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Durham University

Research & business

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Dr Joanne (Yuan) Yao, BA (UChicago); MA (Johns Hopkins SAIS); PhD (LSE)

Assistant Professor (Teaching) in International Relations in the School of Government and International Affairs
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 45677
Room number: IM213, Al-Qasimi Building

Contact Dr Joanne (Yuan) Yao (email at


Joanne Yao joined Durham University in 2017 as an assistant professor in international relations. She received her PhD in 2017 in international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and holds a BA in history and political science from the University of Chicago (2006) and a MA in international relations and international economics from Johns Hopkins SAIS (2008). Previously, she has worked in the US public sector and for international nongovernmental organizations. Joanne was also one of three editors of Millennium: Journal of International Studies for Volume 43 (2014-2015).

Her research interests are in international relations theory, global history, international institutions, critical geography, historical sociology and environmental politics. Her current work approaches environmental cooperation from a historical perspective, by analysing how and why the first international organizations were established in the 19th century to manage a contested transboundary issue—the international river. She focuses on discourses of civilization, control and rationality in the establishment of these early IOs. She is particularly interested in meaning creation as a historical process and how social meanings attached to physical geographies impact international cooperation and conflict.

In addition, Joanne is interested in research on gender and diversity in the IR curriculum, both in formal content as presented through IR syllabi and in pedagogical practices in the classroom. Published blogposts include why diversity in the curriculum is important (The Disorder of Things) and challenging the gender citation gap (International Affairs blog).

Research Interests

  • Critical geopolitics
  • Environmental History
  • Historical sociology
  • International cooperation
  • Transboundary rivers
  • International Relations theory

Selected Publications

Chapter in book

Journal Article

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