Borders in dispute - PhD defense Cris Boonen
Who draws new borders? How do diplomats deal with instable borders and shifts in sovereignty? The Leiden political scientist Cris Boonen has studied these issues in her PhD thesis 'Borders in Dispute: The Construction of State and Nation in International Diplomacy', which she defended successfully on 2 December 2015 at Leiden University. During her research, Boonen was affiliated with the Profile Area Political Legitimacy.
New states seldom have new borders. The outcome of international negotiations is typically to maintain existing international borders and to follow administrative borders in demarcating the new international borders in line with the uti possidetis principle. These existing boundaries however prove rather volatile international borders. This begs the question: How are borders drawn? More specifically, how do diplomatic actors manage the implications of changes in state sovereignty for international borders?
This study builds an analysis on a genealogy and sociological analysis of international negotiations concerning the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1995. It shows that practices are socially constructed on the basis of shared opinions and largely unquestioned beliefs that are instilled in (groups of ) negotiators who gain influence in the practice of boundary politics. While professionals in diplomacy tend to act on the basis of a fear of disturbance of international order by nationalism and state dissolution, public and military influences in diplomacy regularly introduce practices to prevent outbreaks of crises between entitled or antagonistic communities. Boundary maintenance is the response to the fear of professionals in diplomacy. This fear – whether realistic or not – has prevailed in the practice of boundary politics since conflict broke out after the territorial division of India in the early 1950s and stability followed the recognition of the African states’ independence in accordance with their colonial maps.
For a full version of Cris Boonen's PhD thesis, 'Borders in dispute : the construction of state and nation in international diplomacy', click here (open access).