Imagining Sovereignty, Managing Secession (and Fourth Generation Warfare)

by Chris Borgen

I have posted to SSRN an article I recently published in the Oregon Review of International Law, entitled Imagining Sovereignty, Managing Secession:The Legal Geography of Eurasia’s “Frozen Conflicts.”

This article was written for a symposium on law and geography at the University of Oregon Law School that was organized by Hari Osofsky (of IntLawGrrls). I use my article to argue that the techniques of political geography try to “imagine sovereignty,” that is provide (literally) a picture for the very difficult and abstract concept of what is “sovereign,” while the rules of international law pick up some ideas from geography in its attempts to “manage secession,” in other words make it difficult for subnational actors to separate from existing states and achieve sovereignty themselves. I use the example of the Transnistrian conflict in Moldova as my main case and, in part, view it through the optic of the controversy over Kosovo’s declaration of independence.

Bringing together concepts from international law and geography, I define what I call the “legal geography” of secessionist enclaves (as opposed their political geography or physical geography).

In my closing section, I return to some broader questions of the Westphalian system’s evolution and even how all this relates to “fourth generation” or “networked” warfare.

Yes, I know I am smashing a whole bunch of ideas together like old Fords at a demolition derby but that is the fun of interdisciplinary scholarship. And I actually think bringing this stuff together is relevant. As I am working through some of these ideas in forthcoming pieces, comments are welcome.

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