Sexuality, Gender, and the Colonial Violence of Humanitarian Intervention

Patrick Vernon

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Recent discussions of humanitarian intervention in international relations (IR) have often focused on the evolution of norms, and the development and contestation of the responsibility to protect (R2P) framework. While beneficial in tracing this process, most of these studies tend not to incorporate an analysis of colonialism, race, sexuality, or gender. While postcolonial studies of humanitarian intervention have done well to illustrate the relationship between humanitarian intervention and colonial violence, they still tend to neglect the study of sexuality and gender. Exploring how the sexualized, gendered, and racialized dimensions of colonialism can be incorporated into the study of humanitarian intervention, this paper proposes a queer approach. After exploring the valuable contributions of feminist scholarship, it suggests that the queer approaches of Nicola Pratt (“The Queen Boat Case in Egypt: Sexuality, National Security and State Sovereignty,” Review of International Studies 33, no. 1 [2007]: 129–44), Cynthia Weber (Queer International Relations: Sovereignty, Sexuality and the Will to Knowledge. New York, Oxford University Press, 2016), and Laura Shepherd and Laura Sjoberg (“Trans- Bodies in/of War(s): Cisprivilege and Contemporary Security Strategy,” Feminist Review 101, no. 1 [2012]: 5–23) offer some distinct contributions that build upon feminist insights. Applying these to the 2015 House of Commons debate on airstrikes against ISIL, the paper suggests that queer IR can invigorate the study of humanitarian intervention with a framework that unpacks the simultaneously gendered, sexual, and racial dimensions of colonial violence.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberviac035
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Studies Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2022


  • Intervención humanitaria
  • colonial violence
  • humanitarian intervention
  • intervention humanitaire
  • queer theory
  • théorie queer
  • tteoría queer
  • violence coloniale
  • violencia colonial


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