Anxiety, time, and ontological security’s third-image potential

Andy Hom (Lead Author), Brent J. Steele

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article, we begin to extend ontological security to third-image theorizing. We argue that the autobiographical conceptions of international agents, along with other stories told about international politics, constitute ‘the international’ as a system, society, community, or inhabitable realm beyond and between first- and second-image relations. To develop this point, we focus on the relationship between narrative, anxiety, and time. We contend that ontological security issues resound in the third image once we shift from treating the international realm as social agents' external environment to treating it as a collective project in its own right. Doing so highlights the promise of ontological security studies for further differentiating international fear and anxiety, for enabling novel explanations of international phenomena, and for elaborating third-image identity formation as a wide-ranging timing effort to surmount a dynamic, processual environment full of interconnected coordination challenges.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-336
JournalInternational Theory: A Journal of International Politics, Law and Philosophy
Issue number2
Early online date21 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • time
  • anxiety
  • narrative
  • international relations
  • third image theorizing

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