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Accounting for Inequalities: divided selves and divided states in International Relations

Innes, A. J. ORCID: 0000-0002-0100-8990 (2023). Accounting for Inequalities: divided selves and divided states in International Relations. European Journal of International Relations, 29(3), pp. 651-672. doi: 10.1177/13540661231158529


Ontological security studies have added complexity to the state level of analysis in IR by embracing an approach that permits moving across and between levels of analysis without calcifying an assumption as to who or what constitutes the key actors of international politics. I draw on a case study of gender-based violence and subsequent responses to argue that ontological security studies in IR have thus far has failed to fully account for intersectional inequalities within social narratives of security. I argue that the state is incapable of providing ontological security because of inherent inequalities that underlie national identity. It is only in attending to those inequalities that we can attend to the biases at the heart of the state. Looking to ontological insecurity in the context of trauma provides a delineated means of accessing these dynamics in a way that is formulated around a pathologized ontological insecurity (rather than an existential, and therefore normalised, process of ontological insecurity). Through the case study of the murder of Sarah Everard and the responses, the value and necessity of an intersectional approach is made clear: trauma responses that are positioned as transgressive by the patriarchal and white supremacist dominating narrative are used within that narrative to undermine the credibility of alternative narratives of security. The state adopts a technique of dividing identity and constructing normatively oppressed identities as transgressive to consolidate the state narrative of security.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Publisher Keywords: Ontological security, intersectionality, gender, violence, trauma
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Violence and Society Centre
SWORD Depositor:
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