Conference Paper Awards

The Theory Section Paper Awards recognize superlative work in International Theory presented at the previous year’s ISA Annual Conference (2017 in Baltimore). All papers with a strong theoretical focus are eligible. Two awards are made: one for a paper presented by a graduate student or other non-PhD holder, and another for a paper by a post-PhD scholar. Nominations may be made by anyone in the profession. We encourage discussants and chairs on Theory panels to let us know about outstanding papers you encountered. Self-nominations are also welcome. Nominations should include contact information of the nominee, in the case of self-nominations, also a copy of the relevant paper. They should be submitted electronically to Louise Wise ( by July 1st, 2017.

The winner(s) in each category will receive a certificate at the Business Meeting during the ISA Annual Convention. The winner(s) of the Best Paper (non-PhD) will also receive a $500 prize at the same meeting. If not present, the certificates and prize will be mailed to the recipients.

2017 Awards Committee:

Louise Wise | Chair
School of Law, Queen Mary University of London
Mile End Road
London | E1 4NS​

Joseph O’Mahoney
School of Diplomacy and International Relations
McQuaid Hall
Room 105
Seton Hall University
400 South Orange Avenue
South Orange, NJ 07079

Dillon Stone Tatum
Department of Political Science and Geography
Francis Marion University
133 Founders Hall
Florence, South Carolina 29502

Sassan Gholiagha
University Hamburg
Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences
Social Sciences Department
Political Science
Allende-Platz 1
20146 Hamburg
Room: AP1/251


Past Winners

2016 Best Paper (PhD): Louise Wise (Queen Mary University of London), with the paper “Three Colonialisms, the ‘Developmental’ State, and the Global Constitution of Genocide.”

Louise Wise’s paper offers a guiding example of how to apply theoretical analysis to international history. The theoretical and empirical discussions are woven together with expert precision and offer a prime example of how to combine theoretical and empirical analysis. The analysis of genocide and colonialism provides a welcome expansion of this literature, and a thought-provoking analysis into the politics of Sudan. The complexity of how the “colonial” is implicated in genocide, and the way by which the three forms of colonialism function as an ecology offer a nuanced analysis of Sudan’s history and provides an important contribution to improving our understanding of the genocide in Darfur as well as how to develop and apply theory. The paper furthers the mission of the THEORY section of the ISA to support research linking theory with history, as well as the importance of theory for research in IR scholarship.

2016 Best Paper (non-PhD): Gitte du Plessis (University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa), with the paper “Enemies of the state? The discrepancy between threat and use in the weaponization of infectious agents.”

Gitte du Plessis’ paper presents an innovative and compelling look at the discursive and material constructions of biosecurity in contemporary geopolitics, and the limits of discourses on deterrence and diplomatic disarmament to explain the discrepancy between accounts of the ‘effectiveness’ and lethality of bioweapons in security literatures, and their empirical lack of use.  Using Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the ‘war machine’ to consider the efficacy of microbial actants alongside the leveraging of bioweapons as a threat to global security, du Plessis argues that pathogenic microbes resist weaponization and thus frequently exceed states’ attempts to manipulate, surveil, and control them. The paper is highly interdisciplinary, bringing into conversation literature in political theory, critical security studies, international relations, with work on global health and environmental studies.  We feel that this is an impressive paper with considerable potential that will further work on geopolitics and global health and biosecurity. It also furthers the mission of the THEORY section of the ISA in that it develops theory with empirical relevancy, it fosters communication and collaboration between disciplines, and it develops dialogue between political theory and IR.

2015 Best Paper (PhD): Michael Crawford Urban (University of Toronto), with the paper “How to study trust in international relations.”

2015 Best Paper (non-PhD): Nicole Sunday Grove (University of Hawai’i, Manoa), with the paper “The Cartographic Ambiguities of HarassMap: Crowdmapping Secuirty and Sexual Violence in Egypt.”  Alena Drieschova (University of Toronto) is the winner of an honorable mention in this category, with the paper “Peirce’s Semeiotics: A Methodology for Bridging the Material-Ideational Divide in IR Scholarship.”

2014 Best Paper (PhD): Shannon Brincat (Griffith University) and L.H.M. Ling (New School), with the paper “Dialectics of IR: Hegel and the Dao

2014 Best Paper (non-PhD): Henrique Furtado of the University of Manchester, with the paper “Remembrance in the Forgotten Continent: Collective Memory and the Politics of Representation in Brazil.” Charlotta Friedner Parrat of University of Uppsala is the winner of an honorable mention for the 2014 ISA Theory Section Pre-PhD Paper Award for her piece, “Changing before Our Eyes and Slipping between our Fingers: International Organisations and Primary Institutions.”

2013 Best Paper (PhD):  Andrew Davenport, Aberystwyth University’s Department of International Politics, with the paper “Theory and Practice: Kantian Questions” (co-winner) and  Simon Glezos, University of Victoria’s Political Science Department, with the paper “Of Fortuna and Facebook: Social Media and Social Networks in Global Politics” (co-winner).

2013 Best Paper (non-PhD): Eric Van Rythoven, PhD Candidate at Carleton University’s Department of Political Science, with the paper “Realism, Securitization, and Statecraft”