Jeffrey T. Checkel


Simons Chair in International Law and Human Security
Harbour Centre 7248


B.S. (Cornell); Ph.D. (M.I.T.)

Jeffrey T. Checkel is Professor of International Studies and Simons Chair in International Law and Human Security. His reviews and articles have appeared in American Political Science Review, Comparative Political Studies, European Journal of International Relations, European Union Politics, International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, International Studies Review, Review of International Studies and World Politics. In addition, he is the author of Ideas and International Political Change: Soviet/Russian Behavior and the End of the Cold War (Yale University Press, 1997), editor of International Institutions and Socialization in Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2007), co-editor (with Peter J. Katzenstein) of European Identity (Cambridge University Press, 2009), editor of Transnational Dynamics of Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 2013), and co-editor (with Andrew Bennett) of Process Tracing: From Metaphor to Analytic Tool (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

Beyond his position at SFU, Checkel is also a Global Fellow and Research Professor at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).

Latest News

  • 9.16: Checkel visits Bogotá, Colombia, delivering talks on civil war ('Social Dynamics of Civil War') and methods ('Too Much of a Good Thing? The Debate Over Methods and Transparency in US Political Science'), and holding a seminar on IR/constructivist theory.
  • 8.16: IR 2030 Workshop - Click here for Checkel memo on 'Mechanisms, Method and the Near-Death of IR Theory in the Post-Paradigm Era.'
  • 7.15: Checkel and Snodgrass summit the Taeschhorn (4500 metres / 15,000 feet), one of the highest and more challenging peaks in the southern Swiss alps.  Yipee!
  • 4.15: Checkel teaches an intensive, week-long PhD seminar on 'Qualitative Methods & the Study of Civil War' at the Peace Research Institute Oslo.
  • 4.15: Checkel gives a faculty colloquium (on IR theory) and PhD workshop (on process tracing) at Princeton University.
  • 3.15: Oxford Handbook on Comparative Regionalism - Click here for final version of  Checkel chapter on 'Regional Identities and Communities.'
  • 11.14: Process Tracing - From Metaphor to Analytic Tool now available from Cambridge University Press!
  • 11.14: Checkel chapter on “Identity, Europe and the World beyond Public Spheres” just published in Thomas Risse, Editor, European Public Spheres: Politics is Back (Cambridge University Press, 2014).
  • 10.14: Checkel awarded a prestigious Humboldt Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany!  It provides funds to spend a year cooperating on a long-term research project with specialist colleagues at the Free University Berlin.
  • 10.14: Second project workshop, 'Socialization & Organized Violence' - Click here for workshop program.
  • 3.14: Transnational Dynamics of Civil War now available in paperback!  Click here to order from Cambridge University Press.
  • 1.14: Checkel selected as one of 14 Global Research Fellows at the Peace Research Institute Oslo, in a new competition designed to institutionalize links between PRIO and leading international researchers.

Alpine Adventures (Fun Stuff!)

Areas of Specialization

  • International relations - Civil war, international institutions, constructivism, transnational politics
  • European integration - Europeanization, socialization dynamics, identity
  • Qualitative methods - process tracing, bridging positivist-interpretive techniques


Social Dynamics of Violence. This project primarily explores the group and social dynamics at work in civil war, but places its study within a broader spectrum of conflict forms.  Our analytic hook is socialization, where there is evidence of its powerful effects in interstate wars (sociological studies of military socialization), within criminal networks, and in urban gangs (work by anthropologists).  The project’s value added is to extend this theoretical frame to studies of civil war, where socialization and group dynamics are potentially operative at all stages, from pre-conflict indoctrination in schools, to insurgent mobilization, to rebel group recruitment and retention, to post-conflict interventions by the international community.

Going beyond the roster of non-coercive mechanisms developed by constructivists over the past decade, we theorize a broader range of socialization processes, including hazing, the use of sexual violence, and strategies of dehumanization.  Empirically, we examine socialization in contexts and countries marked by disorder, possible state collapse and institutional instability.  We also explicitly control for: (1) age, as socialization effects are likely to be stronger on young people – child soldiers, for example; and (2) international context, as many contemporary civil conflicts witness efforts at ‘counter-socialization’ by the international community.  Such a focus moves beyond and thus helps to bound the causal claims advanced by earlier IR work that primarily studied socialization in peaceful settings and stabile institutional environments.

For the latest (10.14) version of my introductory/framing essay, please click here.

Process Tracing in the Social Sciences
. In recent years, process tracing has attracted renewed interest among a growing number of political scientists.  Yet, despite or perhaps because of this fact, a buzzword problem has arisen, where the phrase is invoked, but often with little thought or explication of how it works in practice.  This project – a volume co-edited by myself and Andrew Bennett of Georgetown University - corrects this state of affairs.  The book has three parts, with Part I an introductory essay that sets the stage for the volume as a whole.  It historicizes the term process tracing, grounds it philosophically, and articulates various criteria for distinguishing good process tracing from bad.

The six chapters in Part II are the manuscript’s core, assessing the contributions of process tracing in particular research programs or bodies of theory.  These include process tracing for inductive/theory-development and deductive/theory-testing purposes; micro-level process tracing on cognitive theories; macro-level process tracing on structural theories; process tracing on the interplay of individuals and institutions; and process tracing that focuses on developing and testing theories and on explaining key historical cases.

In Part III, we step back and – in three separate essays – explore the research frontier.  One chapter makes explicit a theme touched upon in several earlier contributions – the relation of process tracing to quantitative methods – and does so by highlighting the key role it can and should play in multi-method research.  If this analysis bridges different methodological traditions, then a second chapter goes a step further, examining the role of process tracing in interpretive social science.  In a concluding chapter, the co-editors revisit the standards of good process tracing, synthesize and critique the volume as a whole, and outline an agenda for future development of and research on process tracing.

This project was published by Cambridge University Press in November 2014, as a volume in its Strategies for Social Inquiry Series.

Transnational Dynamics of Civil War.  Civil war has become the dominant mode of organized violence in the contemporary international system.  Yet such wars rarely play out within the bounds of one state; more often than not, they create opportunities and incentives for outside actors to intervene.  These actors may be other states, rebel groups, transnational civil society, or the international community, and this intervention may be malign (fanning the war) or benign (transnational NGO’s targeting the use of child soldiers).  This project thus explores the relation of the transnational to the local in the context of civil war.  How do we conceptualize this transnational dimension?  In material or social terms?  How does it affect civil war dynamics?  By bringing new material resources into play?  By promoting learning among actors?  Under what conditions do transnational factors increase or decrease levels of civil violence?

We argue that to address these issues requires three moves.  Theoretically, transnationalism’s importance in civil war needs to be linked to existing literatures in other subfields that have extensively conceptualized and empirically documented such non-state dynamics; key here is work on transnational politics in international relations and sociology.  Analytically, one needs a more robust understanding of causality, where the goal is the measurement of causal mechanisms and not simply establishing causal effects.  Methodologically, the central challenge is practical and operational – to measure mechanisms in action.

This project was published by Cambridge University Press in January 2013.

European Identity. This collaboration is a multi-disciplinary overview, synthesis and exploration of the politics of European identity, published by Cambridge University Press in 2009. Understood as process, these identities flow through multiple networks and create new patterns of identification. Viewed as project, the construction of identities is the task of elites and entrepreneurs, operating in Brussels or various national settings. Process and project involve publics and elites; they are open-ended and have no preordained outcomes; and they serve both worthy and nefarious political objectives. Bureaucrats crafting a Europe centered on Brussels, xenophobic nationalists, cosmopolitan Europeanists, anti-globalization Euro-skeptics, and a European public that for decades has been permissive of the evolution of a European polity - they are all politically involved in the construction of an evolving European identity.



  • IS 409 - Governance, Identity and War (Intersession 2015)
  • IS 200 - Governance and Conflict (Fall 2014)
  • IS 451 - Seminar in Core Texts in International Studies (Spring 2013)
  • IS 409 - Theorizing International Politics (Fall 2009)


  • IS 840 - Perspectives in International Studies (Fall 2016)
  • IS 830 - Analytical Approaches for International Studies (Fall 2011)
  • IS 800 - International Development and Complex Emergencies: From Big Ideas to Social Science Research Projects (Spring 2010)


Selected Publications

  • Process Tracing: From Metaphor to Analytic Tool (Cambridge University Press, 2014)
  • “Identity, Europe and the World beyond Public Spheres,” in Thomas Risse, Editor, European Public Spheres: Politics is Back (Cambridge University Press, 2014)
  • Transnational Dynamics of Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 2013)
  • “Theoretical Pluralism in IR: Possibilities and Limits,” in Walter Carlsnaes, Thomas Risse and Beth Simmons, Editors, Sage Handbook of International Relations, 2nd Edition (Sage Publications, 2013)
  • European Identity (Cambridge University Press, 2009)

Recent Invited Lectures

  • "Mechanisms, Method and the Death (?) of IR Theory," IR Faculty Colloquium, Department of Politics, Princeton University, April 2015
  • "Constructivist IR Theory at Mid-Life: Many Achievements ... But Lots Still to Do," Barcelona Institute of International Studies, March 2014
  • "Socialization and Organized Political Violence," Collaborative Research Centre Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood, Freie Universitaet Berlin, December 2013
  • “European Identity,” Keynote Address, Conference on “A New Narrative for Europe? European Identity in a Globalised World,” European Commission Representation in Denmark, European Parliament Information Office in Denmark, Danish Institute for International Studies, Copenhagen, November 2013
  • “European Identity: Theoretical and Methodological Challenges,” First International PhD Spring School, European Consortium for Political Research, Standing Group on Identity, University of Jena, March 2013
  • “Process Tracing: From Metaphor to Analytic Tool,” Department of Political Science and International Relations, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, March 2013
  • “What Do We Know About Civil War: The Roles of Transnationalism and Social Dynamics,” Peace Research Institute Oslo, September 2012
  • "The Dark Side of Transnationalism: Civil War in the Post-Cold War Era," Barcelona Institute of International Studies, May 2012
  • "Social Dynamics of Civil War," Balsillie School of International Affairs, Wilfrid Laurier University and University of Waterloo, May 2012
  • "Social Dynamics of Civil War," University Seminar Series – Polity, Society and the World, Bilkent University, February 2012
  • "Process Tracing in the Social Sciences: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," Departments of Political Science and International Relations, Bilkent University, February 2012

Curriculum Vitae (October 2016)