Conflict, Statehood and Sovereignty in World Politics

School: School of Government
Department: Department of Political Science and International Studies

Final year module

Lecturer: Dr George Kyris

This module aims to provide you with an understanding of a series of international conflicts and how they relate to the concept of state sovereignty.

We will look at a series of examples of conflicts from around the world, including Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, that raise a series of interesting questions: how has sovereignty developed as an idea through history and how does it frame our understanding of what is a state? What happens when, in the context of a conflict, different groups claim statehood over the same territories? How does secession take place and which secession are recognised by the international community and why? How effective are apparatuses of self-declared but unrecognised states and how does that impact their claim to statehood and sovereignty? What does the lack of diplomatic recognition tell us about sovereignty? What is the role of global actors in those conflicts, such as Russia in the former Soviet space? How can sovereignty be understood in the context of efforts to establish a new state, such as in the case of Kosovo or Donetsk and Lugansk in Ukraine? How does the international community engage (or not) with those conflicts and their unrecognised states, like Palestine or Taiwan? In more specific, what are the efforts for the management of those conflicts from international actors like the European Union or the United Nations and how is their role affected by ideas about sovereignty? In a discussion dominated by statehood and sovereignty, how can we debate the role of society and non-state actors in conflict? What limitations do traditional notions of sovereignty pose to our understanding of world politics and to security? Is, after all, sovereignty socially constructed? The module draws on years of research and also aims to not only help you learn about issues of conflict and statehood but also develop the skills to research a variety of other questions in world politics in more general.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module students should be able to:

  • Identify a series of conflicts in the post-Soviet space, Middle East, Africa and Asia, and their characteristics, such as issues at stake, main actors involved and the role of the international community and
  • Relate those issues to the ways in which sovereignty and statehood is understood in the practise and theory of world politics
  • Critically analyse the way sovereignty and statehood is understood in world politics and how these concepts inform the trajectory and management of different conflicts
  • Formulate independent judgements on opportunities and limitations that conflicts have for international politics and security

Assessment (from 2018-19)

  • 1 x annotated bibliography paper (25%)
  • 1 x 3000 word essay (75%)