Dr Melissa Johnston

ARC DECRA Research Fellow

School of Political Science and International Studies
Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
+61 7 336 57014


Melissa Johnston is a Lecturer in the School of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland where she works in the areas of political economy and security. Melissa was awarded a Discovery Early Career Research Award (2022-2025) for her project on Brideprice, Conflict and Violence Against Women in Southeast Asia.

Melissa has two main research areas. The first area examines the pivotal role of misogyny and violence against women in the political economy of violent extremism, populism and Islamist and right wing politics,looking at the empirical and analytical links between violence against women and violent extremism in Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Libya. Findings show that support for violence against women and misogyny is the best predictor of an individual's support for violent extremism - a finding cited several times by the UN Secretary General in 2019 and 2020.

The second area is the political economy of post-conflict rebuilding. Her doctoral dissertation, winner of the 2019 Australian Political Studies Association thesis prize, applies a feminist political economy approach to account for the uneven outcomes gender programming by international development agencies. It argues the outcomes of international interventions on gender responsive budgeting, laws against domestic violence and microfinance are shaped by power relations between men and women in a setting of elite dominance. In the Timor-Leste case specifically, the political economy of kinship—as manifested in brideprice or traditional dispute resolution—has been as crucial to class formation as it has in perpetuating gender injustices. A journal article from this work "Frontier Finance" was the winner of the 2021 Australian International Political Economy Network best journal article prize.

Previously, Melissa has worked for the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) on Asia-Pacific development, and for Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE) on European Union programs to protect women from severe intimate partner violence.

Research Impacts

I have a portfolio of skills, publications, and grant successes that demonstrate my commitment to pursuing innovative research. I have contributed to the field of International Relations by forging a research program focusing on the gendered drivers of conflict, focussing on feminist political economy analysis of the triggers of conflict and violence against women. My current DECRA on brideprice, conflict, and violence against women is the result of my sustained intellectual development as a lead researcher of the gender drivers of conflict, and their links to the political economy. The second area of my research on violent extremism has had a significant impact in keynotes, online, and international policy making. It has been cited by the cited in two UN Secretary General Reports, the UN Special Rapporteur on Promoting Human Rights and the Review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, significant international policy statements


  • Doctoral (Research) of Politics, Murdoch University


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  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

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Featured Publications


Book Chapter

  • Johnston, Melissa (2022). Feminist methods in international relations research. Handbook of research methods in international relations. (pp. 214-231) edited by R. Huddleston, Thomas Jamieson and Patrick James. Northampton, MA USA: Edward Elgar Publishing. doi: 10.4337/9781839101014.00022

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors: