Dr Cecilia Jacob

What was your initial attraction to studying international relations, security and peace and conflict- going back to your days as an undergraduate student?

At the age of 17 I went to London to study journalism because I was passionate about international affairs and politics and wars. At that time, the intervention of East Timor was taking place, so that was the historical context that got me interested in international affairs.

I started off wanting to be a journalist or a foreign correspondent, but after a year of studying journalism and doing the history of ideas and politics on the side, I realised I wanted to go into more formal studies. From there I went to Paris and did my full undergraduate degree at the American University of Paris in International Relations. So that was straight into international relations, security, conflict resolutions, and it was just home for me. And that was how I decided that was what I wanted to do.

I created an NGO in Paris, and we got to go out to places in Brazil and Cambodia to do research, go to the world social forum. I worked at a lot of conferences where I got exposure to diplomats, people working in the EU and NATO.

After I finished my undergraduate degree, I got a Hedley Bull scholarship to come to the ANU where I did my Masters in International Relations and my PhD.

If you had to explain your research to someone who has no knowledge of your subject area, how would you explain it?

My research is focussed on a few thematic areas: security studies, protection of civilians, and responsibility to protect. I am looking at the implementation of international regimes, norms of protection, and understanding state practices and implementing those domestically. My work in security studies looks at the trends at an international level and the processes that take place at a domestic level to better understand this big puzzle of implementation.

What’s the most interesting research you have conducted?

The work I’m doing at the moment is quite interesting- looking at the implementation of international norms of responsibility. I’m getting my head around international law and international norms, and the kinds of rhetorical commitments states make to those norms to understand the practical side of those norms.

Who do you interview as you are conducting your research?

Last year I did a bit of work in the United Nations Human Rights Council in New York, talking with the relevant people in government to understand how they are trying to work through the issues of application and implementation. Because of the nature of my research, I try to make sure it has practical applications.

What do you enjoy about teaching?

I teach a range of peace and conflict courses. I’m convening the Peace and Conflict Studies Major for undergraduates, so I teach into the core courses of the program, and I also teach at the Masters level in Global Security.

I find that students are really engaged in peace and conflict courses. It really sparks their interests because there are so many dilemmas. There are so many fascinating case studies and there are always different perspectives, arguments and debates taking place in the room. I think letting students come in with their own assumptions and then challenging those assumptions and hearing the tone of the debate and the positions that they take is really interesting.

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