Book Two: Ritual and Region 2018

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In this work, called Ritual and Region: The Invention of ASEAN, I provide a new explanation for ASEAN’s role in the Southeast Asian regional order. Existing scholarship focuses frames ASEAN as either a captive of power politics or representative of deep-seated and widely held norms. Neither of these existing frameworks matches with the reality of order in Southeast Asia, which is characterised by evidence of both norm compliant and norm violating behaviour. Despite this highly mixed record, ASEAN continues to not only endure but thrive regardless of the widespread perception that it is an ineffective promoter of its own values. Ritual and Region suggest a wholly new framework to explain this. ASEAN’s order is, I argue, a ritualised one characterised not by agreement with its values but the public display of fidelity to them. This performance of fidelity is enough to bring Southeast Asia together whilst, at the same time, it creates a permissive space for activities that subvert those same publicly agreed standards.

Book One: Realising Rights 2014.


This book, called Realising Rights: How Regional Organisations Socialise Human Rights is the first to provide a comparative analysis of how regional organisations help human rights spread to potential or new members. The book  studies three very different organisations: the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its relationship with Myanmar, the Organization of American States (OAS) and its relationship with Panama and finally the European Union (EU) and its relationship with Turkey.

By comparing these three organisations I make four key arguments about how human rights norms are spread and why sometimes those efforts meet with success and sometimes they fail.

  1. Regional organisations are important for spreading human rights in two ways. In some cases they are actors in their own right, that is they take the lead in asking states to change their ways. In other examples they are the backdrop against which member states make their own attempts to spread rights.

  2. The way in which human rights are spread differs before and after membership is granted.

    • Before membership, the regional organisation takes the lead and uses a policy known as conditionality. Conditionality is where the organisation says ‘we will only grant you membership if you do the following things’. One of those things can be to incorporate human rights into domestic law.

    • After membership is granted three new types of pressure emerge. The first is the use of court systems that monitor the behaviour of members and makes sure they are living up to the standards they agreed to when they joined, or to standards they have agreed to after joining. The second I call social influence. This term refers to a situation where a member state falls below agreed regional standards and is told in a variety of different ways to change its behaviour outside of a court based system. The third is where all member states come together to debate amongst themselves the right way to reform the organisation. This I call organisation building.

  3. These different types of political behaviour can be related to many different theories of international relations. The book argues that rational choice and constructivist accounts are important. This suggests that much of the existing work which studies how regional organisations promote human rights in applicants and existing members, which focuses only on the European Union and argues that only rational choice matters, is incomplete when it comes to thinking more generally about how regional organisations, the spread of human rights and membership relate to each other.

  4. Efforts to spread of human rights are more likely to be successful when the following conditions are met

    • The organisation or state attempting to spread those rights is viewed as authoritative

    • That regional commitments are recognised as genuine, not just rhetoric with no real legitimacy

    • When the human rights in question are defined, substantive and detailed as opposed to vague

    • When the effort to spread those rights is coherent as opposed to piecemeal

    • Where the target of all this effort is receptive to being brought into new standards.

The book was published in 2014 with Routledge in the Routledge/Warwick University series on Globalisation. You can buy the book at, and many other online retailers.