Rachel (Ruixuan) Zhou

Rachel (Ruixuan) Zhou

PhD candidate

Department of International Relations

English, Mandarin
Key Expertise
critical war studies, post-colonialism; feminism; post-structuralism

About me

Rachel is a PhD candidate in the Department of International Relations at LSE.

She holds an undergraduate degree in English Literature and International Relations from Peking University, and a Master’s degree in International Relations Theory (with Distinction) from the London School of Economics. The interdisciplinary background has shaped her approach to IR and research interests.

China is not Rachel’s research interest at least for now, which is an intentional choice as a resistance of a colonial and orientalist logic — the subaltern can only “study” themselves. Whenever asked with a question starting with “you’re Chinese, so what do you think of this,” she would always ask back with “why do you want to know” and “how do you suppose that I know.” Disrupting and challenging racism, colonialism and orientalism is not only part of the motivation for her research but constitutive of her subjectivity which is (of course) shaped by power relations. Moreover/however, as an advocate of feminism who loves lipsticks and post-colonialism who enjoys classical English literature (literature of dead, white males), she appreciates the inconsistency, fluidity and interruption within herself. 

Research topic

How “female soldier” as an idea has become thinkable

Rachel’s research denationalises the inclusion of women in the military which is usually narrated within a national framework. Rachel seeks to reveal how this national narrative is shaped by as well as constitutive of imaginaries of Eurocentrism and liberalism which are mutually constitutive and reinforcing. Her research theorises “the international” and war as the contact zone where discourses of gender and race and their intersections shape the self-other relations and interactions which make a different to women’s entry into the military/war.

By focusing on the Vietnam War, she traces the transnational factors and processes taking place in war as contact zones inherently gendered, gendering, raced and racialising that shaped the lived experiences of female fighters of Vietnam and American military women in combined but differentiated ways.

Rachel takes a post-colonial, feminist, post-structuralist and transnational approach to the studies of war and soldier while this particular approach also shapes her research topic. War is the focus of her current research. Rachel treats war as a set of thick social relations and is particularly interested in how the logics of gender and race as social relations themselves shape the practices and representations of war especially “small” wars in contrast to “great” wars. 

Academic supervisor

Tarak Barkawi

Research Cluster affiliation

Theory/Area/History Research Cluster


Expertise Details

post-colonialism; feminism; post-structuralism (discourse; power); transnationality; critical war studies (gender; race; empire and war; female soldiers; the soldiering body; counterinsurgency)