Nuclear(ised) identities: the influence of collective identities on nuclear arms control and disarmament politics

The international nuclear architecture and its core element the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) are in a state of crisis. The adoption of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is widely seen as manifestation of the deep depression of the NPT regime. It highlighted the rifts within the international nuclear architecture, notably the growing division between nuclear ‘Haves’ and ‘Have-Nots’. Yet, underlying points of contention not only concern procedural or technical matters – e.g. how to pursue nuclear disarmament – but touch upon the fundamental understandings of the nuclear regimes’ core norms. This dissertation aims to unravel exactly these varying perceptions and interpretations of the so-called ‘nuclear norms’, namely the non-proliferation norm, the nuclear taboo, and, in particular, the nuclear disarmament norm.

The dissertation asks how collective identities among group of states contribute to diverging perceptions of the nuclear norms and, thus, influence the behaviour of their group members. Differing understandings of content and shape of the NPT’s core norms are understood as more than mere rhetorical disagreements. Instead, they are attributed to the normative power of group membership and group identification. At a theoretical level, the project is interested in the nexus between identities of groups of states and state identity. It aims to investigate how the collective identity of state groups is connected to the social identity of states that is a state’s identification through its peer-group. In other words, the project asks how the identification with a group of states such as NATO, NAM or the P5 can lead to adjustments of a state’s attitudes, preferences, and interests and, as a consequence, to a change in a state’s behaviour towards the nuclear norms. By taking this perspective, the dissertation aims to uncover fundamental differences in norm perceptions that hinder serious progress in nuclear disarmament.