Jack Holland

In discussion: Jack Holland

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We recently announced the election of new members of our Executive Committee. We hope this interview series, one with each new trustee, will help you get to know them a little better.  This week it's the turn of Jack Holland who is based at the University of Leeds. 

Tell us a bit about yourself and where you are from

I was born in Slough but grew up mainly in Norfolk. So I guess I’m a combination of David Brent and Alan Partridge… My mum ended up raising me and my sister alone for the last few years of our childhood. She still works as a nursery nurse, which is hideously underpaid. My desire to work ‘in politics’, at some level, was forged in that challenging circumstance. As the first in my family to get more than one A-Level, it was a bit of a culture shock going on to study at Cambridge, where I read Geography. The Iraq War took place while I was an undergrad. Outrage over that conflict motivated my application for ESRC 1+3 funding, to try to understand how the war had been made possible. I did my MA at Birmingham and PhD at Warwick, influenced by Stuart Croft, Thomas Diez, David Dunn, and particularly Matt McDonald. 

Why did you want to be a BISA trustee and what do you hope to achieve during your term?

My first BISA conference was seventeen years ago. I am fortunate to now be at a career stage where I can give something back to an organisation that has always helped to foster a sense of intellectual home, especially for early career researchers. I’m also interested in the structure and silences of ‘British IR’, having worked on gender, bibliometrics, and (more recently) race. In particular, I would like to help advocate for the discipline at a particularly difficult economic moment for the sector, having previously experienced the impact that restructures can have on staff and students.

What is your area of research and how did you get into it? What are you currently working on?

As a constructivist, I’m interested in culture, discourse, and identity. Substantively, my research is on US, UK, and Australian foreign and security policy. I’ve been writing about this ‘old Anglosphere coalition’ for a long time but most fully in my 2020 CUP book. AUKUS was announced a year after that book was published… I’m currently therefore still researching this old/new security partnership, whether its relationship with other states, its racialised foundations, or its future security focus. I’ve also got a few related ‘critical security’ projects bubbling away e.g. on Trump and polarised security politics.

You’re an editor of BJPIR. What does that involve? What transferable skills do you think this kind of role can develop?

We get a lot of submissions, so it’s a lot of work. You simply have to keep turning up and doing the admin side of things (which involves becoming very familiar with a large online management system). These are transferrable skills that not all academics have! You learn to read and assess the quality of work very quickly. It’s different from reading for the REF or assessing work as a reviewer for a subfield journal; there should be a level of disciplinary contribution being made, or at least something that is of value to a broad (PSA) readership. Editors need to be balanced (in weighing conflicting judgements), diplomatic (in conveying unwelcome news), and resilient (we get very few disgruntled authors, but it does happen – nobody thinks their work should be rejected). 

Is there anything else we should know about you?

I used to be a pretty regular sub-3 marathon runner, but with two young kids, I’m now in the cultivating a ‘dad bod’ stage of life. I remain, however, an obsessed Arsenal fan.