Jeffrey T. Checkel

Simons Chair in International Law and Human Security


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, Cooperation and Conflict, European Journal of International Relations, European Union Politics, International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, International Studies Review, Journal of Peace Research, 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).

Curriculum Vitae

Click here for the latest (September 2018) version.

Latest News

  • 11.18: Checkel is in Washington, DC, attending the final meeting of a year-long project - jointly sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences and Office of the Director of National Intelligence - that developed analytic frameworks to help intelligence analysts apply insights from the social and behavioral sciences to policy. Checkel participated in the expert panel on norms and international law.
  • 8.18: Checkel gives a PhD seminar 'Advanced Qualitative Methods in Conflict Studies: Case Research and Process Analytics' at the Research School on Peace & Conflict, Peace Research Institute Oslo.
  • 5.18: Checkel's chapter "Methods in Constructivist Approaches" has just been published in the Oxford Handbook of International Security.
  • 5.18: Checkel gives a PhD seminar 'Dynamics of Armed Conflict' at the Research School on Peace & Conflict, Peace Research Institute Oslo.
  • 11.17: Checkel holds a research methods workshop at Université Laval (Quebec City) for PhD students from Canada and Europe participating in the EU-funded GEM-STONES project on 'Globalisation, Europe & Multilateralism.'
  • 9.17: The Journal of Peace Research publishes a special issue - edited by Checkel - on 'Socialization and Violence.'  Check out Checkel's opening/framework article here!
  • 8.17: Checkel has been named an Associate Editor at the Journal of Peace Research, one of the leading peace/conflict studies journals in the world and currently ranked #10 (out of 86) in the field of International Relations.
  • 8.17: Checkel is in Oslo, Norway, where he is giving a PhD Seminar ('Governance, Identity and War') at the Peace Research Institute Oslo, and presenting a paper on 'Socialization and Violence' at the ECPR General Conference.
  • 7.17: Checkel has been named an Associate Editor for a new series - 'Elements' - at Cambridge University Press.  Cambridge Elements are short-form digital publications organised into subject based series, consisting of 20-30,000 word pieces, offering the latest developments in the field, reviews of particular topics, and guides to new methods or approaches. Checkel will be overseeing work on international-relations theory.
  • 4.17: Checkel visits the Peace Research Institute Oslo, giving a PhD Seminar ('Qualitative Methods & the Study of Civil War') and a talk on 'Data Access, Transparency and Open Science: Can We Have Too Much of a Good Thing?'
  • 3.17: Checkel gives a talk on 'Civil War, Global Governance, and Post-Conflict (Dis-)Order' at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, University of Waterloo.
  • 2.17: Checkel has been re-appointed a Global Fellow at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) - a fellowship designed to foster collaboration between leading international researchers and the Institute on questions of peace and conflict.
  • 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.'

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


Institutions at Bay? The institutions of the liberal international order and the regional organizations (ROs) that underpin them are under attack. For some, it is the policies these institutions pursue – facilitating a globalized economy where there are winners but also clear losers.  However, for others, the provocation lies not in what such institutions do, but in what they portend – a diminished and diluted sense of national identity. As UK Prime Minister Theresa May declared in the aftermath of the 2016 Brexit vote – taking direct aim at the European Union (EU) and its European citizenship – ‘if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word “citizenship” means.’ The Prime Minister is on to something.  National identity matters, and identity politics are alive and well. The actions of many regional organizations have become deeply controversial, and the European Union, the RO at the heart of this study, is no exception. This project thus seeks to understand better how ROs shape identity, and what role this plays in 21st century politics.

My core argument is that the identity effects of ROs are refracted through the domestic politics of their member states, and that daily lived experiences and articulated beliefs interact to shape such politics. Identity, in other words, is constructed by both what we do and what we say. My main case is contemporary Germany. With its own troubled history of violence justified by national identity (the Nazi era), Germany has more recently been hailed as a model of post-national consciousness and a champion of the EU. Yet, this carefully nurtured European identity – one crucially influenced by the EU – is being reshaped by a new identity politics spurred by the arrival of over 1 million refugees in 2015-16. Using data from interviews, participant observation and key policy texts, the project will construct a process-based political ethnography of identity change in Germany at two different points in time, and the EU’s (changing) role in it.  The German case will thus shed crucial light on the extent to which institutions – in this case, the EU – are indeed ‘at bay’ in an era defined by a new and deeply national identity politics.

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.

This project is being published as a special issue - under Checkel's editorship - of the Journal of Peace Research 54/5 (September 2017).

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 January 2015, 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.



  • IS 409 - Governance, Identity & War (Spring 2019)
  • IS 300 - Research Methods in International Studies (Fall 2018)


  • IS 840 - Perspectives in International Studies (Fall 2016)
  • IS 830 - Analytical Approaches for International Studies (Fall 2011)


Selected Publications

  • “Socialization and Violence,” special issue of Journal of Peace Research Vol.54, No.5 (September 2017)
  • “Regional Identities and Communities,” in Thomas Risse and Tanja Boerzel, Editors, Oxford Handbook of Comparative Regionalism (Oxford University Press, 2016)
  • Process Tracing: From Metaphor to Analytic Tool (Cambridge University Press, 2015)
  • “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

  • “Data Access, Transparency and Open Science: Can We Have Too Much of a Good Thing?” Peace Research Institute Oslo, April 2017
  • “Civil War, Global Governance and Post-Conflict (Dis) Order,” Balsillie School of International Affairs, Wilfrid Laurier University and University of Waterloo, March 2017
  • “The Social Dynamics of Civil War,” Inaugural Lecture, Faculty of Political Science, Government and International Relations, Universidad del Rosario (Bogotá), September 2016
  • “The Social Dynamics of Civil War,” Alexander von Humboldt University Lecture, Free University Berlin, January 2016
  • "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