‘Trading with Pariahs’ Project

with Charmaine N. Willis

Our ‘Trading with Pariahs’ Project is a research project that Charmaine N. Willis and I have been working on for the last several years. Our project focucses on how economic sanctions often have little impact on international pariah states.

Below is a summary of our published and in process research:

Accepted for Publication 25 March 2024:

Global Studies Quarterly (GSQ), an open access ISA journal published by Oxford University Press, will publish our inaugural paper, which focuses on the case of North Korea. This paper, “Trading with Pariahs: North Korean Sanctions and the Challenge of Weaponized Interdependence,” explores why North Korea has failed to capitulate to economic sanctions pressures. Read the pre-publication version on SSRN.

Forthcoming in 2024:

Trading With Pariahs: Trade Networks And The Failure Of Economic Sanctions

Forthcoming from Lexington Books in 2024 and co-authored with Charmaine N. Wills

The past few decades have witnessed a proliferation of economic sanctions, yet there seem to be few examples of sanctions meeting sender states’ goals. Under what conditions do sanctions fail to change the behavior of so-called international “pariah states,” countries who violate various international norms? This book examines the impact of economic sanctions on target states’ trading relationships through social network analysis, a method that has rarely been applied to the study of sanctions. 

Drawing on UN Comtrade data, the authors show that the imposition of sanctions can drastically change some states’ trading networks, as states either find new trading partners (in the case of North Korea) or feel the sting of the sanctions from key trading partners (like Iran). Others’ trading networks (such as Myanmar’s) remain relatively stable over time as key trading partners refuse to impose sanctions. 

Through the theory of weaponized interdependence, the authors argue that the success or failure of sanctions to change target states’ behavior depends on who imposes the sanctions. Sanctions imposed by the “right” sender states can be successful but also cannot rely solely on policies of isolation to achieve sanctions’ goals.

In progress:

Utilizing funding received from APSA Centennial Center, we have — along with support from Joshua Turner — constructed a data set of illicit sanctions evasion activity on the part of North Korea. We anticipate publishing our data set in 2024/2025.