Ruth ProfileProfessor Ruth J Blakeley

Professor of Politics and International Relations

Contact Details:
Telephone: 28377
Room: ICOSS Building


Ruth Blakeley joined the University of Sheffield in 2017 as Professor of Politics and International Relations, and Director of the White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership for the Social Sciences.

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).

Professor Blakeley is the Lead Editor of the Review of International Studies, a journal of the British International Studies Association (BISA), published by Cambridge University Press. She was the Honorary Secretary of BISA from 2012 to 2015, and 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.


My approach to teaching is aimed at equipping students to critically engage with the subjects under discussion. The courses I teach 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 my teaching focuses on the use of extreme, covert violence by state agents. Therefore, early on, I introduce students to the challenges of undertaking research in areas where empirical data is often partial. I also encourage students to think deeply about the ethical implications of this kind of work.

My 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. I use 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. I regularly use 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 my own thinking, especially where students are well-prepared and enthusiastic about their learning.

In my current role as Director of the White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership, I am not currently contributing to undergraduate and postgraduate teaching in the Department, but will be offering some sessions as part of the doctoral training of PhD students across the DTP. I am also available for PhD supervision.


My research focuses on a range of issues across the areas of international security, terrorism and political violence, and the global governance of human rights. My interests include US power, imperialism, US and UK foreign policy, state violence and state terrorism, and torture. I am particularly interested in the relationship between the evolution of the international political economy and state violence. These interests lead me to frequently engage with questions on the potential of human rights norms and laws as vehicles for political and social change. My current research projects are:

Rendition, Detention, and Torture in the War on Terror

Ruth is co-director (with Sam Raphael, University of Westminster) of The Rendition Project. This 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. The aim now is to draw on this extensive empirical research on one of the most controversial state-led security programmes in the 21st century, to begin addressing pressing questions about the global governance of human rights.

Violence and Empire

This related project aims to explore the exercise of US and UK foreign policy in the years since the 9/11 terror attacks. The work focuses on the role of coercive power in US and UK efforts to shore up global capital, prising open and securing unfettered access to new markets. By exploring the various dimensions of the US and UK’s use of violence since 9/11, we can shed new light on the interlocking of old and new imperialism. This in turn is creating new dynamics of power in the twenty-first century.

Terrorism and Incarceration

There is a long established approach to detention in liberal states, whereby the incarceration itself is seen as the punishment for the crime, but once interned, prisoners supposedly undergo processes aimed at rehabilitation and reform. In relation to terror suspects, however, there is evidence to suggest that retribution is pursued beyond the act of imprisoning and through the subsequent and on-going treatment of prisoners. At the extreme end, this has been through torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, but this has also been through processes aimed at incapacitation of the prisoner, as opposed to rehabilitation, and is found in so-called supermax prisons worldwide. This project aims to examine how incarceration and punishment have evolved as a result of the ways in which states have dealt with terror suspects since 2001.


Selected Publications

​​Ruth Blakeley, ‘Drones, State Terrorism and International Law’, Critical Studies on Terrorism (accepted, forthcoming).

Ruth Blakeley and Sam Raphael, ‘Conducting Effective Research into State Complicity in Human Rights Abuses’, Contemporary Social Sciences, DOI: 10.1080/2158204120171391406. (Gold Open Access).

Ruth Blakeley and Sam Raphael, ‘Human Rights Fact-Finding and the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation Programme: A Response to Cordell’, International Area Studies Review, DOI: 10.1177/2233865917735428.

Ruth Blakeley and Sam Raphael, ‘British Torture in the “War on Terror”’, European Journal of International Relations, 23 (2), June 2017, pp.243-266. ISSN: 13540661 print/ 14603713 online. DOI: 10.1177/1354066116653455.

Sam Raphael, Crofton Black, Ruth Blakeley, and Steve Kostas, ‘Tracking rendition aircraft as a way to understand CIA secret detention and torture in Europe’, The International Journal of Human Rights, 20(1), June 2015, pp.78-103. ISSN: 1364-2987 print/ 1744-053X online. DOI: 10.1080/13642987.2015.1044772

Ruth Blakeley, ‘Human Rights, State Wrongs and Social Change: The Theory and Practice of Emancipation’, Review of International Studies, 39(3), July 2013, pp.599 – 619.
ISSN: 0260-2105 print/ 1469-9044 online. DOI: 10.1017/S0260210512000186.

Ruth Blakeley, ‘Dirty Hands, Clean Conscience? The CIA Inspector General’s Investigation of “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” in the War on Terror and the Torture Debate’, Journal of Human Rights, 10(4), 2011, pp.544-561. ISSN: 1475-4835 print/1475-4843 online. DOI: 10.1080/14754835.2011.619406.

Ruth Blakeley, State Terrorism and Neoliberalism. The North in the South (Routledge Critical Terrorism Studies, London: Routledge, 2009). ISBN: 978-0-415-46240-2

Ruth Blakeley, ‘The Elephant in the Room: A response to John Horgan and Michael J. Boyle’, Critical Studies on Terrorism, 1(2), August 2008, pp.151-65. ISSN 1753-9153 print/ 1753-9161 online. DOI:10.1080/17539150802184561

Ruth Blakeley, ‘Bringing the State Back into Terrorism Studies’, European Political Science, 6(3), August 2007, pp.228-235.  ISSN 1680-4333 print/ 1682-0983 online. DOI: 10.1057/palgrave.eps.2210139

Ruth Blakeley, ‘Why Torture?’ Review of International Studies, 33(3), July 2007, pp.373-394.
ISSN: 0260-2105 print/ 1469-9044 online. DOI: 10.1017/S0260210507007553

Ruth Blakeley, ‘Still Training to Torture? US training of Latin American military forces’, Third World Quarterly, 27(8), December 2006, pp.1439-1461. ISSN: 0143-6597 print/ 1360-2241 online. DOI: 10.1080/01436590601027289

PhD Supervision

Ruth Blakeley welcomes applications from prospective doctoral students interested in pursuing research in her areas of interest. She has previously supervised eight PhD students who have successfully completed their PhDs.

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