Thesis published on the Oxford Research Archive

[UPDATE June 2016]: the ORA does not currently have my thesis accessible in its database. Until they do, you can access it here.

It is my pleasure to finally announce that my thesis has been published on the Oxford Research Archive.

This is a redacted version of my thesis. The redactions were made in line with requests from the British Government, and include primarily a description of the location of the Wassenaar Secretariat, the Arrangement’s information system, and the reproduction in Appendix G of the Guidelines for the Drafting of Lists. The redactions will be valid for 30 years or until I can get permission from the Government to remove them, whichever is sooner.


International cooperation on export controls for technology is based on three assumptions, that it is possible: to know against whom controls should be directed; to control the international transfer of technology; and to define the items to be controlled. These assumptions paint a very hierarchical framing of one of the central problems in export controls: dual-use technology. This hierarchical framing has been in continual contention with a competitive framing that views the problem as the marketability of technology. This thesis analyses historical and contemporary debates between these two framings of the problem of dual-use technology, focusing on the multilateral Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies. Using a framework of concepts from Science & Technology Studies and the theory of sociocultural viability, I analyse the Arrangement as a classification system, where political, economic, and social debates are codified in the lists of controlled items, which then structure future debates. How a technology is (not) defined, I argue, depends as much on the particular set of social relations in which the technology is enacted as on any tangible aspects the technology may have.

The hierarchical framing is currently hegemonic within Wassenaar, and I show how actors that express this framing use several strategies in resolving anomalies that arise concerning the classification of dual-use technology. These strategies have had mixed success, and I show how they have adequately resolved some cases (e.g. quantum cryptography), while other areas have proved much more difficult (e.g. focal plane arrays and computers). With the development of controls on intangible technology transfers, a third, egalitarian framing is arising, and I argue that initial steps have already been taken to incorporate this framing with the discourse on dual-use technology. However, the rise of this framing also calls into question the fundamental assumption of export controls that technology is excludable, and therefore definable.

To read the whole thesis (or just the parts that interest you!) head over to the Oxford Research Archive.

[UPDATE 9 July 2010: The ORA appears to be down right now.  I apologize for anyone trying to access my thesis.  I’ll let you know when it is back up.]

[UPDATE 12 July 2010: The ORA is back up]

2 thoughts on “Thesis published on the Oxford Research Archive

  1. Sam, I am impressed with the web site, lots of work and well done.
    I have long been interested in building ‘classifiers’… way to statistically create groups meaningful for decision making… This leads to what is a group, for what purpose.. The arcance world of building Ontologies…… then the downward skid into true madness 🙂

    Bet we could have a great conversation over a wee dram of good Scotch.


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