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Politics Departmental Research Seminar (Term 2) - Professor Milja Kurki, Aberystwyth University: 'Sovereignty’s Unseen Battle Battalions: Democracy Support as a Practice of Sovereignty'

Politics Departmental Seminar

A Department of Politics seminar
Date21 March 2018
Time14:30 to 16:30
PlaceBuilding:One Bateman Lecture Theatre

From Trump supporters to Brexiteers, last few years have seen a rise of ‘sovereigntism’, a renewed defence of the principle of sovereign statehood as a principle of governance. This has been surprising for many analysts and practitioners of politics as they had increasingly come to the view that the principle of sovereignty had either waned in its classical (Westphalian) meaning or had transformed into something new, at best a qualified, fragmented, externally-conditioned kind of sovereign principle. Yet, precisely this expectation reveals the lack of attention paid by analysts and political practitioners to a series of deep, and long-running, battle-battalions of the classical principle of sovereignty in global politics. These battle-battalions have remained ‘hidden’ and their defence of sovereignty has been by and large ‘implicit’; yet, they have been powerful and sustained in their efforts to stamp down on political struggles for forms of governance not premised on sovereignty. Focused on one such battle-battalion – the policy practice of democracy support and the attached agendas of development – this article seeks to both a. convey the intensity of hidden battles over sovereignty over the last three decades and b. the role seemingly innocuous, liberal, seemingly non-sovereigntist policy tools in elimination of actors and activities advocating non-or 'extra'-sovereign political imaginations. I argue that to understand the centrality of the defence of sovereignty for these efforts helps us understand the surprising resilience of sovereign political form. Furthermore, highlighting the role of the long-running battle-battalions for sovereignty ‘hidden in plain sight’ also helps us to grapple with the limits of global political imagination and democratic politics in 21st century international politics.


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