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Women in International Security Seminar: "The Death of this Security Norm is greatly exaggerated": Beyond the Violation/Compliance Dichotomy

Associate Professor Sarah Percy | University of Queensland

When: Thursday 19 April, 4:00-5:30pm

Where: SDSC Reading Room 3.27, Hedley Bull Centre (130), 130 Garran Road, ANU

Our current understanding of the ‘death’ of important norms governing international security is both empirically and theoretically flawed. The literature has argued that a wide range of norms – such as those against torture, mercenary use, or unrestricted submarine warfare – are either ‘dead’ or under significant challenge. It suggests that the key cause of norm death is widespread violation. Yet, this claim is problematic because, for methodological reasons, these mainly constructivist studies tend to focus on single norms and measure their strength using degree of compliance. The project proposes a different model of norm change, focusing instead on obsolescence, modification and replacement. The presentation is derived from a research paper co-authored with Wayne Sandholtz (UC Irvine).

Sarah Percy is Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Queensland, and the Deputy Director of its Graduate Centre for Governance and International Affairs. Her research focuses on unconventional combatants (particularly private military and security companies, and mercenaries) and unconventional security threats (particularly maritime crime and piracy). Her publications include Mercenaries: The History of a Norm in International Relations (Oxford University Press, 2007) and ‘Maritime crime and naval response’ in Survival 58:3 (2016). Dr Percy is also a Non Resident Fellow of the Australian Sea Power Centre and a Senior Research Associate at the Oxford Programme on the Changing Character of War (OPCCW).


This research seminar is the first of the ‘Women in International Security: Theory and Practice’ Seminar Series 2018-19, jointly sponsored by the ANU Gender Institute and the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre. Consisting of research, career development, and policy dialogue seminars, this series showcases the work of prominent women in the fields of international security. For more information, contact the Series Convener, Professor Evelyn Goh at

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