Paper and Panel at ISA 2013

Next week, Thursday, April 4 at 1:45 pm, I will be speaking on a panel at the upcoming International Studies Association conference in San Francisco. The panel, entitled “Defending the Homeland: Territory & National Identity,” will explore the idea of homeland as a political, social, and cultural construct and how the definition of such a space impacts state territorial policies.

I am very excited to be joined by six esteemed colleagues from a diverse range of backgrounds, methodologies, and theoretical approaches. After the jump, you can find our panel abstract as well as my own paper abstract. For those of my colleagues, log on to the myISA system and check the annual conference program, or send me an email. Hope to see you in San Francisco!

Panel: Defending the Homeland: Territory & National Identity

Few facets of contemporary nationalism are more recognizable than the commitment of its adherents to the defense of national homeland. Deeply embedded in almost every nationalist movement is the belief that the political community it professes to represent is uniquely indigenous to the land in question and therefore entitled to its control. Such sanctification of homeland is actively fostered in democracies and autocracies alike not simply as a sovereign prerogative of statehood but a constitutive value of national identity. The place of homeland in collective national imagination and the political claims that accompany them, however, are poorly understood in existing nationalism literature. Even as scholars have gone to great lengths to explore the origins and political consequences of nationalism and nationhood, they have often taken homeland itself as an uncritical and often undefined given. This panel examines the meaning and political implications of homeland from a variety of methodological and theoretical perspectives. Papers explore the construction and popular mobilizational power of homeland in nationalist discourse as well as how homeland territorial claims contribute to the protraction and resolution of international territorial conflict.


  • Ron Hassner, Discussant
  • Filip Ejdus & Jelena Subotic: Kosovo as Serbia’s sacred space: Governmentality, pastoral power and sacralization of territories
  • Olivier Henripin: The Homeland as a Strategic Social Construction: Comparing Chinese Policy toward Tibet and Mongolia after 1949
  • Stuart Kaufman: Territory, Identity, and Civil War in Sudan
  • Nadav Shelef: Homelands, Partitions, and Conflict
  • Ariel Zellman: From Indivisibility to Partition? Kosovo & Jerusalem as Contested Homeland Territories

Paper Abstract: From Indivisibility to Partition? Kosovo & Jerusalem as Contested Homeland Territories

This paper examines why protracted international disputes over seemingly indivisible territories may become the subject of popular domestic discourse that selectively favors partition. External political coercion can incentivize critical reexamination of once sacrosanct homeland narratives. Yet in Israel, increased willingness to compromise over peripheral Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem since the 1993 Oslo Accords has been coupled with an intensification of claims to critical religious and historical sites, namely the Temple Mount and surrounding Holy Basin. In Serbia, the loss of any effective sovereignty over Kosovo since 1999 and increased deference to European policing and Kosovo Albanian administration have been accompanied by stronger demands for Kosovo Serb self-determination and extraterritorial control of Serb heritage sites. Even as substantial pressures to resolve these conflicts may catalyze a broadening of domestic legitimacy for territorial concessions, they appear to augment the indivisibility of particular spaces within these territories. I argue that this outcome can be traced to the content of popular narratives that define the territorial scope and character of the national homeland. Only by comprehending the content of these narratives and the depth of popular engagement with them can these outcomes be fully explained.

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