States of Imagination: Policy and Experience in Unrecognized States


Case studies, comparative studies and theoretical contributions are welcome, as are papers from researchers or practitioners outside anthropology.  The organizers of this panel encourage you to send a short query with potential topic and approach ahead of formulation and submission of abstract.

Hilmi Ulas (The American University of Cyprus)
Diane O’Rourke (Victoria University of Wellington).

Please send expressions of interest to by 1April.

Unrecognized states dot a globe that is imagined in terms of bounded states. Some unrecognized states came into being after unilaterally declaring independence, others exist as nation-states in the imaginations of their members. Some of these entities meet recognized criteria for statehood, such as Weber’s definition centering on the monopoly of legitimate violence or the Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States, one of the most widely accepted formulation of the criteria of statehood in international law. It notes that the state as an international person should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with other states.  Where unrecognized states are ruled out of play in the global game is often on the final point—they cannot enter into relations with other states because the policies of those states do not imagine them to be states. Such cases include Somaliland, North Cyprus, and Taiwan.

Anthropology’s changing conceptualizations or imaginings of culture have also played a role in the recognition or rights of states.  The right to self-determination in many international conventions is based on an earlier primordial model that anthropologists themselves no longer employ.  Few scholarly studies have been conducted regarding the socio-political implications of non-recognition: how and why unrecognized states adopt policies and evolve the way they do.

With this session we aim to explore the dynamics of policymaking and evolution—political, social and cultural—in unrecognized states, dynamics of international policy which prevents their recognition, and what roles anthropology has or can play in the recognition of states, the rights of their citizens, and documenting the impact of non-recognition.

We welcome articles from both scholars and practitioners whose work pertains to unrecognized states, including theoretical work regarding the definition of such entities. Interdisciplinary approaches are particularly welcome. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Defining unrecognized states across disciplines;
  • The impact of  non-recognition on identities: social, cultural and political;
  • The impact of non-recognition on internal and external conflicts;
  • The interplay between culture and state recognition;
  • Evaluation of the statehood capacity of unrecognized states and their potential for earning diplomatic recognition;
  • How unrecognized states  build functioning state institutions and in some cases, democracies;
  • Impacts of non-recognition on daily life.

Final abstracts, along with registration fee and AAA membership, must be submitted via AAA submission portal by 16 April.  Membership waiver applications for non-anthropologists and those outside the US and Canada must be made by 29 March.