Jethro Norman

Jethro Norman


About Me & My Research
I am a fourth-year PhD candidate who will be defending his thesis in December 2019. My research is strongly interdisciplinary in its focus, and in addition to historical research I also draw extensively on social science research methodologies, particularly ethnography, theories of IR and political economy analysis.

My PhD research was first and foremost an ethnography of transnational ‘security experts’, broadly defined and including (amongst others) Private Military Company (PMC) contractors, security consultants and humanitarian security professionals. This was achieved through intensive multi-sited fieldwork across three East African countries: Kenya, Tanzania and Somalia. These field sites included remote oil camps, humanitarian compounds, securitised conservation areas, Risk Management Company (RMC) and PMC regional and local headquarters, militarised international ‘green zones’ and gated communities. Of particular significance was the interaction between various transnational ‘security experts’, the international organisations they often represent, and ‘local’ security, humanitarian and peacebuilding actors at these field sites. Moreover, by tracing the material and ideational infrastructures that transnationally link and sustain these security professionals through the movement of people, equipment, ideas and practices, I highlight the connections between these otherwise geographically disparate sites. In turn, I also show that these networks foster a culture of security expertise rooted not only in gendered and racial logics, but also in the particular histories of the region and its experience of settler-colonialism.

This research therefore moves beyond the narrow post-Cold War focus and recent preoccupation with military outsourcing in Iraq and Afghanistan in much of the literature and instead, also stresses continuity over the longue durée. Squarely at the heart of this research are the voices of the security professionals themselves, which repeatedly contradict established notions of so-called private security. These transnational actors are not the ancillaries of, proxies for, or subordinate to state power or realist geopolitics. Nor can they be dismissed as peripheral actors pushed to the margins of the international system. Rather, they are at the forefront of important global trends, including the securitisation of development and the global expansion of ‘no-go zones’. Notably, ‘security’ is also spatially produced in distinctive ways, as contractors shape the built environment through processes of enclavisation and securitisation.

I have been at the University of Leeds since 2011, receiving a first class degree in International History and Politics (IHP) at undergraduate, and passing my MA by Research with distinction for the year 2014/2015. 
I have experience teaching across disciplines, including International Relations, Politics and History. 

Prizes and Awards
Drummond-Wolff Prize for Distinguished Work in International Relations and Politics
School of History Full Scholarship Award (MA by Research)
University of Leeds 110 Anniversary Scholarship for Doctoral Study


Research groups and institutes

  • Politics