon's and Question Marks: On the Work of Women's International Thought, Contemporary Political Theory, forum featuring the WHIT Project and Anne Phillips, Catherine Lu, Christopher J. Finlay and Manjeet Ramgotra.

Cause and Evidence: On the Erasure of Women's International Thought and IR's "Failure as an Intellectual Project", International Politics Review, forum featuring essays by the WHIT Project and Meera Sabaratnum, Helen McCarthy, Jeanne Morefield, and Charlotte Lydia Riley.

International Politics Review podcast discussion featuring Hutchings, Owens, Sabaratnum and McCarthy can be found here.

The Joseph Fletcher Prize Forum in Cambridge Review of International Affairs, with essays by Lauren Wilcox, Juliette Gout and Rebecca Turkington is available here.

What is... Women's International Thought, Voices: The EISA Podcast, with Owens, available here.

Global Lunchbox Conversation between Ian Hurd and the WHIT Team is available here.

The Hayseed Scholar Podcast with Owens (from July 2022) is available here.

New Books in Intellectual History Podcast Featuring Owens and Rietzler discussing Women’s International Thought: A New History (Cambridge University Press, 2021)

A Cambridge University Press Winter Festival Interview with Rietzler about Women’s International Thought: A New History (Cambridge University Press, 2021)