Skip to main content

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS (IR) is the study of politics across national borders: between states, international organizations, and transnational political actors and activities of all types.

  • At UMass Amherst, we are particularly interested in the politics of transnationalism: transnational actors (markets and firms, advocacy networks, scientific experts, international organizations, NGOs and social movements), as well as transnational phenomena and threats not only to national but to human and planetary security (technological change, epidemics, climate change, environmental change, refugee flows, humanitarian crises, and trans-state security threats).
  • We are methodologically eclectic, with faculty whose work includes qualitative and quantitative approaches, including content analysis, process-tracing and case studies, ethnography, quantitative modeling, qualitative comparative analysis, experimental survey methods and network analysis.
  • And we aim for policy-relevance: we conduct theoretically informed work which often has policy implications, asking and answering questions that matter to real-world policy-makers, regularly engaging stakeholders, and publishing both in top journals and the mainstream press.

SUBFIELDS: UMASS IR Faculty represent the traditional subfields of international relations. Doctoral students in IR take the IR Proseminar and pass a comprehensive exam with mastery in at least two IR subfields:

  • Security Studies
  • International Organizations
  • International Political Economy
  • International Environmental Politics
  • Foreign Policy

CROSS-FIELD STREAMS: In addition to strength in traditional IR subfields, our research and teaching centers around several cross-cutting themes that connect these sub-fields both to one another and to faculty in other fields and in the Five Colleges System, where students can attend workshops and take additional courses cross-listed with IR:

  • Global Political Economy. Global political economy addresses the interrelationship between markets/market forces on political outcomes. This area connects faculty from International Relations to faculty in Comparative Politics: courses on International Political Economy, Money and Power, and Globalization can be combined with courses in other fields such as Comparative Political Economy and Political Economy of Development. In addition, both IR and Comparative faculty have worked to co-organize the Political Economy Working Group at UMass.​​
  • Conflict, Violence and Security. This is the study of conflict and conflict processes, violence (and efforts to counter it, including non-violent approaches to conflict) and security – broadly defined to include human security initiatives as well as the security-seeking practices of political actors from the local to the global. This stream connects IR faculty to scholars in Legal Studies, Comparative Politics and Theory and includes courses on National Security, Human Security and Civilians in Conflict; as well as courses from elsewhere in the department on Just War Theory, Power, Refugee Politics, Transitional Justice, Protest Movements, and Violence. In addition, both IR and Public Law faculty co-organize the Conflict, Violence and Security Working Group at UMass.​
  • Politics of International Law. This is the study of law and law-like processes at the global level. It can include formal public international law (such as international treaties) and also the study of soft law, customary law and the politics of international legal regimes. IR teaching and research in this area in includes courses on International Law and Rules of War; and research on outer space law, environmental law, and humanitarian disarmament. These interests connect IR faculty to Public Law faculty interested in refugee law, immigration law, international criminal law, and national security law. ​
  • Global Environmental Politics and Policy. Environmental change is one of the leading causes of global insecurity in our age, requiring significant international cooperation. The study of global environmental cooperation bridges theories of international relations and international institutions to the study of national, local and municipal policy. IR faculty’s work on environmental politics and environmental institutions connects to scholars in Public Policy and Organizations, with whom they have co-authored and co-organized.
  • Pop Culture and International Politics. International relations is not only a product of diplomatic or bureaucratic “high politics.” It is also constructed in sites such as film, media, memes, television, literature, music, sport and social media. Several IR faculty have developed research in this area, which bridges to colleagues in American Politics and Public Policy interested in political psychology, gender and politics, sport and politics, media and politics, race and politics, and the origins of political attitudes.


MJ Peterson. 2019. Contesting Global Environmental Knowledge, Norms and Governance. NY: Routledge. 

Charli Carpenter. 2014. Lost Causes: Agenda-Vetting in Global Issue Networks and the Shaping of Human Security. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Kevin Young (with David Held and Thomas Hale). 2013. Gridlock: Why Global Cooperation is Failing When We Need It Most. London: Polity Press.

Charli Carpenter. 2010. Forgetting Children Born of War: Setting the Advocacy Agenda in Bosnia and Beyond. NY: Columbia University Press.

Peter Haas (with Gus Speth). 2009. Global Environmental Governance. NY: Island Press.

MJ Peterson. 2006. International Regimes for the Final Frontier. NY: SUNY Press.


Alexandria Nylen and Charli Carpenter, "Questions of Life and Death: Deconstructing International Human Security Norms through US Public Opinion Surveys" European Journal of International Security, 2019.

Kevin Young and Alper Yagci, "Status Quo Conservatism, Placation, or Partisan Division? Analysing Citizen Attitudes Towards Financial Reform in the United States", Taylor and Francis Online, March 2018.

Paul Musgrave and Marcelo Mesquite de Leal, "Public Attitudes Toward Cyber Threats" Conflict, Violence and Security Working Paper, University of Massachusetts, 2019.

Kevin Young, Tim Marple and James Heilman. 2017. "Beyond the Revolving Door: Advocacy Behavior and Social Distance to Financial Regulators,” Business and Politics.

Charli Carpenter, Sirin Duygulu, Alexander Montgomery and Anna Rapp. 2014. “Explaining the Advocacy Agenda: Insights from the Human Security Network.” In International Organization, 68(2), pp. 449-470.

Charli Carpenter, Hrvoje Cvijanovic and Wesley Mason. 2013. “Security or Human Security? Civil-Military Relations in Battlestar Galactica.” In Iver Neumann ed, Battlestar Galactica and International Relations, Routledge Press, 2013.

Peter M. Haas and Casey Stevens. 2012. “Organized Science, Useable Knowledge  and Multilateral Environmental Governance” in Rolf Lidskog and Goran Sundquist eds. Governing the Air:  Science-Policy Interactions in International Air Policy. Cambridge:  MIT Press.

Peter Haas and Casey Stevens. Forthcoming 2017.  “Sustainable Development Through Issue Linkage” with Casey Stevens in Norichika Kanie ed. Governing Through Goals, Cambridge: MIT Press.

Ardeshir Pezeshk and Charli Carpenter, “Who Counts? The Social Construction of International Law Through Civilian Casualty Data,” Working Paper, Conflict, Violence and Security Workshop.