Producing Legitimacy: governance against the odds

University of Cambridge, 22-23 April 2013

Abstracts and biographical statements of conference speakers and discussants

Miriam Bishokarma is PhD student at the Department of Geography, University of Zurich. Her PhD project, preliminary titled “Contested Spaces – Gorkhaland and the making of new geographies of Darjeeling”, attempts at understanding different actors’ strategies to gain control over Darjeeling and its people. Before beginning her research on ethno-regional movements in India, she worked on food security, livelihoods, and the impacts of food assistance on recipients in Nepal.

Title: “There is one rule here: The ruling party rules” – Gaining legitimacy through the appropriation of development funds in Darjeeling

Abstract: The region of Darjeeling in northern West Bengal is a contested space where the “Gorkhas” demand a new Union state “Gorkhaland” to fulfill their aspirations of national belonging, development and self-rule. In 2007, the “Gorkha Liberation Front” (GLF) revived the agitation for statehood while gaining majority support and marginalising other regional parties through alleged violent means. This agitation also left Darjeeling without any elected institutions, including the local Gram Panchayats and the semi-autonomous “Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council”. These developmental bodies are now officially run by the state administration, rendering the authority over the distribution and implementation of “development” a contested terrain between the various regional parties in Darjeeling. Analysing the practices and de facto rules regarding the appropriation and distribution of development funds amidst a lack of elected bodies helps to highlight the processes by which the GLF aims to acquire legitimacy and how this is contested by oppositional forces.

In this paper I argue, that the illicit appropriation and distribution of development funds functions as one major strategy for the GLF to legitimise its rule towards the population. This not only helps the party to sustain its networks, fostering the territorialisation of its power, but also gives party leader Bimal Gurung the image of a modern “Robin Hood”. Although oppositional forces protest against such “illegal” practices and question their legitimacy by referring to official government rules, principles of “democracy” and “good leadership”, the West Bengal Government seems to turn a blind eye to these, while outsourcing its sovereignty to corrupt and “criminal” leaders, allegedly to curtail the demand for statehood and maintain the territorial integrity of West Bengal state.

Sarah Byrne is a PhD candidate in Political Geography at the University of Zurich (Switzerland). Empirically grounded in Nepal, where she has worked as an academic and development practitioner since 2008, Sarah’s research explores the negotiation and constitution of public authority and its relation to governmental and territorial strategies. Her PhD is entitled “Negotiating Public Authority: Local Political and Local Development in Mid-Western Nepal Between ‘War’ and ‘Transition’”.

Title: Constructing legitimacy in post-war transition: The return of ‘normal’ politics in Nepal and Sri Lanka

Abstract (with Bart Klem):

Bringing together ethnographic evidence from mid-Western Nepal and eastern Sri Lanka, this article explores how political legitimacy is constructed and contested in post-war environments. The two regions are marked by the history of Maoist and Tamil separatist insurgency respectively. Both rebel movements comprised state projects that produced parallel and overlapping forms of government. In this paper we are particularly interested in what comes after a period of such ‘anomalous rule’. Post-war transition has recalibrated the ways in which political legitimacy is constructed and reconstructed.

In these turbulent transitions, authority is in a sense ‘up for grabs’, because previous patterns of rule and legitimacy can no longer be taken for granted. Our article focuses on the role of politicians in such a transition. To some extent, the war had curtailed the ‘normal’ South Asian political practice of political interference and thuggery by local politicians. Post-war re-negotiation of political power and authority opened up space for former insurgents to seek democratic legitimacy, but it also heralded the return ‘normal’ politics: political interference with the bureaucracy, corruption, and competition over state largess.

While the political muscle of these brokers clearly impressed our respondents – ‘they are like Spiderman to the people’ – it was also clear that these politicians faced challenges in tapping into the larger registers of political legitimacy: pro-poor (Nepal) and pro-minority (Sri Lanka) reforms. While the insurgencies placed heavy emphasis on these reformist agendas, in the post-war setting politicians have difficulties reconciling reformist agendas with the need to play the post-conflict political game of ‘consensus’ (Nepal) and to maintain access to the essential political commodity of state patronage (Sri Lanka). The need to both advocate people’s rights and to deliver material welfare makes the construction of political legitimacy a highly paradoxical affair.

Christopher Clapham is based at the Centre of African Studies, Cambridge University, and has recently retired after fifteen years as editor of The Journal of Modern African Studies. Until December 2002, he was Professor of Politics and International Relations at Lancaster University, England. He is a specialist in the politics of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, and his books include Transformation and Continuity in Revolutionary Ethiopia (1988), Africa and the International System: the politics of state survival (1996), and African Guerrillas (1998).

Nina Caspersen (PhD, LSE) is Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of York. Her research focuses on the dynamics of intra-state conflicts, strategies for conflict resolution, and unrecognized states. She is the author of Unrecognized States: The Struggle for Sovereignty in the International System (Cambridge: Polity, 2012)

Title: The Pursuit of Legitimacy: Unrecognised States and their Evolving Claims for Recognition

Abstract: This paper examines how unrecognised states legitimise their claim for international recognition: what arguments do they invoke and how have these arguments changed in response to recent international events, such as the recognition of Kosovo, the war in Georgia and the subsequent Russian recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Unrecognised states used to make strikingly similar claims based on national self-determination, human rights violations and a form of ‘earned sovereignty. However, recent events have resulted in a greater degree of divergence as unrecognised states seek to manoeuvre in what many consider a new normative framework. This contribution examines the legitimation strategies of Abkhazia, Nagorno Karabakh, Somaliland, Taiwan and Transnistria; it analyses how their claims have evolved, the factors that have shaped them and asks what this tells us about the significance of recognition in the current international system.

Ilana Feldman is Associate Professor of Anthropology, History, and International Affairs at George Washington University. She is the author of Governing Gaza: Bureaucracy, Authority, and the Work of Rule, 1917-67 (Duke University Press, 2008) and In the Name of Humanity: The Government of Threat and Care (Duke University, 2010; co-edited with Miriam Ticktin). She has conducted ethnographic and archival research in Gaza, the West Bank, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. Her current project traces the Palestinian experience with humanitarianism in the years since 1948, exploring both how this aid apparatus has shaped Palestinian social and political life and how the Palestinian experience has influenced the broader post-war humanitarian regime.

Title: Humanitarian Government: a worm’s eye view.

Abstract: This talk will explore the dynamics of humanitarian governance, considering this question from the perspective not of the international humanitarian system and its planners – a system often looked at from the centers of New York, Geneva, and Washington (the bird’s-eye view) – but rather from the vantage point of those who are its subjects (who can be thought of as at once its beneficiaries and its victims) and its field-workers (in other words, the worm’s-eye view). My case is the Palestinian refugee experiences with humanitarian assistance, a regime that began in 1948 and extends across the Middle East (principally Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, and Gaza). In thinking about the consequences of humanitarian governance for populations such as the Palestinians, I will look particularly at the issues of representation (especially political representation), protection (a keyword of humanitarian intervention which is particularly fraught in the Palestinian context), and regulation (of access to resources, of categories of belonging, and of lifestyle and living conditions). The dynamics of these sites and techniques of governance and refugee responses to them – whether to critique, to utilize, or to support them – provide a crucial window into the questions of legitimacy that are at the heart of this conference.


Zuzana Hrdličková is an anthropologist specializing in South Asia. She is a post-doctoral researcher in the ERC-funded project ‘Organizing Disaster: Civil Protection and the Population’ at Goldsmiths, University of London. Zuzana obtained her PhD at the Charles University in Prague in 2009. Her thesis analyzed the relationship between gender and conflict illustrated by the case of Tamil women in Sri Lanka. She has worked for humanitarian and development organizations.

Title: Concrete Governance: Shelters and Legitimacy

Abstract: Disasters are tragic events in which lives are lost and property is damaged. However, catastrophic events also provide a window of opportunity for the status quo to be challenged. Social scientists researching disasters have observed that in the aftermath of disasters, struggles for legitimacy can often occur. Questions are frequently asked about the competences of leaders who failed to protect the public. Political actors mobilize quickly, giving rise to new political bodies, strengthening previously marginal actors and causing general upheaval to the tranquillity of social life. The state structures, too, recognize the potential harmful effect of disasters on legitimacy of their rule. Some states have thus decided to act and to provide the public with protection against disasters or more accurately with demonstrations that the state is ready to protect civilians. In this paper I will focus on one particular form of demonstration: the shelter. Specifically, I will compare two types of shelter: the concrete cyclone shelter and nuclear shelters and how they elaborate systems of civil protection. In my paper I will discuss two examples of this attempt at legitimacy by the state – namely the organization of the Swiss Civil Protection and the Indian Disaster Management. Drawing on anthropology and sociology of disaster, I will demonstrate how the concept of disaster and protection can be used to generate legitimacy.

Alex Jeffrey’s research Alex’s research has focused on the governance of post-conflict environments and the role of nongovernmental organizations in fostering democracy. His research has predominantly examined the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina and involved numerous periods of residential fieldwork. He is author of a number of books and articles exploring post-conflict Bosnia and political geography, including The Improvised State: Sovereignty, Performance and Agency in Dayton Bosnia (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), Political Geography: an Introduction to Space and Power (with Prof. Joe Painter, Sage, 2009) and Geographical Thought (with Prof. Anoop Nayak, Pearson, 2011). He is currently principal investigator on a two-year research project funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (RES-061-25-0479) examining the nature of public outreach programmes from the War Crimes Chamber of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is a University Lecturer in Human Geography in the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Emmanuel College.

Title: Cultivating Legal Legitimacy after War: What Role for Civil Society?

Abstract: This paper explores the fraught process through which legitimacy for new legal institutions is cultivated after war. The pursuit of transitional justice has always existed at the tense interface between the desire for humanitarian law and the imperatives of state-building. This tension is exhibited in present Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), where attempts to establish a state court in the early 2000s proved politically divisive in both domestic and international arenas. The establishment of the State Court of BiH in 2006 therefore also involved a process of ‘public outreach’, whereby court officials sought to convince victims, witnesses and veterans of the integrity and value of the legal process. These initiatives sought to enrol civil society actors in the process of transitional justice, by envisaging these organisations as an interface between the Bosnian public and the legal process. This paper draws on twelve months of residential fieldwork in BiH to examine the political and legal effects of these attempts to perform legitimacy in a fragmented political context.

Bart Klem teaches Political Geography at the University of Zurich (Switzerland). He recently completed his PhD entitled “In the wake of war: The political geography of transition in eastern Sri Lanka”. He has published on patterns of rule, political performance and elections and the religion-politics nexus in war-torn areas, Sri Lanka in particular. Alongside his academic work, he is engaged in policy-oriented research in the field of development and conflict. Most recently he co-authored the evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka.

Abstract: with Sarah Byrne, see above.

Åshild Kolås is a Research Professor at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) with a PhD in Social Anthropology. Based on fieldwork in Tibet, Inner Mongolia and India, Kolås has authored numerous articles on ethno-nationalism, minority politics, governance and conflict, and two monographs on Tibetan cultural identity. Her current work is on ethnic insurgency, conflict management and peacebuilding in Northeast India, with a focus on the hill areas of Assam.

Title: Legitimacy, militancy and sovereignty contestations in Northeast India

Abstract: This paper investigates legitimacy contestations between non-state militants in Northeast India and the Indian government. Northeast India has a long history of armed insurgency, starting in the 1950s. In the region’s ‘disturbed areas’, security forces are authorized by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (1958) to fire on suspects ‘even to the causing of death’, and enter, search and arrest without a warrant. These areas are simultaneously set legally apart from the rest of India and kept under perpetual emergency rule, creating a significant legitimacy problem for the government. This gives space for the rival claims of non-state actors, related to two basic dimensions of statehood, namely political representation and monopoly of violence. The ‘exceptional’ is important to both dimensions. As regards political representation, mechanisms to exclude and ‘protect’ the hill areas were first enacted in 1935 provisions for Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas, and continued in independent India with the adoption of the Sixth Schedule of the constitution, establishing autonomous district councils with extensive powers of legislation and justice, collection of revenue and taxes, and issuance of leases for mineral extraction. This triggered further demands for ethnic homelands, and the legitimacy of both militants and politicians thus rests largely on their ability to represent the demands of their tribe for self-rule, which also gives them the ‘right’ to tax local communities. As regards the monopoly of violence, non-state actors have consciously constructed their ‘armies’ to both mirror and contest state forces as they justify their use of violence. Importantly, authorities also treat insurgent armies as ‘exceptional’ militaries, thereby reinforcing their legitimacy. When an armed group enters into a ceasefire with the government, the group is hence allowed to build designated camps where militants can continue to train in uniform, and perform annual ‘Raising Day’ ceremonies to reproduce their legitimacy.

Peter Bille Larsen is a social anthropologist and policy analyst specialized in questions of social equity, natural resource management and sustainable development. He has undertaken fieldwork in Viet Nam, Peru as well as followed international policy processes. For the past few years, he has combined research and teaching with consultancies for NGOs and multilateral agencies. Lecturer at the Department of Anthropology in Lucerne, he is currently a visiting fellow at the ODID, University of Oxford.

Title: Extractive industries, statehood and legitimacy building at the frontier: evidence from the Peruvian Amazon

Abstract: Governments in so-called fragile, weak or transitional states or are not the only legitimacy seeking and producing actors in a broader field of contested governance dynamics. This paper explores the utility of thinking about resource frontier zones as anomolous geopolitical spaces generating a distinct set of “legitimacy“ questions both locally and nationally. Whereas international sustainable development discourse increasingly secures private sector a legitimate place around the table in achieving “sustainable development“, the presence of extractive industries as oil, gas and mining operations remain highly contested in specific exploration and extraction sites. This contested nature is, however, not only generating profound legitimacy dynamics locally, but remains central to wider statehood and governance dynamics. Both corporate and state actors, in turn, engage in legitimacy building around the extraction governance nexus. This paper based on ethnographic fieldwork from the Peruvian Amazon explores different enactments, claims and modalities of legitimacy building. Assessing both the sources and practices of legitimacy building by extractive industries and state actors, the paper seeks to engage anthropological theory.

Fiona McConnell is a Junior Research fellow in Geography at Trinity College, University of Cambridge and, from March 2013 will be a Lecturer in Human Geography at Newcastle University. Her research engages with political geography around issues of sovereignty, state practices and the (re)pluralising of political space. She has particular interest in the everyday construction of statehood and sovereignty in cases of tenuous territoriality and her recent focus has been on exile politics and the Tibetan community in India. She has published on issues including exile elections and democracy, citizenship and refugeehood and practices of governmentality, and has on-going projects around geographies of peace, the rehearsal of statehood, non-state diplomacy, and the construction of legitimacy.

Title: ‘Constructing legitimacy, contesting futures: the governance practices of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile’

Abstract: This paper examines a case where legitimacy is claimed and constructed in a situation where international recognition and legality has been denied. The Tibetan Government-in-Exile (TGiE), based in India since 1959, is a polity which, whilst failing meet the legal criteria for statehood, nevertheless enacts a number of state-like functions and is perceived by its ‘citizens’ as their legitimate government. In sketching out the political discourses, practices and materialities through which legitimacy is constructed and negotiated in this case, this paper explores how the unrecognised Tibetan administration creates the conditions in which ‘its’ population has a special political obligation to obey the polity’s rules. Central to this are both the idea of future planning and the institutionalisation of political leadership. First, with the split mandate of continuing the struggle for the homeland and dealing with the immediate needs of a refugee community, exile polities have a very particular sense of political temporality. This talk outlines this active state-in-waiting; a set of institutions, practices and actors through which this exiled community is asserting political legitimacy. Second, this paper will examine the centrality of exile Tibetan leadership strategies to the maintenance of legitimacy, both in terms of the role of the democratically elected Prime Minister (Sikyong) and contestations over the current Dalai Lama’s future reincarnation.

Alessandro Monsutti is Associate Professor at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, where he teaches anthropology, Middle East studies, migration studies and methods in the social sciences. He is also Research Associate at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford. He has been Researcher and Lecturer at Yale University (2008-2010). He has carried out several fieldworks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran since 1993, and more recently in the Western countries among Afghan refugees and migrants thanks to a grant of the MacArthur Foundation (Chicago, 2004-2006). He is the author of “War and migration: social networks and economic strategies of the Hazaras of Afghanistan” (Routledge, 2005).

Title: Fuzzy Sovereignty and Transnational Governmentality in Afghanistan

Abstract: The paper contributes to the study of new forms of transnational power constituted by the action of international and nongovernmental organizations, to which gravitate loose networks of activists variously promoting democracy, human rights, the empowerment of women, and environmental conservation. The paper’s focus is impacts that the massive reconstruction effort is having on Afghan society, through a case study of The National Solidarity Program (NSP), the main project of rural rehabilitation underway in the country. Launched in 2003, its objective is to bring development funds directly to rural people and to establish democratically elected local councils that will identify needs, and plan and manage the reconstruction. The NSP illustrates how reconstruction funds are an integral part of Afghanistan’s social and political landscape. My arguments are four-fold: First, it subtly modifies participants’ body gestures and codes of conduct. Second, the program’s fundamental assumptions are at odds with the complex social fabric and the overlapping sources of solidarity and conflict that characterize rural Afghanistan. Third, the ways in which political actors use material and symbolic resources channeled through the NSP mirror national struggles for power. Finally, such programs are one element in a much larger conceptual and bureaucratic apparatus that promotes new forms of transnational governmentality; they coexist with and sometimes challenge the more familiar, territorialized expressions of state sovereignty and legitimacy.

Scott Pegg is Associate Professor in Political Science at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis where he is also department chair. His current research interests focus on de facto states, the human rights and security implications of transnational corporations and the resource curse. He is the author of International Society and the De Facto State (Ashgate, 1998) and the co-editor of Transnational Corporations and Human Rights (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003). Scott has published journal articles in African Affairs, International Studies Perspectives, Journal of Cleaner Production, Naval War College Review, PS: Political Science and Politics, Resources Policy, Security Dialogue, Third World Quarterly, and The Washington Quarterly, and he is also the author of the non-governmental organization report ‘Poverty Reduction or Poverty Exacerbation? World Bank Group Funding for Extractive Industries in Africa.’

Title: Survival without Recognition? Somaliland and the Long-Term Viability of Indeterminate Status

Abstract: The Republic of Somaliland’s de facto sovereignty remains entirely unrecognized by the international community. This is surprising given the strength of Somaliland’s separate colonial territorial claim, its previous (albeit brief) independent statehood, its significant democratic accomplishments and the persistent failure of its juridical parent state Somalia. There is a widespread expectation in the scholarly literature on de facto states that these entities are fleeting or transient phenomena destined for military eradication or peaceful reintegration. In the case of Somaliland, this expectation is strengthened because unlike other de facto states such as Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Northern Cyprus, the Hargeisa government is not protected by an external patron. Yet, paradoxically, the absence of an external patron has facilitated domestic legitimacy by enabling Somaliland to develop a mix of traditional and democratic institutions suitable for its own people – in sharp contrast to the externally-supported and internationally-recognized parent state from which it seceded. This paper argues that given the interests of outside actors, the daunting obstacles that stand in the way of constructing a viable state in Somalia, the active engagement of a transnational diaspora and its own internal achievements, the safest prediction for Somaliland is an extended period of continued ambiguous de facto statehood. Somaliland and other de facto states may thus unintentionally be fulfilling Hedley Bull’s (1977) prediction that “the disintegration of states would be theoretically important only if it were to remain transfixed in an intermediate state.” It is thus essential to consider various forms of accommodation short of juridical recognition which can better facilitate Somaliland’s integration into the international community, preserve the tangible gains it has made toward providing security and democracy for its citizens and improve its prospects for economic development.

Glen Rangwala is a lecturer in politics at Cambridge University and a fellow of Trinity College Cambridge. His main research interests are in the contemporary politics of the Levant and the northern Gulf. He is the co-author (with Eric Herring) of Iraq in Fragments: The Occupation and its Legacy (London and Ithaca: Hurst and Cornell University Press, 2006).

Title: The creation of governments-in-waiting: the Arab Uprisings and legitimacy in the international system

Abstract: The Arab Uprisings of 2011-12 have seen the formation of new governments that were created through processes of international brokerage, to varying extents. In the cases of Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, these governments were formed as an outcome of the displacement of segments of an old political order. In Libya and Syria, however, they were established during, and partly as a means to achieve, that displacement through armed conflict. It is these types of cases that will be examined in this paper, where the move by major powers to shift recognition to transitional or interim administrations forms part of the process of delegitimising a national political system that still, at least in part, exists.

This paper will look in detail at the multi-site formation of these ‘governments-in-waiting’, as they seek to bridge the gap between the diaspora and the resident, between the long established parties of exile and the local military commanders. The process of formation also acts as channel through which external authorities seek – not always successfully – to act as dispensers of legitimation, and thus arbiters of rightful inclusion within structures of government. It will explore how the act of legitimation translates into changing modes of governance in ‘liberated’ areas, its role in facilitating and managing processes of civil and military defection, and, in the case of Libya, the consequences of prior formation for the establishment of full governments once the ancien régime has been finally overthrown.

James Roslington’s research concerns international history and law in the twentieth century. His doctoral research has focussed on a colonial war in North Africa as a particular historical ‘moment’ to capture ideas of law, civilisation and empire in flux in the years following the First World War.

Title: Unrecognised states in the interwar world

Abstract: The years between the world wars are privileged terrain for the study of state recognition. The collapse of four empires – the German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires – and the spread of ideas of self-determination encouraged an unprecedented wave of state creation. This paper concentrates on the states which never achieved international recognition between 1918 and 1939. Generally neglected or derided in subsequent accounts, they nevertheless are revealing of the historical structures and processes underlying the legitimisation of sovereignty.

The process of state recognition, formulated in international law and often decided in European courts and assemblies, has often been represented as a Western-centred process. However, this paper argues that the agency of regional players in managing the production of sovereignty in the non-Western world has been consistently under-rated. Non-Western elites not only acquiesced in the suppression of alternative nationalist visions; they often led campaigns to prevent the recognition of new states. This occurred outside the formal framework of empire, with Turkey and Russia actively repressing new nationalist movements in their regional spheres; but also within colonial empires, where local elites fought hard to preserve their political power, as occurred in Iraq and Morocco. This paper argues that historical, as well as contemporary, state recognition needs to be understood as a dynamic of negotiation and resistance involving multiple parties, rather than as the product of a diktat imposed by a unitary international system.

Olga Sicilia is a PhD candidate at the University of Vienna (Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology). Her field of research covers: politico-religious practices, structures, and networks within the ritual mhondoro system amongst communities in the north-eastern Dande Communal Land (Zambezi Valley, Zimbabwe).

Title: Crisis of legitimacy? Chiefs, lineage politics and local government authorities in Northern Zimbabwe

Abstract: A long-running chief succession dispute and final appointment will serve as a case study to examine how legitimacy is construed in the context of lineage ancestral politics in the mid-Zambezi Valley versus local government policies and practices. Based on field research carried out from early 2005 to June 2006, and on Parliamentary speeches, press releases and reports to the present day, the purpose of this paper is twofold. First, to discuss how claims to chiefly successions are “traditionally” legitimized and contested today in Northern Zimbabwe; and, second, to show concrete extra-legislative strategies of delegitimation exerted by the rural local government (mainly District Administration) regarding the final election and appointment of a new chief. This case study, which will be historically contextualized, should illustrate something of the articulation and entanglement of legislative and ritual practices which characterize the complexity of chiefly disputes and appointments within Zimbabwe’s system of governance today.

Constitutionally, chieftainship successions and appointments remain in an ambiguous field of power relations constrained between state, party (and partisan) politics and administration on the one hand, and “traditional” procedures on the other. Therefore, a chief election legitimized by the traditional leadership is not necessarily sanctioned at the administrative level. In this respect, the definitive appointment of chiefs is in the control of Rural District Councils that, in their turn, are heavily dependent – politically, but also economically – on the central government.

Finally, this paper will consider the current Zimbabwe constitutional reform process and comment on the draft Constitution (COPAC Draft) in aspects concerning traditional leaders, the inclusion of chiefs in the Senate, and the functions of chiefs as senators and its implications.

Gyda Marås Sindre is a post-doctoral fellow at the Department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen. Her research focuses on radical social movements and rebel groups, peacebuilding and democratization with a geographical focus on South and Southeast Asia. She has carried out fieldwork in Indonesia and Sri Lanka. She has published on themes concerning post-tsunami reconstruction in Aceh and Sri Lanka, the transformation of GAM, and on local democracy in Indonesia.

Title: Insurgency transformed: Building legitimacy in the democratic era. The case of the Free Aceh Movement

Abstract: How do separatist insurgencies build legitimacy for their claims in the democratic era? In 2005, seven years after Indonesia’s transition to democracy, the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) gave up their thirty year long separatist struggle for an independent state in Indonesia’s Aceh-province in order to transform into a political party that could run for local elections. The electoral platform was to move the struggle into the political arena, emphasizing the need for peaceful relations with Jakarta. Since then, the rebel group has won three elections in 2006, 2008, and recently in 2012. This paper asks the question of how the sources of legitimacy were transformed after the introduction of democracy in Indonesia in 1998. How did this institutional shift towards democracy contribute to the remarkable transformation of separatist claims to statehood? Conventional democracy theory predicts that armed groups will de-radicalize and adapt to mainstream politics as a result of democratic institutions being implemented. Using the case of GAM as a point of departure, this paper argues that this theoretical prediction fails to acknowledge the following; (1) the centrality of popular legitimacy in shaping armed groups’ political strategy and (2) the effect of popular legitimacy on transforming armed groups into political movements, especially in the context of international peace processes. It shows that in Aceh, the opening up of political space provided an unprecedented opportunity for mobilization and alliance building across civil society, which ultimately shifted the parameters of the struggle. Representation became a core element of GAM’s claim to legitimacy. Furthermore, the paper shows that as a consequence of that claim for representation, the GAM leadership could shape the content and after 2006 the workings of local democratic institutions in Aceh. Through focusing on the political strategy and narrative of GAM-leaders, commanders and combatants the paper encourages a turn towards an empirical (de facto) approach to the study of legitimacy as opposed to the normative or legal approaches, which has dominated the field in recent years. The paper builds on in-depth interviews with more than fifty GAM leaders, commanders and combatants during the period 2006-2008.

Alice Wilson is a social anthropologist, with research interests in the political and economic anthropology of North Africa and the Middle East. Her work concerns statehood, tribes and sovereignty, specifically in the case of the government-in-exile of Western Sahara’s liberation movement. Examining revolutionary social change, legal reform, democratization, and economic entwinements of aid and informal trade, she has explored insights into statehood and sovereignty brought to light by the changing significance of tribes in the attempts of Western Sahara’s liberation movement to build a state-like government. Alice is a post-doctoral research fellow at Homerton College, University of Cambridge.

Title: Dilemmas of redistribution and legitimacy in an aid-dependent government-in-exile

Abstract: Redistribution is an important means through which governing authorities seek to legitimise their claims to govern. For tax-dependent polities, this entails extracting from the governed population and redistributing resources. For rentier states, this entails charging external actors for access to resources, and redistributing the income generated. This paper explores how a governing authority which fits neither of these models has approached the challenges and opportunities of producing and consolidating legitimate government through resource redistribution. Western Sahara’s liberation movement has founded a government-in-exile which is heavily dependent on international aid redistributed to its refugee population. This population, perceiving itself and perceived to be dispossessed, is untaxable in the conventional sense, and the government-in-exile is dependent on external resources to survive. Through an examination of redistribution patterns over nearly four decades of exile, the paper suggests that, despite its unusual situation, the government-in-exile’s redistribution strategies are not alien to those of other governing authorities. Rather, they bring to the fore the fine line, faced by governing authorities, and which lies at the heart of the legitimation of government, of balancing consent and coercion.


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