Swansea lecturer wins prize for best thesis
A Swansea University lecturer has been awarded the annual British International Studies Association (BISA) Thesis Prize for the best doctoral thesis in International Studies.
Dr Columba Peoples, a lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Relations within the University’s School of Humanities, was awarded the prize for his thesis entitled “Technology, common sense and missile defence”, a critical approach to understandings of technology employed in American Missile Defence advocacy.
He said: “I was very surprised – and of course delighted – to win the award for best thesis. I knew I had been shortlisted, but it wasn’t until they made the announcement at the BISA conference that I found out that I’d won.”
In his thesis, Dr Peoples argues that, although the United States remains the world's remaining superpower, the potential spread of nuclear warheads and ballistic missile technology to so-called rogue states and fundamentalist terrorists groups is a major source of concern to the US government today.
George W Bush’s government has proposed using technological expertise – a traditional American strength – to protect the USA and has poured billions of dollars into a programme of ballistic missile defence that aims to create the capacity to intercept and destroy nuclear missiles in flight.
However, questions have been raised within US policy and academic circles about the technical feasibility of the system and its chances of success.
Dr People’s thesis assesses speeches, interviews and arguments made by the current US administration, and by advocates of ballistic missile defence, in response to these concerns.
His research shows how advocates of missile defence have consistently relied on common sense understandings of technology in order to justify investment in this controversial programme in the face of both domestic and international criticism.
Dr Peoples said: “This is a project that costs over $8 billion a year yet people are just not sure of the science. The US Government is therefore investing a huge amount of time in trying to justify the need for the new system, and it is interesting to note that the language they are using to do so evokes images of the United States as a land of innovation.
“There is a conscious use of allusions to America’s success in the Space Race, to the Wright Brothers, and to other examples of how the US drives technological progress to make the country more secure.
“The argument is then strengthened by political rhetoric that raises fears about the spread of ballistic missile technology. US politicians are using this two-pronged approach to justify the ballistic missile defence programme in the media, and hence to the American public.”
For further information about the British International Studies; Association, please visit www.bisa.ac.uk, and for further information about School of Humanities at Swansea University, please visit www.swansea.ac.uk/humanities.
Further information about Dr Columba Peoples is available on the Department of Politics and International Relations website at www.swanseapolitics.org.uk.