Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Contact Details

Dr James Souter

Lecturer in International Relations

I joined the School in 2014, working as a post-doctoral research fellow before taking up my current post in 2016. Before coming to Leeds, I completed a DPhil at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford.

I also hold an MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies from the University of Oxford, an MA in Understanding and Securing Human Rights from the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (University of London), and a BA in Philosophy and History with European Study from the University of Exeter.

Research Interests

My work engages with both contemporary political theory and normative international relations. In recent years, I have worked on ethical questions surrounding asylum, refugee protection and the responsibility to protect (R2P). In particular, I examine how we might understand states’ special responsibilities to protect refugees, such as those based on claims to reparation for past or ongoing injustice.

I am Secretary of the British International Studies Association Working Group on Ethics and World Politics.

My forthcoming book, provisionally entitled Asylum as Reparation: Responsibilities to Refugees in an Age of Displacement, is under contract with Palgrave Macmillan.


In 2016/17, I will be be contributing to teaching on ‘Freedom, Power and Resistance’ (PIED1601), ‘International Politics’ (PIED1511), ‘Politics and Social Transformations’ (SLSP1150), and ‘Justice, Community and Conflict’ (PIED2602).

Key Publications

Journal articles

  • Ralph J, Souter J, ‘Introduction: The Responsibility to Protect and the Refugee Protection Regime’, Ethics and International Affairs, 31.1 (2017), 47-50
    DOI: 10.1017/S0892679416000654, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/110173/

  • Souter J, ‘Good international citizenship and special responsibilities to protect refugees’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 18.4 (2016), 795-811
    DOI: 10.1177/1369148116659607, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/101309/

    © 2016, © The Author(s) 2016. Good international citizenship is generally seen, either implicitly or explicitly, as being a matter of fulfilling general duties in the realm of foreign policy. In this article, I challenge this prevailing view, by arguing that good international citizenship frequently involves discharging special responsibilities to protect, which in turn involves grants of asylum to refugees. While arguing that asylum should be seen as an important element of good international citizenship as a matter of course, it assumes an even more central role in this citizenship in two scenarios. The first is where humanitarian intervention is either imprudent or politically impossible without violating the procedural norms of international society. The second is when intervention—whether pursued for humanitarian or other reasons—creates refugees, and intervening states may thereby acquire special responsibilities to protect those refugees.

  • Ralph J, Souter J, ‘A special responsibility to protect: The UK, Australia and the Rise of Islamic State’, International Affairs, 91.4 (2015), 709-723
    DOI: 10.1111/1468-2346.12339, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/87282/

    In the summer of 2014 Islamic State (IS) emerged as a threat to the Iraqi people. In this article we ask whether the UK and Australia had a ‘special’ responsibility to protect (R2P) those being threatened. We focus on two middle-ranking powers (as opposed to the US) because we seek to highlight the significance of special responsibilities that flow only from principle rather than capability. Despite casting their response in terms of a general responsibility, we contend that the UK and Australia did indeed bear a special responsibility based on the widely-held principle of reparation. Rather than making the argument that the 2003 coalition that invaded Iraq created IS, we argue that it is the vulnerable position in which Iraqis were placed as a consequence of the invasion that grounds the UK and Australia’s special responsibility to protect. We address the claim that the UK and Australia were not culpable because they did not act negligently or recklessly in 2003 by drawing on Tony Honoré’s concept of ‘outcome responsibility’. The finding of a special responsibility is significant because it often thought of as being more demanding than a general responsibility. In this context, we argue the response of these two states falls short of reasonable moral expectations. This does not mean the UK and Australia should be doing more militarily. R2P does not begin and end with military action. Rather we argue the special responsibility to protect can be discharged through humanitarian aid and a more generous asylum policy.

  • Souter J, ‘Towards a Theory of Asylum as Reparation for Past Injustice’, Political Studies, 62.2 (2014), 326-342
    DOI: 10.1111/1467-9248.12019, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/98132/

    In this article, I contend that asylum should at times act as a form of reparation for past injustice. This function, I argue, stems from states' special obligation to provide asylum to refugees for whose lack of state protection they are responsible. After suggesting that the development of a theory of asylum as reparation necessitates a diachronic approach, I outline the conditions under which asylum should function reparatively, and draw on the reparations framework within international law to suggest that asylum can provide refugees with meaningful restitution, compensation and satisfaction. In particular, I seek to identify the conditions under which asylum constitutes the most fitting form of reparation for the harm of refugeehood that is available to states. Finally, I explore the question of how direct the causal link between a state's actions and a refugee's flight must be for the former to owe asylum to the latter. Political Studies. © 2013 The Author. Political Studies. © 2013 Political Studies Association.

  • Souter J, ‘Durable solutions as reparation for the unjust harms of displacement: Who owes what to refugees?’, Journal of Refugee Studies, 27.2 (2014), 171-190
    DOI: 10.1093/jrs/fet027, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/98136/

    This article examines some of the theoretical and practical implications of understanding durable solutions as potential forms of reparation that can be offered to refugees for the unjust harms of displacement. It begins by making a basic moral case that durable solutions can act as forms of reparation, exploring the ways in which the creation or restoration of effective citizenship in a state through one of the durable solutions can go some way to providing restitution, compensation and satisfaction for refugees. It then discusses some considerations which need to be taken into account when seeking to identify which state should offer which durable solution as reparation to which refugees in any given case, such as the refugees' choice, their place of residence and social ties, their sense of group identity, and questions of state capacity and efficiency. Observing that bestowing a reparative function upon durable solutions would potentially create a tension with their classical humanitarian rationale, it moves to explore how this tension might be navigated, with particular reference to the question of how states with limited resources should prioritize the needs of refugees for whose flight they are morally responsible vis-à-vis refugees for whose flight they are not responsible. © The Author 2013. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.

  • Souter J, ‘A Culture of Disbelief or Denial? Critiquing Refugee Status Determination in the United Kingdom’, Oxford Monitor of Forced Migration, 1.1 (2011), 48-59

  • Souter J, ‘Humanity, suffering and victimhood: A defence of human rights pragmatism: Research and analysis’, Politics, 29.1 (2009), 45-52
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9256.2008.01337.x

    This article explores and defends the pragmatist approach to human rights exemplified by Michael Ignatieff, which seeks to justify them in terms of their practical ability to reduce suffering and abuse. It then presents Alain Badiou's radical critique of this kind of 'ethic of human rights', which claims that it presupposes a negative conception of the human as a victim and leads to a highly conservative politics. However, Badiou's arguments are largely rejected, since they distort the conception of humanity that underlies this ethic, and misrepresent its actual understanding of the role of human rights in politics. © 2009 Political Studies Association.

  • Souter J, ‘Emancipation and Domination: Human Rights and Power Relations’, In-Spire Journal of Law, Politics and Societies, 3.2 (2008), 140-150

Internet publications

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