Jacques E.C. Hymans is associate professor of international relations at the University of Southern California. His research focuses on international security affairs and on national identity. His most recent book, Achieving Nuclear Ambitions: Scientists, Politicians, and Proliferation (Cambridge University Press, 2012) was honored with the $100,000 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order, as well as best book awards from the American Political Science Association and the National Academy of Public Administration. Hymans’ first book, The Psychology of Nuclear Proliferation: Identity, Emotions, and Foreign Policy (Cambridge University Press, 2006) was honored with best book awards from the International Society of Political Psychology and the Mershon Center for International Security Studies. Hymans has also published articles in Foreign Affairs, International Security, Security Studies, the European Journal of International Relations, and many others. He is an editorial board member of several journals including International Studies Quarterly. He has received grants and fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Center for Global Partnership and Social Science Research Council, and other research funding organizations.
Statement of Purpose: It is often claimed that the world has entered, or at least is very near to entering, a “second nuclear age” of rampant nuclear proliferation. In spite of the rampant gloom, however, it is possible to rise in defense of some optimism. I propose rigorous empirical research to test three new, provocative hypotheses about the dynamics of nuclear proliferation. The first hypothesis is that acceptance of “non-nuclear weapons state” (NNWS) status can and often does move beyond being a simple contingent policy choice, to become an attribute of state identity. In such cases states’ abstention from “going nuclear” persists even after external conditions change. Second, acceptance of NNWS status is not synonymous with acceptance of the NPT. Acceptance of the NPT may, however, provide an impetus for “institutional lock-in” of an already evolving NNWS identity. Third, states that adopt NNWS status as an identity attribute are particularly likely to engage in heated diplomatic conflict with the nuclear weapons states (NWS) over their respective international nuclear obligations. A combative stance by the NNWS against the NWS can be understood as part of normal identity politics. This point leads to the counterintuitive, policy-relevant conclusion that diplomatic fractiousness surrounding the NPT, far from hastening the regime’s deterioration, may in fact both reveal and further promote the regime’s continuing health. Methods: I have selected three case studies for in-depth field research: the Federal Republic of Germany, India, and Japan. Because of their potential great power status and impressive nuclear infrastructure, these three countries have been the most-discussed potential entrants into the “nuclear weapons state club” in the US ever since the mid-1960s. But paradoxically, they were also the most prominent spokesmen for what might be called the “non-nuclear weapons state club” (though India’s stance of course changed markedly in the 1990s). Is it not possible that there is a relationship between these states’ abstention from developing nuclear arsenals as they were widely predicted to do already in the 1960s, and the degree of their identity commitment to the NNWS club? This is the principal empirical question that is driving my research. The other important empirical questions of the research include these states’ level of diplomatic conflict with NWS on nuclear issues more generally, and on how these state policies were judged in the domestic political debate. I propose to study NNWS identity in these three countries both via qualitative methods and via quantitative content analysis. This mixed-method strategy is the best way of developing measures that combine high empirical validity with high inter-coder reliability. In other words, I fully endorse the Harvard Identity Project’s goal of “disciplining” the study of identity in IR. Requested duration, research sites, and dissemination of findings: I am requesting 12 months of funding for eight months of research in Japan, one month each in Germany and India, and two months in the US. The principal product of the research will be a book-length manuscript, with the first draft completed by the end of summer 2009.