Professor Ruth Blakeley
Department of Politics and International Relations
Faculty Director of Research and Innovation (Social Sciences), and Chair in Politics and International Relations
Chair of British International Studies
+44 114 222 8377
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Department of Politics and International Relations
Ruth Blakeley is Faculty Director of Research and Innovation for the Faculty of Social Sciences. She joined the University of Sheffield in 2017 as Professor of Politics and International Relations.
After completing an MSc and PhD in International Relations at the University of Bristol, her first post was as a lecturer in International Relations at the University of Kent. In 2015, she was promoted to Professor. She held several leadership positions at Kent, including Head of School of Politics and International Relations (2016), and Sub-Dean and Director of Graduate Studies for the Faculty of Social Sciences (2012-2015). She was appointed Director of the White Rose Social Sciences Doctoral Training Partnership at Sheffield from 2017-2020, and Head of Department of Politics and IR from 2020 to 2022.
Professor Blakeley is Chair of the British International Studies Association (BISA). She was lead Editor of the Review of International Studies from 2016 to 2020. She is a member of the editorial advisory boards for several journals.
Professor Blakeley’s research and teaching focus on international security, terrorism and political violence, and human rights.
- Research interests
Ruth's research focuses on a range of issues across the areas of international security, terrorism and political violence, and the global governance of human rights. Her interests include US power, imperialism, US and UK foreign policy, state violence and state terrorism, and torture. She is particularly interested in the relationship between the evolution of the international political economy and state violence. These interests lead her to frequently engage with questions on the potential of human rights norms and laws as vehicles for political and social change.
Ruth was co-director (with Sam Raphael, University of Westminster) of The Rendition Project, which provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation programme. Funded by an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) grant, research findings are disseminated through an extensive and innovative project website that houses the world’s only comprehensive database of flights known or suspected to have been involved in rendition. She is now drawing on this extensive empirical research on one of the most controversial state-led security programmes in the 21st century, to address pressing questions about the global governance of human rights.
- Accountability, denial and the future-proofing of British torture. International Affairs. View this article in WRRO
- Research group
International Politics Research Group
- Teaching interests
Ruth's approach to teaching is aimed at equipping students to critically engage with the subjects under discussion. The courses she teaches aim to introduce students to the importance of developing a detailed empirical knowledge of the subject, as well as acquiring the skills necessary for careful, theory-informed analysis.
Much of her teaching focuses on the use of extreme, covert violence by state agents. Therefore, early on, she introduces students to the challenges of undertaking research in areas where empirical data is often partial. She also encourages students to think deeply about the ethical implications of this kind of work. Her teaching is shaped by a commitment to excite and enthuse students about the topics under discussion, while at the same time challenging them to question their own assumptions.
She uses a variety of teaching methods, all of which are aimed at encouraging a lively dialogue, whether in more traditional lectures, or more interactive seminars and workshops. She regularly uses simulations to encourage students to adopt positions that they do not necessarily tend to embrace. Debating with students has always been a rich resource to challenge her own thinking, especially where students are well-prepared and enthusiastic about their learning.
Ruth welcomes applications from prospective doctoral students interested in pursuing research in her areas of interest.
- Professional activities and memberships
Chair: British International Studies Association
BISA is a learned society that represents the UK-based community of International Studies scholars. It has over 1000 members, publishes two field-leading journals and a prestigious book series with Cambridge University Press, funds 25 specialist working groups, a lively postgraduate network and an annual conference.
ESRC Strategic Advisory Network
Ruth was appointed to the ESRC's Strategic Advisory Network in 2019. The Network provides detailed expert support and advice, including on the design of strategies and funding schemes, investment management, pre- and post award, and interventions. She served on the Steering Group for the ESRC's Review of the Social Science UK PhD.
UKRI Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre, Chair of Advisory Group
Ruth was appointed as a member of the advisory group in January 2020. This is a £10 million investment funded through UKRI’s Strategic Priorities fund, the Centre will focus on prevention, victim recovery, supply chains and law enforcement.
Journal Editorial Boards
Ruth is a member of the Editorial Boards for the following journals: International Affairs; Review of International Studies; European Journal of International Security; Critical Studies on Terrorism.
- Research impact
Successive British governments have denied and downplayed the role of UK intelligence services in torturing terror suspects as part of the US-led War on Terror, suppressing evidence and limiting accountability. Ruth is one of very few academics who has both collaborated closely with NGOs, and has directly engaged in high profile government torture investigations and consultations as an expert witness. Ruth has given evidence to government inquiries and consultations, including the Intelligence and Security Committee Inquiry into Detainee Mistreatment and Rendition, 2001-2010, and the Investigatory Powers Commissioner Consultation on Consolidated Guidance to Intelligence Officers and Service Personnel on the Detention and Interviewing of Detainees Overseas, and on the Passing and Receipt of Intelligence Relating to Detainees (2018).
Her work has informed litigation on behalf of victims of rendition and torture in the European Court of Human Rights, the African Commission, and at the Military Tribunals at Guantanamo Bay. Leading human rights NGOs have regularly worked with Ruth to use her ground-breaking research to enhance their advocacy work. Ruth’s research and collaboration have played a central role in exposing the extent of UK collusion in torture and the failures of accountability. This was acknowledged by the UK Intelligence and Security Committee and the United Nations, which has called for an urgent inquiry. The UK High Court drew directly on the research to rule in favour of a judicial review of the UK government’s refusal to allow an independent inquiry into UK collusion in torture.
She was advisor to theatre producer, Freda O’Byrne, on the development and production of Rendition by Edinburgh-based theatre company, Tragic Carpet. The immersive theatre piece was inspired by and draws on The Rendition Project’s research, and received funding from Creative Scotland for a week-long run at the Roxy Theatre, Edinburgh, in March 2019. The piece was also performed at Sheffield’s Theatre Deli as part of the 2019 ESRC Festival of Social Science. https://tragiccarpet.com/productions/rendition-2/