State recognition and dynamic sovereignty

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This study reflects on sovereignty as dynamic, whereby associated conditions, like recognition, fluctuate in quality and quantity within a unit and over time, and adds to existing discussions that concentrate on changes in the meaning of (rather than associated conditions with) sovereignty or more static approaches to partial sovereignty relative to other actors in international relations (e.g. in the context of hierarchical relations). I do so by reflecting on different degrees of recognition, as associated with external sovereignty, such as extensive but not general recognition (e.g. Kosovo); different types of recognition, such as recognition of a right to (as opposed to the presence of) statehood (e.g. Palestine); as well as change in recognition over time, such as with those witnessing significant fluctuations in their recognition (e.g. Taiwan, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic). Towards explaining these changes and theory development, I argue for historicising sovereignty, and by doing so, I contribute to a literature that has focused more on changes in the meaning of sovereignty across time rather than changes in its within-unit practical manifestations. I also offer some preliminary theoretical assumptions on how internal and external dimensions of sovereignty might interplay over time in processes of state emergence and on issues of agency, particularly on how recognisers define what we understand as sovereignty but also how some statehood claimants navigate or even embrace their lack of recognition to advance their sovereignty. With this range of conceptual and theoretical propositions presented, the study seeks to facilitate the development of further analysis of statehood, recognition and sovereignty.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of International Relations
Early online date22 Feb 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Feb 2022


  • State sovereignty
  • recognition
  • International Relations
  • intergovernmental organisation
  • state
  • international history


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