Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Contact Details

Dr Jack Holland

Associate Professor in International Security

I returned to Leeds in 2016, after working as Senior Lecturer at the University of Surrey, where I was also Subject Leader for Politics.

I studied at Cambridge, Birmingham, Warwick and Queensland. The ESRC, AHRC, Leverhulme Trust, and EU have funded my research. Amongst other things, this enabled me to spend several months working as a British Research Council Fellow at the Library of Congress, in Washington DC. 

Outside of academia, I am a keen runner and Arsenal fan.

Research Interests

I research US, UK and Australian foreign and security policy. I am interested in critical (primarily constructivist) approaches in IR.  My work explores the role of language, identity, popular culture, domestic politics and strategic agency in the foreign policy process. I have previously had the pleasure of co-authoring with friends and colleagues, such as Matt McDonald, Lee Jarvis, Ty Solomon, Katherine Wright and Sir Mike Aaronson. I’m currently researching and writing about Obama, Syria, Gillard, TV, and a range of other international security issues.


I thoroughly enjoy teaching and have been lucky enough to win two teaching awards. In 2013-14, I received a national teaching award: The British International Studies Association-Higher Education Academy Award for Excellence in Teaching International Studies. And, in the same year, I won The Vice-Chancellor’s Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence at the University of Surrey. I conduct, present and publish pedagogical research e.g. on visual literacy. I have previously taught on or led 18 different modules, including US Foreign Policy, Security Studies, and Introduction to International Relations. I currently teach IR Theory. 

PhD Supervision

I am happy to supervise top students in the areas of: US, UK or Australian foreign policy; constructivism; Critical Terrorism Studies; or Critical Security Studies. I have previously supervised two excellent PhD students to completion – Ciaran Gillespie and Samantha Cooke. They both secured academic jobs shortly after submitting their theses. I currently supervise two fully funded PhD students: Ben Fermor (Leeds, ESRC funded) who works on US Foreign Policy; and Will Mace (Surrey, University funded) who is a political theorist. 

Key Publications


  • Bentley M, Holland J, The Obama Doctrine Legacy and Continuity in US Foreign Policy (Routledge, 2016)

    President Obama’s first term in office was subject to intense criticism; not only did many feel that he had failed to live up to his leadership potential, but that he had actually continued the foreign policy framework of the George W. Bush era he was supposed to have abandoned. This edited volume examines whether these issues of continuity have been equally as prevalent during the president’s second term as his first. Is Obama still acting within the foreign policy shadow of Bush, or has he been able to establish his own approach towards international affairs, distinct from his predecessor? Within this context, the volume also addresses the idea of legacy and whether Obama has succeeded in establishing his own distinct foreign policy doctrine. In addressing these questions, the chapters explore continuity and change from a range of perspectives in International Relations and Foreign Policy Analysis, which are broadly representative of a spectrum of theoretical positions. With contributions from a range of US foreign policy experts, this book will be of great interest to students and scholars of US foreign policy, Foreign Policy Analysis and American politics.

  • Jarvis L, Holland J, Security A Critical Introduction (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)

    This major new text provides an accessible yet intellectually rigorous introduction to contemporary Security Studies. It focuses on eight fundamental debates relating to international security, integrating a wide range of empirical issues and theoretical approaches within its critical interrogation of these.

  • Holland J, Selling the War on Terror Foreign Policy Discourses After 9/11 (Routledge, 2014)

    This book uses a comparative analysis to examine foreign policy discourses and the dynamics of the ‘War on Terror'. The book considers the three principal members of the Coalition of the Willing in Afghanistan and Iraq: the United States, Britain and Australia. Despite significant cultural, historical and political overlap, the War on Terror was nevertheless rendered possible in these contexts in distinct ways, drawing on different discourses and narratives of foreign policy and identity. This volume explores these differences and their origins, arguing that they have important implications for the way we understand foreign policy and political possibility. The author rejects prevalent interpretations of a War on Terror foreign policy discourse, in the singular, highlighting that coalition states both demonstrated and relied upon divergent policy framings to make the War on Terror possible. The book thus contributes to our understanding of political possibility, in the process correcting a tendency to view the War on Terror as a universal and monolithic political discourse. This book will be of much interest to students of foreign policy, critical security studies, terrorism studies, discourse analysis, and IR in general.

  • Bentley M, Holland J, Obama's Foreign Policy Ending the War on Terror (Routledge, 2013)

    This edited volume is an innovative analysis of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, security and counter-terrorism policy, specifically within the context of ending the now infamous War on Terror. The book adopts a comparative approach, analysing change and continuity in US foreign policy during Obama’s first term in office vis-à-vis the foreign policy of the War on Terror, initiated by George W. Bush following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Despite being heralded as an agent of change, since his election in 2008 Obama has faced criticism that his foreign policy is effectively the same as what went before and that the War on Terror is still alive and well. Far from delivering wholesale change, Obama has been accused of replicating and even reinforcing the approach, language and policies that many anticipated he would reject. With contributions from a range of US foreign policy experts, this volume analyses the extent to which these criticisms of continuity are correct, identifying how the failure to end the War on Terror is manifest and explaining the reasons that have made enacting change in foreign policy so difficult. In addressing these issues, contributions to this volume will discuss continuity and change from a range of perspectives in International Relations and Foreign Policy Analysis.  This work will be of great interest to students and scholars of US foreign policy, security studies and American politics.

Journal articles

  • Ralph J, Holland J, Zhekova K, ‘Before the vote: UK foreign policy discourse on Syria 2011–13’, Review of International Studies 2017, 1-23 (Accepted)
    DOI: 10.1017/S0260210517000134, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/112062/

    © British International Studies Association 2017 The literature of recent UK policy toward Syria focuses on the 2013 chemical weapons crisis. We examine policy discourses leading up to that. The government supported the removal of Assad but faced the challenge of explaining how that would be realised. Given its unwillingness and inability to mobilise support for military intervention, or to tailor policy goals to match available means, government strategy arguably lacked credibility. Our purpose is to examine how the government tried to close this ends means gap and how, having failed to do that, its ‘discursive strategy’ legitimised its approach. We argue the resources for the government’s discursive strategy on Syria can be found in the earlier articulation of ‘liberal conservatism’. A policy that from an ideal-liberal or ideal-conservative position might have been criticised as half-baked was maintained by a strategy that gave consideration to, but did not completely follow through on, either archetype. Drawing on an analysis of 2,152 sources and supplemented by elite interviews, we illustrate how this strategy managed the interplay of two basic discourses: a liberal insistence that the UK should support ‘the Arab Spring’ and a conservative insistence that military intervention was imprudent because ‘Syria was not Libya’.

  • Jarvis L, Holland J, ‘We [for]got him': Remembering and Forgetting in the Narration of bin Laden's Death’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 42.2 (2014), 425-447
    DOI: 10.1177/0305829813516527, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/93327/

    This article explores how the death of Osama bin Laden was narrated by the Obama administration between the night of his killing and the 2012 State of the Union address. Three aspects of this unfolding story, in particular, are explored: i) descriptions of the operation itself; ii) constructions of bin Laden's life and character; iii) accounts of the significance and likely consequences of his killing. The article argues that the narration of these events was characterised, first, by considerable discursive continuity with the war on terrorism discourse of George W. Bush, and, second, by a gradual removal or 'forgetting' of bin Laden and the circumstances of his death. Each of these dynamics, we argue, contributed to the legitimisation of his killing, demonstrating the importance of narrative remembrance and forgetting alike for the conduct and justification of liberal violence. © The Author(s) 2014.

  • Holland J, ‘Foreign policy and political possibility’, European Journal of International Relations, 19.1 (2013), 49-68
    DOI: 10.1177/1354066111413310, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/93325/

    This article explores the relationship between foreign policy and political possibility in two parts. First, the relationship between foreign policy and political possibility is theorized around three analytical moments: political possibility is linked to the framing of conceivable, communicable and coercive foreign policy. Second, this framework is developed and demonstrated through a brief analysis of Coalition foreign policy in the War on Terror, considering American, British and Australian foreign policy between 2001 and 2003. This analysis dissects distinct and divergent Coalition foreign policies through a linked three-part conceptualization of political possibility. It enables an understanding of how the War on Terror was rendered possible through the construction of foreign policy in thinkable, resonant and ultimately dominant terms. The article concludes by looking to the wider analytical applicability of this particular theorization of the relationship between foreign policy and political possibility. © The Author(s) 2011.

  • Holland J, ‘Blair's war on terror: Selling intervention to middle England’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 14.1 (2012), 74-95
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-856X.2011.00469.x

    In December 2009 Tony Blair indicated that he would have pursued a policy of intervention in Iraq regardless of Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction. In this situation he would merely have had to employ alternative arguments. Such a statement should come as little surprise. Blair's language throughout his prime ministership was highly strategic; it was framed to achieve support from his primary target audience, 'Middle England'. Two key tropes-rationality and leadership-were repeatedly deployed in order to sell Blair's wars to the British public. This article demonstrates how Blair's strategically framed language was politically enabling in three analytical moments, helping to craft a conceivable, coercive and communicable British foreign policy discourse. © 2011 The Author. British Journal of Politics and International Relations © 2011 Political Studies Association.

  • Holland J, ‘When you think ofthe taliban, think ofthe Nazis': Teachingamericans '9/11' in NBC'sthe west wing’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 40.1 (2011), 85-106
    DOI: 10.1177/0305829811408680

    Only three weeks after the events of 11 September 2001 (hereafter 9/11), Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing delivered a special one-off episode, outside of usual storylines. The episode, titled 'Isaac and Ishmael', is interesting because it adopts an explicitly pedagogical theme to teach viewers how to think about the events of 9/11. The episode can thus be read as an instance in the wider construction of the meaning of those events. In this respect, this article argues that the production of the episode contributed to notions of rupture and exceptionalism. In addition, despite the potentially 'liberal' and 'academic' lessons given by the show's stars, the extensive contextualisation of the previously incomprehensible events for a dominantly American audience actually relayed, amplified and reinforced the emerging dominant discourses of the Bush Administration. Accepting and repeating official tropes, The West Wing ultimately served to further limit space for debate in the wake of 9/11. © The Author(s) 2011.

  • Holland J, ‘From september 11th, 2001 to 9-11: From void to crisis’, International Political Sociology, 3.3 (2009), 275-292
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-5687.2009.00076.x

    This paper draws on interviews conducted in the days and weeks after the events of September 11th, 2001, analyzing the transition from "September 11th, 2001" to "9-11." That is, from the discursive void that immediately followed the acts of terrorism in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania to the apparently self-evident crisis that the events came to represent in the following days and weeks. First, the paper redresses persistent oversights of discourse-oriented work by recognizing and investigating both the agency of the US general public and the context that official responses were articulated in. Second, the paper serves to denaturalize the construction of 9-11 as crisis, questioning the first and pre-requisite stage of the emerging discourse of the "War on Terror." Theorizing void, crisis and their relationship enables an understanding of how the War on Terror was possible and opens a critical space for its contestation. © 2009 International Studies Association.

Media Contact Areas

  • US foreign policy
  • UK foreign policy
  • Australian foreign policy
  • International security
  • Terrorism
  • Counter-terrorism

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