Dr Maja Spanu, University of Cambridge/ Visiting Scholar, POLSIS, UQ

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Abstract:

Whereas International Relations scholars and international lawyers have conceived self-determination serving to constitute an egalitarian post-imperial international system via the principle of sovereign equality, Dr Spanu argues that self-determination is in fact bound up with hierarchy. Her paper reveals the existence of a tension between the egalitarian aspiration of self-determination and practices attached to its realisation that create stratifications between older and newer states as well as within the latter. The tension plays out around what Dr Spanu considers are the three historical components relating to self-determination practices: people, rights and responsibilities. While these components have been recurrent, the principles of stratification attached to them have changed over time. These are specific standards of membership in the international system of states as well as post-imperial politics of state-formation undertaken domestically. Dr Spanu substantiates these points by examining the three twentieth century waves of state formation after empire: after World War I, during the post-World War II decolonisation, and with the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Greater attention to the ambivalent history of self-determination coheres with recent interest in the study of hierarchy in world politics whilst speaking to literatures on the making of the international system and on state-formation.

This paper and presentation will be based on current work on Dr Spanu's book project.

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