ISA Paper Abstract: Ethnic Violence, International Norms, and Federalism

While I am still struggling to get caught up with pressing assignments, namely my second year paper, I am simultaneously preparing for the International Studies Association’s annual convention, held this year in San Francisco

Below I have provided my abstract for the paper I will be presenting at 10:30 am in Panel FB 36 on Friday, March 28.  Feel free to stop in and give me lots of constructive criticism!

Ethnic Violence, International Norms, and Federalism: Domestic Problems and International Solutions

Ariel D. Zellman, M.A.
For Presentation at the International Studies Association 49th Annual Convention
Panel FB 36: Failed States and International Security
San Francisco, CA: March 26-29, 2008


Federalism, as a political system of shared sovereignty and divided autonomy between a central government and territorially defined constituent units, is often proposed as an institutional basis for political reconstruction in countries emerging from violent intrastate ethnic conflict. While the origins of federalism in each case do not entirely determine performative outcomes, it does seem likely that the conditions under which federalism is selected will have some explanatory influence on its persistence. It is the contention of this paper that while the literature has explored and developed in great detail the functions of federalism and the domestic political origins of its institutions, it has largely neglected the analysis of international factors conditioning its selection.

Accounting for these pressures is important not only because domestically negotiated institutional arrangements have been found to persist and perform better on the whole than those which are externally imposed, but because the external environment may actually constrain the range of policy options open to political actors forcing them to select potentially suboptimal governing structures that fail to address root causes of domestic conflict. With a focus on Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, and Sudan, this paper finds that although factors such as ethnic demography, territorial distribution of populations, and the on-the-ground political realities post-conflict make federalism a seemingly logical point for negotiation, it is international norms regarding human rights and state territorial integrity coupled with the depth of international involvement in the particular conflict which pushes other options off the table.


One Response to ISA Paper Abstract: Ethnic Violence, International Norms, and Federalism

  1. […] no one in the room would have batted an eyelid.  Lesson learned: either don’t change the topic of the paper you are presenting or switch panels if you are feeling so fickle.  […]

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