ANTHONY BURKE (b. 1966) is an Australian political theorist and international relations scholar. His published work ranges across the fields of security studies, war and peace, international ethics, the international relations of the Asia-Pacific and the Middle-East, and Australian politics and history. He is Associate Professor of Politics and International Relations at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Canberra.

He is best known for contributions to the field of critical security studies and the study of war and peace, combining them with original explorations of fundamental themes in political philosophy: freedom, security, sovereignty, terror, being, ethics, and truth.

He is the sole author of two books: Beyond Security, Ethics and Violence: War Against The Other (Routledge, 2007), and Fear of Security: Australia’s Invasion Anxiety (Pluto Press Australia, 2001 and Cambridge University Press, 2008). He is also co-editor, with Matt McDonald, of the path-breaking collection, Critical Security in the Asia-Pacific, is a board member of Critical Studies On Terrorism, and was founding editor and continuing publisher of the Borderlands e-journal.

His conceptual approach is a critical synthesis of poststructuralist themes (Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, Butler and Agamben), post-colonial theory (Edward Said) and broadly post-Kantian critical theorizing (from Frankfurt School figures such as Max Horkheimer, Jürgen Habermas and Erich Fromm, to harder to classify thinkers like Hannah Arendt, Immanuel Levinas, Martin Buber, Agnes Heller, and Martin Heidegger).


Anthony Burke received his BA (Communications) in 1991 and MA by thesis in 1994 from the University of Technology, Sydney, where he also tutored and lectured. He studied journalism, creative writing, cultural theory and politics under teachers such as Stephen Muecke, Jean Martin, Amanda Lohrey, Paul Gillen, John Docker, Gunther Kress, McKenzie Wark and Ann Curthoys, and alongside writers such as Claire Corbett, Lindsay Barrett, Fiona Allon, Bernard Cohen, Justine Ettler and Anthony Macris. During this time, until the mid-1990s, he also worked as a human rights activist with campaigns for East Timor, Bougainville, West Papua and Indonesia.

He received his Ph.D in Political Science and International Relations from the Australian National University in 1999, and subsequently worked in the Australian Senate as a committee researcher on the environment, arts and communications. Whilst there he drafted a report on the land rights and environmental issues at the Jabiluka uranium mine in the Kakadu World Heritage Area (Jabiluka: The Undermining of Process), and led a research team on the Senate’s 2000 report, The Heat is On: Australia’s Greenhouse Future.

He was appointed to a lectureship at the University of Queensland in 2001 and left to join the University of Adelaide in July that year. In 2005 he joined UNSW in Sydney, where he was promoted to Associate Professor in 2007, and in 2008 appointed to its college at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, Australia’s capital.


Anthony Burke is currently working on two major projects.

The first, with funding from the Australian Research Council, is a critical study of the use of armed force in world politics in a range of recent conflicts (Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Afghanistan and Pakistan, nuclear proliferation, the “War on Terror”, and forcible intervention to prevent crimes against humanity such as ethnic cleansing and genocide). Its theoretical inquiry involves a fundamental questioning of dominant strategic theories and concepts deriving from the philosophy of Clausewitz, especially Cold War doctrines of limited war (Thomas Schelling, Liddell Hart, and Robert Osgood), more recent US doctrines of defense transformation, effects-based warfare and military revolution, and underlying concepts of strategy, force, and military power. This critique then feeds into an inquiry into the complex sociology of asymmetric  “postmodern conflicts”, the advent of new strategic/operational doctrines ar0und counterterrorism, counterinsurgency and ‘war among the people’, and the challenges of preventing and resolving such conflicts. Early versions of this work can be seen in Theory & Event, and the books Strategy and Security in the Asia-Pacific (Desmond Ball and Robert Ayson eds. 2006) and Security and the War on Terror (Alex Bellamy et. al eds. 2008), and in an International Relations article of December 2009, “Nuclear Reason: At the Limits of Strategy”. This work will conclude with a full length book, currently being drafted,  Postmodern Conflict: Global Security and Asymmetric War.

The second project focuses around efforts to develop a potential new research and theoretical paradigm, “Security Cosmopolitanism”, aimed at redefining collective security and critically reforming contemporary practices of global security goverance. This work is paired with philosophical work on first principles and ontologicall underpinnings of political cosmopolitanism (in Angelaki, 2011), and a cosmopolitan intervention into international relations theory, especially engagements with the English School theorising of Lawler, Wheeler, Dunne, Bull, and Linklater (International Politics, 2013). A further article, “Security Cosmopolitanism” will be featured in the inaugural issue of Critical Studies on Security with a number of responses.

Anthony Burke’s first book, In Fear of Security (Pluto Press Australia, 2001), was based on his Ph.D thesis and combined a theory of security as a ‘political technology’ with a rich historical account of how security has been defined, sought and mobilized throughout Australian history. It has a particular emphasis on Australia’s policy towards Indonesia and the Asia-Pacific. Its 2008 revised edition includes a chapter on Australia’s repression and exclusion of asylum seekers, and its involvement in the US-led war on terror, and a new conclusion setting out a cosmopolitan path for Australia. While describing a more hopeful and progressive vision of Australian politics and foreign policy (in sympathy with broad notions of human security, or the Welsh School’s emancipatory approach to critical security studies), its detailed empirical account of how security has functioned as a tool of the powerful in Australian history, at the same time as denying security and dignity to millions, challenges both conservative and progressive visions of security.

His second book, Beyond Security, Ethics and Violence: War against the Other (Routledge 2007) combines political philosophy with a range of empirical studies: Israel/Palestine, the war on terror, Iraq, American exceptionalism, Vietnam, and the Australia-Indonesia relationship. It develops his critical theory of security across three chapters, where an analysis of the evolution of the national security state and a political ontology of security eventually yields to a visions of transnational existence and politics, in which exclusivist structures of sovereignty and being are replaced by an acknowledgment of fundamental indebtedness, responsibility and dependence. A further three chapters interrogate dominant ethical approaches to national security, especially just war theory, and the final three chapters question the constitutive and (dys)functional role of violence in world politics, finding its claims linked closely with modern ideas of strategy, progress and freedom. The book also includes critical engagements with the writings of Carl Von Clausewitz, Giorgio Agamben, Michel Foucault, William E. Connolly, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, and Emmanuel Levinas.

Selected Books

Ethics and Global Security: A Cosmopolitan Approach (under contract to Routledge, 2013). Coauthor, with Katrina Lee Koo and Matt McDonald.

Uranium (under contract to Polity Press, 2014).

Fear of Security: Australia’s Invasion Anxiety (Cambridge University Press, 2008 and Pluto Press Australia, 2001).

Beyond Security, Ethics and Violence: War Against The Other (Routledge, 2007).

Critical Security in the Asia-Pacific, edited with Matt McDonald (Manchester University Press, 2007).

Selected Articles

“Postmodernism”, in Christian Reus-Smit and Duncan Snidal eds. Oxford Handbook of International Relations (Oxford University Press, 2008).

“Recovering Humanity from Man: Hannah Arendt’s Troubled Cosmopolitanism”, International Politics, Vol. 45 No. 4, July 2008.

“Life, In the Hall of Smashed Mirrors”, Borderlands, Vol. 7 No. 1, 2008, and Meanjin Quarterly, December 2008.

“The End of Terrorism Studies”, Critical Studies on Terrorism, Vol. 1 No. 1, 2008.

“Beyond Security in the Middle-East: An Ethics for (Co)Existence”, Borderlands, Vol. 6 No. 2, October 2007.

“Ontologies of War: Violence, Existence, and Reason”, Theory & Event, Vol. 10 No. 2, July 2007.

“Cause and Effect in the War on Terror”, in Alex J. Bellamy, Roland Bleiker, Sara E. Davies and Richard Devetak eds. Security and the War on Terror (Routledge, 2007).

“Security Politics and Us: Sovereignty, Violence and Power After 9/11”, in Suvendrini Perera ed. Our Patch: Enacting Australian Sovereignty Post-2001 (Perth: Network Books, 2007).

“Against The New Internationalism”, Ethics & International Affairs, Vol. 19 No. 2, Summer 2005. (With a response by Jean Bethke Elshtain, “Against the New Utopianism”)

“Iraq: Strategy’s Burnt Offering”, Global Change, Peace & Security, Vol. 17 No. 2, July 2005.

“Freedom’s Freedom: American Enlightenment and Permanent War”, Social Identities, Vol. 11, No. 4, July 2005.

“Just War or Ethical Peace? Moral Discourses of Strategic Violence after 9/11”, International Affairs, Vol. 80 No. 2, March 2004.

“Aporias of Security”, Alternatives: Global, Local, Political, Vol. 27 No. 1, Jan-Mar 2002.

“Caught Between National and Human Security: Knowledge and Power in Post-Crisis Asia”, Pacifica Review, Vol. 13, No. 3, October 2001.

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