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Dr Simone Tholens

Dr Simone Tholens

Senior Lecturer in International Relations

School of Law and Politics

+44 (0)29 2087 5445
3.06b, Law Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX
Available for postgraduate supervision


Simone Tholens is Senior Lecturer in International Relations, and the co-director of the Centre for Conflict, Security and Societies

Dr Tholens is currently on a Leverhulme Trust International Academic Fellowship and a Visting Fellow at the Robert Schuman Centre/European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, Italy (AY 20/21). She is also an Associate Fellow at Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

Dr Tholens' main research interest within International Relations are post-liberal Interventions, security assistance, bordering processes, and materiality of global War practices, as well as theories of contestation. She has extensive fieldwork experience from conflict spaces, notably Lebanon, Kosovo, Cambodia and Aceh, and also from the workings of international security actors, specifically NATO, the EU and the UN. Her current project and monograph (in progress), supported by the Leverhulme Trust Fellowship, is called "Knowledge, networks and practices of Security Assistance in the Middle East".

She has published in internationally esteemed journals such as International Affairs, International Studies Persepctives, Journal of International Relations and Development, and Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding. She has also just published an edited volume with University of Michigan Press, entitled "Resisting Europe: Practices of Contestation in the Mediterranean Middle East" (2020, w/ R. Del Sarto).


Simone Tholens is a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Cardiff University. Before taking up the Lectureship at Cardiff in 2016, she worked for three years as an Adjunct Professor at Johns Hopkins University/SAIS Europe, and as a Research Associate at the European University Institute/RSCAS. She completed her PhD at the European University Institute in 2012.













My current teaching includes:

  • Year 2 module: "International Security: Concepts and Issues"
  • Postgraduate module: "Conflict Management: From the Cuban Missile Crisis to the Syrian War"

I supervise PhD, MSc and BA level dissertation on topics broadly defined within the rubric of peace and conflict studies, and am particularly interested in:

  • contemporary warfare and post-war reconstruction
  • military aid and security sector reform
  • disarmament, arms dynamics, and small arms and light weapons control
  • borders and border management
  • conflict resolution
  • global security governance

Within my overarching research interest on security governance in post-war countries, my current research takes three main forms:

First, I am concerned with the relationship between sovereignty and space through a focus on Border Management strategies and practices in the regions adjacent to Europe, i.e. the MENA and Western Balkans regions. In particular, I currently research the role of external actors in changing, perpetuating, and challenging dynamics defining border control in political transition regions, and my research seeks to unpack how changes at the border translates into changes in the control over domestic political resources. I am currently involved in a study of how this plays out in Lebanon, which has an urgent situation along its Eastern border with Syria, and which witnesses major security assistance by donors seeking to bolster the Lebanese state capacity to prevent the war in Syria from spilling over. Moreover, I engage in a comparative case study of the EU’s promotion of Integrated Border Management (IBM) in the MENA region and the Western Balkans, seeking to understand how EU IBM is diffused, localized, and contested in these two regions along the European ‘core’. This feeds into my research on ‘Borderlands’, in which the relationship between the European ‘core’ and MENA ‘periphery’ is seen as interconnected in ways that break down various functions of borders, through a focus on common rules, norms and practices.

Second, my research focuses on forms of contestation in the field of international security more broadly. The diffusion of norms, rules and practices in this realm is a major form of influence in the era of ‘capacity building’ and ‘best practice standards’. However, local actors engage in contestation practices that need to be understood beyond mere ‘opposition’. Often, the partial appropriation, localization and actualization through specific local prisms yield new meaning to external ideas of models of security sector governance. I am particularly interested in understanding how international-local dynamics play out in this field, and how international norms may eventually be contested ‘from below’ through practice.

Third, my interest rests with further understanding the role of arms, arms availability, disarmament, and the first, critical phase of demobilizing countries at war. I have researched these issues in Palestine, Kosovo, Cambodia and Aceh over the past 10 years, and see it is as not only key to transitions from war to peace, but also as a primary focus of the international conflict management community after the disillusionment of the experiences with comprehensive peacebuilding and statebuilding in the 1990s and 2000s.


I welcome enquiries from prospective doctoral applicants in my field of interest.

Current supervision


Rosa Maryon

Research student