Dr Joshua Baker

Lecturer in International Relations

Contact Details

  • Email: jb717@le.ac.uk
  • Twitter: Joshua_G_Baker
  • Office: Attenborough Tower 808
  • Office hours (Semester 2 2017/18): Tuesday 11am-12pm and Thursdays 2pm-3pm


Dr Joshua Baker joined the School of History, Politics, and International Relations as Lecturer in International Relations in September 2017. Previously, he was a Teaching Fellow in International Relations, also at Leicester.

Joshua completed his ESRC funded PhD at the University of Birmingham in 2017. His thesis explored the concept of empathy in International Relations, and its role in debates regarding the de-escalation of conflicts. The thesis developed a conceptualisation of empathy that was then applied to an in-depth case study of US foreign policy towards Iran, 2001-2010. During his PhD, Joshua held visiting positions at the MIT Centre of International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, and at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in São Paulo, where he was a Stanton International Security Fellow.



Research interests:

  • International security
  • International Relations theory
  • Trust, empathy, and emotions in world politics
  • Nuclear weapons and non-proliferation
  • Qualitative methodology
Joshua’s research explores how multi-disciplinary research on trust, empathy, and emotions can contribute to understanding various forms of conflict and cooperation in international politics. The empirical focus of this been on US foreign policy, Iran’s nuclear program, and more generally issues relating to nuclear weapons and non-proliferation.
Joshua’s current research activities are centred around turning his doctoral research into a book-length project. This project, titled ‘Diplomatic empathy: missed opportunities and the making of the Iran nuclear deal’, expands upon his PhD by developing a conceptualisation of empathy for understanding processes of de-escalation and cooperation between adversaries, and then applying it to US foreign policy towards Iran from 2001 to 2015. The first phase of the project, conducted during his PhD, drew upon the security dilemma, multidisciplinary theorising on the concept of empathy, and counterfactual methods, in order to explore the question of whether opportunities for cooperation between the United States and Iran were missed between 2001 and 2010. The logic behind asking this counterfactual question was to probe the dominant narrative that cooperation during this period was largely impossible, and that particular policy responses predicated upon coercive pressure were necessary and unavoidable. Utilising the concept of the security dilemma – which suggests that conflicts often are generated by fear, insecurity, and failures of empathy – the thesis argued that there was nothing inevitable about the US-Iran conflict during this period, and that some form of cooperation could have been conceivably established at specific points in time. The second phase of this project – which is ongoing – traces the development of empathy in the run up the historic 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and argues that contra to the dominant narrative that sanctions and overwhelming coercive pressure were the primary causes of the deal, the development of specific empathic capacities towards Iran by key US officials played a pivotal role in making the historic nuclear agreement possible.

A second project (with Dr Matias Spektor) seeks to explain Brazil’s foreign policy towards the United States and Iran in 2009-2010, where Brazil attempted to resolve the Iran nuclear issue by negotiating an agreement that resulted in the 2010 Tehran Declaration. Based on oral-history interviews with senior Brazilian and American officials, we argue that this episode can be understood as Brazil’s attempt to challenge what they perceived to be a fundamentally unjust global nuclear order. Key to this was the sense of empathy that key Brazilian officials held towards the nuclear situation of Iran, coupled with an attempt to diplomatically tie the hands of the United States when it came to further sanctioning Iran. The full transcripts from these interviews are being collated and annotated, and will be published as an edited collection with the Woodrow Wilson Centre Press as part of the Wilson Centre’s Nuclear Proliferation International History Project.


PL1020 Classics of International Relations

PL1015 Cold War, Crisis, and Confrontation: International Relations, 1945-1989

PL2011 Political Ideas

PL7504 Intelligence and Security (DL)


‘Trust or verification? Accepting vulnerability in the making of the INF Treaty’, in Kilme, M. Kreis, R. and Ostermann,  C. (eds.), Trust, but Verify”: The Politics of Uncertainty and Transformation of the Cold War Order (Stanford University Press, 2016) (with Nicholas Wheeler and Laura Considine)

(2015)‘Iran Nuclear Deal is Built on Trust as well as Verification’, Birmingham Brief(with Nicholas Wheeler)

(2014)‘Deciphering Obama’s Letter to the Supreme Leader’, Birmingham Brief(with Nicholas Wheeler)


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School of Politics and International Relations

University of Leicester
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Tel: +44 (0)116 252 2702
Email: HyPIR@le.ac.uk


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