AS AN INTERNATIONAL PHENOMENON
ABSTRACTS of PAPERS
- Armitage, David (Harvard University, USA, History) “Secession and Civil War” This paper considers the historical and conceptual relationship between secession and civil war. If seen from the perspective of American history, that relationship appears disarmingly straightforward: civil war was the direct result of secession, and the relationship was therefore both causal and sequential. A wider perspective shows immediately that secession only rarely leads to civil war and that relatively few civil wars have been the product of secession. However, both secession and civil war have been transformed in the last three centuries by the emergence of a global order of territorial sovereign states and represent two of the main options for winning statehood. As the political scientist David Fearon recently asked, “How do you get a state? Either by winning control of an already established state or by establishing a new one.” The paper treats these two options in tandem by taking the American Revolution and the Civil War as its main examples. The result is a fundamental paradox, of relevance to these and other conflicts: if secession represents the attempt to create a new state, then how can any conflict it inspires be a "civil" war? This problem was faced by both sides in the American Revolution and led to deep conceptual confusion in the Civil War, a confusion that still informs international law and International Relations theory.
- Aughey, Arthur (University of Ulster, UK, Politics and International Studies) “‘For we are the people of England, that never have spoken yet’: Do They Now Speak and Speak of Secession?” The separatist idea in contemporary England is a mood and not a movement but it is a mood that is deepening. This paper identifies the complexity of English nationalism and the potential for English secession from the United Kingdom. The paper is structured in two parts and proceeds by way of inversion. The first part establishes the framework of constitutional argument within which nationalism expresses its grievances and anxieties through summary examination of a classic text on 19th century British constitutionalism, AV Dicey’s England’s Case against Home Rule (1886). The second part explores the contemporary, but logical, inversion of Dicey’s propositions into England’s own case for Home Rule. This case for English self-government does not necessarily mean secession but involves secession as a strong possibility. The paper concludes with a brief assessment of the strengths – but also the serious limits - of the politics of English separatism.
- Bonner, Robert (Dartmouth College, USA, History) “Proslavery Geopolitics and the Process of Southern Separatism, 1780-1860” By the time Abraham Lincoln won the presidency in 1860, slaveholders had been calculating the value of the federal Union for a full eighty years. Across most of this chronological span, the “compound republic” framed in 1787 a great success, appreciating its role in insulating bound labor from emancipationist forces operating from Caribbean sugar plantations to the eastern European countryside. My paper offers an in-depth analysis of two episodes prior to the Civil War when proslavery Unionism was subjected to scrutiny, when the government of the United States was identified as the primary threat to the Southern master class, and when the alternative of a more perfectly proslavery republic was openly ventured. The disunionist ultimatums set forth by South Carolinian Thomas Cooper in 1827 and by the Virginian Muscoe Garnett in 1850 shared the same constitutional premises, yet these differed still more significantly in their basic intent and in their ultimate objectives. Addressing divergences as well as similarities in these two key “fire-eating” appeals suggests the deep history of the slave South’s separatist impulse and allows for a better understanding of why this process culminated as it did over the winter of 1860-1861. In keeping with themes of the conference, the paper will devote particular attention to the international dimensions of proslavery geopolitics and to the territorial (in contradistinction to the cultural, economic, or constitutional) dimensions of proslavery secessionism.
- Coggins, Bridget (Dartmouth College, USA, Government) “The State of Secession and the Secessionist State” International law firmly establishes the legal basis for State membership. Yet existing states routinely flout its requirements when granting sovereign legitimacy to secessionists. This paper explores the reasons behind state disobedience and posits an alternative, political explanation for recognition. Secession is rarely successful. But when it is, it is more likely due to the interests of powerful states than it is effective sovereignty on the ground. If this challenge to the presumptive model of statehood is correct, then we misunderstand a fundamental dynamic of the international system. Securing independent statehood may be easier or more difficult depending upon secessionists’ potential influence on existing community members. How does political recognition affect the dynamics of secessionist conflict? Does political recognition produce ineffective or unjust governments? And, would the legal standards produce a more functional or normatively more desirable set of states? Or is its influence relatively benign?
- Coppieters, Bruno (Free University of Brussels, Belgium, Political Science) “Secessionist Movements in Europe” Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria, Scotland, the Basque Country, Flanders, Kosovo, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Respublica Serbska, Flanders: these are only a few of the many territories in Europe that may be recognized as independent states in a not too distant future. Some of the nationalist movements leading the process of secession construct a state identity on a mainly civic understanding of the nation, whereas others make predominantly use of an ethnic or cultural type of nationalizing discourse. Some do argue for independence on the basis of mainly ‘just cause’ arguments, whereas others are arguing predominantly from a ‘choice’ approach. In some cases, the creation of these states would most likely result from a series of unilateral decisions by the secessionist entity or the central government, but in others these states would come into being as the result of a mutual agreement among the parties. Some have a reasonable chance of success to be recognized by the whole international community, whereas others may in the best case only reckon on partial recognition by a restricted number of states. A number of new states would become fully integrated into a European institutional framework, whereas others would remain at the margins of an ever enlarging European Union. These analytical distinctions allow for a better understanding of the diversity of secessionist movements and breakaway states in contemporary Europe.
- Crockatt, Richard (University of East Anglia, UK, History) “American Nationalism and the Problem of Secession: An Interpretation” This paper seeks to place the North’s resistance to Southern secession in a long historical perspective. From one vantage point – that of the American Revolution – the North’s use of force to resist the South’s rebellion and ultimately to crush it the Civil War represented the victory for a particular idea of the American nation – one in which secession was no longer a possibility or a right. The war resolved the question of what kind of nation the United States was to be. From another vantage point – that of the present – the War and its sequel, Reconstruction, represented the triumph of a certain idea of the nation which was profoundly to influence the foreign relations of the United States in subsequent years. What took place in the Civil War and Radical Reconstruction was not just an enforced answer to the question of the relations between the states and the Federal government but the forced union of thenational idea with the democratic idea as interpreted by the victors. An important legacy of the Civil War was the embedding of the association between military force and the affirmation of democracy. The paper makes the case that this period cemented the notion that democracy could be imposed by force, concluding that the dynamics of American foreign policy in the 20th and 21st centuries – and in particular the war in Iraq – owe much to the dynamics of national growth in the 18th and 19th centuries.
- Dew, Charles (Williams College, USA, History) “Lincoln, the Collapse of Southern Moderation, and the Triumph of Secession: A South Carolina Congressman’s Moment of Truth” Thousands of documents, both public and private, have survived from the antebellum era that offer insight into the secessionist mindset in South Carolina and the lower South on the eve of the Civil War. Nothing that I have read, however, is more revealing than a single letter written the day before Lincoln's election by John D. Ashmore, a moderate first-term Congressman from the South Carolina Upcountry. Ashmore's three-page reply to friend and fellow Democrat Horatio King of Washington, D.C., dated Monday, November 5, 1860, is the most compelling statement of the secessionist persuasion that I have encountered during all the years I have been trying to understand the coming of the American Civil War. Nowhere else, I believe, is the South's road to Fort Sumter laid out in such clear, dramatic, and passionate fashion. That letter, and the political journey of the man who wrote it, are the subjects of my talk.
- Grant, Susan-Mary (Newcastle University, UK, History) “‘How a Free People Conduct a Long War’: Sustaining Opposition to Secession in the American Civil War” One of the most widely-distributed Union propagandist pamphlets of the American Civil War—and the inspiration, obviously, for this paper—was Charles Janeway Stillé’s How A Free People Conduct a Long War: A Chapter from English History, published in 1862. Stillé sought to boost an already flagging Union morale by highlighting for the northern public the comparisons between the recent campaign to seize Richmond via the James Peninsula and events on a rather different Peninsula, one some three thousand miles away; the Iberian Peninsula, on which the British, under Wellington faced Napoleon in a protracted campaign lasting 1808-1814. Stillé was concerned with the depletion of Union morale by 1862, a significant factor in a war fought—as the American Civil War was—mainly by volunteer troops. The Civil War was, in several senses, a ‘people’s contest,’ as Abraham Lincoln had called it, but for the Union this meant persuading the people to keep fighting, that the nation as a single nation was worth the sacrifice, and that secession was, as Lincoln saw it, not a constitutional right but ‘the essence of anarchy.’ The northern response to this challenge, however, has taken second-place in the literature both of the Civil War in particular and nationalism more generally to an interest in the development—or not—of Southern, or Confederate nationalism; in effect, historians have been far more interested in why the South seceded, and whether by that process a separate nation was created, than in why the North sought to prevent secession since by that process a single nation was sustained. This paper offers a fresh contribution to the debate from the northern/Union perspective, and explores the multiplicity of ways that northern elites, politicians, volunteers and non-combatants responded to the challenge of sustaining the Union war effort between 1861 and 1865. Historian Michael O’Brien argues that Romanticism, which rejected Enlightenment rationalism’s efficiency, progress, and uniformity in favor of heroics, anachronism, and community, influenced Americans’ sectional discussion of a backward South and an advanced North. His findings resonate with scholarship on nineteenth-century nationalism that demonstrates how ethnic definitions of the nation, which reinforced Romanticism’s glorification of local traditions, pushed aside the liberal, natural-rights creeds forged in the American and French Revolutions.
- Kubicek, Paul (Oakland University, USA, Political Science) “Secession and National Unity in Ukraine and Moldova: Lessons Learned from Secessionist Movements That Were and Those That Weren’t” In the past quarter century, the Soviet Union and its successor states have witnessed more secessionism than any other part of the world. Some secessionist movements have succeeded. Others failed or, despite some favorable conditions, never really materialized. This paper examines conditions that help foster or inhibit secessionism by looking both at the general experience of the region and in more detail at cases of actual and unrealized secessionist movements in Ukraine and Moldova.
- McDonnell, Lawrence T. (Erskine College, USA, History) “Secession as Cultural Revolution: Political Dynamics of Disunion in Charleston, South Carolina” After a century and a half of research, Southern historians have little idea how secession was actually achieved—what motivated ordinary men and women who flocked to the cause of disunion at the local level. Focusing on Charleston, South Carolina, this paper considers the apparently unfocused and leaderless character of separatism in the streets in the autumn of 1860. Comparing the experience of Minute Men and other militants with that of Maoist Red Guards, it argues that the southern movement was, first and last, a cultural revolution. Intended to root out internal dissent and overcome local political disunity, it slid over into secession and independence almost by accident—and to the consternation of many. Shouting for a Southern Confederacy was de rigeur, but how disastrous when all began to shout together!
- Mohr, Thomas (University College Dublin, Ireland, Law) “Two Forms of Secession: The Irish Experience” This paper will examine the processes of secession that led to the birth of the modern Irish state. The creation of a sovereign state in the south of the island of Ireland was unusual in that it actually involved two separate processes of secession. The first concerned the process of secession from the United Kingdom from 1919 to 1921. The second was the gradual secession of the entity known as the ‘Irish Free State’ from a limited form of sovereignty within the wider context of the British Empire. The first period represents an example of secession by means of armed conflict while the second offers an example of secession by gradual evolutionary means. The Irish experience is unusual in international terms in that it allows both means of secession to be compared in the context of a single country. This paper will attempt to contrast perceptions of secession by these varying means in a number of different disciplines. In particular, this paper will examine the impact of these different forms of seccession in the context of Irish history, law and popular culture.
- Moore, Margaret R., (Queens University, Canada, Political Studies) “Territorial Disputes, Justice and Collective Self-determination” This essay is a normative examination of the issue of rights over territory in the context of secession. Specifically, it focuses on cases of secession where control over territory has serious distributive justice implications, typically because territories are differentially endowed and some territories are much richer in natural resources than others. In order to accomplish this, I examine the basis for territorial rights and its relationship to arguments for self-determination. In Part I, I argue that territorial right is implicit in the contemporary organization of states, so that jurisdictional control over territories is assumed as part of the exercise of collective self-government. It is not uniquely problematic for would-be seceding groups, in the sense that the scenario envisioned (where territorial right leads to unfair division of resources) is typical of the contemporary global order. In Part 2, I focus on what constitutes a fair share of resources, and whether this operates as a constraint on self-determination (either by units that are already self-governing or aspirant self-governing (secessionist) units). At the end of this section, I suggest that there is some entitlement to a share of natural resources, both globally and in cases of secession, but I argue that this cannot take an equalizing form, and it does not tell us why these considerations should apply only to cases of secession. In Part 3, I focus on the distinct normative issues raised by secession. In particular, I argue that there are additional reasons why a seceding unit might have obligations to the remainder unit, but these are contextually specific, and may not apply. I will suggest the normative basis for each of these principles, and identify cases where there are and are not such (special) obligations. This discussion brings together two distinct sets of debates that are not typically examined together: (1) The first is a debate, or series of debates, in the ethics of secession, concerning how we should reason about richly endowed parts of states seceding and leaving a much less well endowed remainder unit. (2) A second set of debates is on the justifiability of territorial right in the first place, and this discussion has mainly taken place within a set of literature focused on the issue of global justice. Typically, in this context, it is thought to be difficult to justify territorial rights, because they are a significant source of (undeserved) advantage. This discussion allows me to distinguish the general problem of unequal natural resources from the particular issue as it applies to secession. In the third section of the paper, I argue that secession raises particular issues which are not raised within the global justice framework. In this section, I appeal to (1) reciprocity and (2) legitimate expectation arguments to suggest cases where the over-holding state has some claim to the natural resources of the seceding state.
- Njoku, Raphael (University of Louisville, USA, History) “Separatism, Nationalism and the Neoliberal Globalism: A Review of Africa and the Quest for Self-Determination since the 1950s” The experiences of ethnonationalism and separatist movements in Africa since the period of decolonization deserve closer scrutiny in order to interpret them in light of the emergent neoliberal world system. The enormous threat posed by this phenomenon to the contemporary state system raises a fundamental question as to under what condition(s) can a group secede from the postcolonial state with the aim to establish its own self-governing entity. Situating this debate within the context of neoliberal globalism and the nature of sociopolitical and economic order it projects will not only provide an understanding on the legality of secessionist movements in Africa but it will also offer an insight on decolonization as one of the most revealing outcomes of globalization. The anti colonial movements of the 1950s were more than mere reactionary impulses to decades of imperial domination. The early secessionist wars in postcolonial Africa were rude awakenings to the exertions of neoliberalism. The resilience of these agitations further confirm that decolonization and globalization are partners in the search for enabling sociopolitical and economic structures that best guarantee basic human rights, freedom of association and movement and equal access to existing opportunities. These values are disparate to the imperial culture of domination, coercion, and exploitation which has engendered a dysfunctional political culture of nation building through centralization and homogenization in contemporary Africa. The postcolonial state founded on this imperial fault lines will continue to be troubled by separatist agitations unless the meaning of sovereignty is critically reexamined in light of the idioms of the time.
- Pavković, Aleksandar (Macquarie University, Australia, Politics; University of Macau, Government) “Secession and Violence: A Comparative Study of Four Secessionist conflicts (Biafra, Slovenia, Chechnya, Kosovo)” The attempts at secession of Biafra, Chechnya, Kosovo and Slovenia were characterized by large-scale military operations in which the superior military forces of the host state defeated or neutralized the secessionist military. The first three conflicts resulted also in a large number of civilian deaths as well as large scale forced eviction of civilians. The paper discusses the following two questions: Apart from denying the secessionist military control of the territory, what were the host states aiming to achieve by deploying their military forces against the secessionist forces? How, if at all, can their military operations be morally justified or excused? But a universal humanist framework, in which human life is a paramount value, offers little if any justification for any use of lethal force (i.e. killing), either by the host state or the secessionist authorities, in order to gain or maintain control over a territory. If so, how can one justify, within this kind of moral framework, the secessionist use of lethal force which aims to deny the host state control over the contested territory? Do we, in order to justify the latter, have to abandon a universal humanist framework?
- Pimenta, João Paulo (University of São Paulo, Brazil, History) “From Banda Oriental to Republic of Uruguay (1810-1828): the Idea of ‘Secession’” This paper aims to discuss the history of the region known as “Banda Oriental” amidst the crisis and dissolution of the Portuguese and Spanish Empires in South America. It focuses on the validity of the idea of ‘secession’ as an explanatory key for the movements that redefined collective identities and the formation of political and national communities in the region. The pertinence of such a proposal lays in the fact that this historical process joined closely together different elements brought by a plurality of agents and social communities, in a sense that it might help understand not only the dynamics of the specific process being analyzed, but also the historicity of national structures.
- Phillips, Steven (Towson University, USA, History) “The Taiwanese Secessionists Struggle with International Legitimacy” Hostility across the Taiwan Strait is no longer the result of Cold War rivalries between Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists and Mao Zedong’s Communists. Instead, a Taiwan Independence Movement (TIM) threatens the One China policy demanded by the mainland and accepted by most other countries. The TIM grew in the 1950s among émigrés who lived in Japan and the United States. These activists appealed to American values of constitutionalism and self-determination out of sincere belief and more cynical self-interest. The efforts of prominent first generation TIM activists, including Liao Wenyi, illustrated a dilemma of secessionist or nationalist movements: Outside support, particularly from the United States, was seen as vital for success. Even the request for such assistance, however, was portrayed by those opposed to the TIM as proof that the movement was a tool of imperialists, thus making TIM part of a Chinese narrative of nationalist humiliation at the hands of Europeans, Americans, and Japanese. Despite their Cold War rivalry, the Nationalists and Communists took almost identical approaches to the movement, and created a legitimacy problem for the TIM that exists even today.
- Quigley, Paul (University of Edinburgh, UK, History) “Secessionists in an Age of Secession: The Slave South in Transatlantic Perspective” Secessionists in the American South sought support wherever they could find it. Thus they likened their own movement to nineteenth-century Europe nationalism—not the unifying nationalism of Germany or Italy, but the separatist nationalism of Hungary or Ireland. Were such comparisons credible? There were glaring differences, to be sure. Southern secessionism was of recent origin and was largely based on the protection of racial slavery, not on the claim of a long-standing ethnocultural identity. Yet there were also broad similarities. Like many European nationalists, white southerners portrayed themselves as a victimized people oppressed by a foreign imperial power. Their bid for independence shared more of the flavor of mid-nineteenth century European nationalism than we have realized. Appreciation of this allows us to place Civil War-era American nationalism in a new kind of comparative perspective, taking into account ideas about nationalism in the defeated South as well as the victorious North.
- Radan, Peter (Macquarie University, Australia, Law) “Constitutional Law and Secession” An analysis of current constitutional law arrangements in a number of states reveals that, although the specific details vary from state to state, the underlying principle that underpins the legal regulation of the process of secession is that of consent. A territorial community that wants to secede must clearly indicate its willingness to do so – usually through a referendum - and the host state must consent – usually through an amendment to its constitution. Accordingly, unilateral secession is unconstitutional, although this revolutionary form of secession may be effective if recognised by other states. This paper focuses on the United States, where Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address and Message to Congress in July 1861 reveal him to be an early theorist of these essential principles which were judicially endorsed by the Supreme Court in 1869 in the case of Texas v White.
- Reséndez, Andrés (University of California, Davis, USA, History) “Texas and the Spread of that Troublesome Secessionist Spirit through the Gulf of Mexico Basin” My purpose in this essay is to sketch out how the peculiar synergy between America’s expansionism and Spanish/Mexican political strife operated to in the Gulf of Mexico seascape, a region that was rife with secessionist schemes. Few historians conceive of the Gulf of Mexico as a unit of analysis because it contains discrete portions of the U.S., Mexico, and the Spanish empire. Yet, during the long nineteenth century, this smallish sea and its coastal lands and cities were connected to one another by sailing ships, strong trade ties, and a human geography that favored the dissemination of political ideologies, harebrained ideas, arms and ammunition, and alternative national and imperial visions. More specifically, I will focus on the case of Texas, but in the understanding that the Lone Star Republic was not a one-of-a-kind affair as is normally presented but rather an example of a phenomenon that was pervasive through much of the Gulf of Mexico basin.
- Rugeley, Terry (University of Oklahoma, USA, History) “The Brief, Glorious History of the Yucatecan Republic: Secession and Violence in Early National Mexico, 1836-1848” Much like the United States, the republic of Mexico had its own nineteenth-century secession crisis. Picked by issues of trade rights and regional autonomy, the southeastern province of Yucatán separated from Mexico in 1840, following a four-year struggle. Yucatecans also managed to beat back a Mexican invasion of reconquest in 1842-43. But in this case the dynamics of secession resulted in a catastrophic internal crisis. In 1847 Maya peasants who had fought during the secession wars staged their own uprising, an event known as the Caste War. The need to cope with this challenge forced Yucatecan elites to reunify with Mexico the following year, thus ending forever the Yucatecan Republic. But the consequences of the Caste War persisted as three decades of endemic violence. The war uprooted populations, destroyed records-keeping, and sharply enhanced Yucatáns pre-existing political factiousness. Secession and Caste War became inseparable from the wave of banditry, uncertainty, and chronic political revolt that ensued. This paper reviews the brief history of Yucatáns secession movement, and also offers a comparison between the dynamics of secession in the United States and Mexico. In both cases, secession spun out of semi-independent regional evolution, inadequate unification of culture and infrastructure, domination by a planter class, and unresolved problems of political philosophy. But while the antebellum United States held together for four generations, the Mexican secession crisis came almost immediately, a reflection of that nations greater social and economic challenges, sharper disunity, and more limited experience with self-government. While the American south had an overall slave minority and sought to prevent slave mobilization, the Yucatán peninsula was characterized by an overwhelming Maya majority. Yucatáns secession also involved significant mobilization of the ethnic lower classes. Rapid Hispanic expansion following 1821, coupled with the increasing militarization involved in the original secession movement, gave Maya peasants both the motive and the means for revolt.
- Samuels, Joel (University of South Carolina, USA, Law) “Condominium Arrangements in International Practice: Reviving an Abandoned Concept of Boundary Dispute Resolution” Dating back to the 13th century B.C., warring states faced with difficult boundary dispute issues have occasionally turned to a complex shared sovereignty arrangement to resolve their disputes. This arrangement, known as a condominium, exists when two or more states share joint sovereignty over a territory. Condominium as a solution to boundary disputes may have a long history, but not a particularly successful one. Constrained by notions of sovereignty as indivisible, condominia were generally viewed as short-term solutions to disputes over territory. During a flurry of activity in the 19th and early 20th centuries, a few successful condominia provided examples of how this solution can work to resolve at least some boundary dispute. Moreover, with more complex notions of sovereignty as an elastic concept, the very underpinnings of condominium as a solution to boundary disputes have been fortified. This paper takes condominium and explores it in a new light – as a possible solution to at least some secession movements. It proposes a framework for thinking about this as a possible solution and opens doors for exploration into how – and indeed whether – it might be a viable solution for any contemporary secession movements.
- Sluglett, Peter (University of Utah, USA, History) “Common Sense, or a Step Pregnant with Enormous Consequences: Thoughts on the Possible Secession of Iraqi Kurdistan” At the moment, the possible secession of the Kurdish provinces of Iraq to form an independent ‘Iraqi Kurdistan’ is very much in the news, encouraged, understandably, by the seemingly endless chaos in the rest of the country. Northern Iraq (north of the 36th parallel) was established as a no-fly zone by France, the UK and the US in July 1991. The general effect of this has been to create a de facto ‘Kurdistan’ separate from the rest of Iraq; to take one consequence at random, few members of the generation of Kurds born after, say, 1981, know any Arabic. The no-fly zone created the conditions for autonomy, but Iraq’s neighbours, especially Turkey, and to lesser extent Iran and Syria, have always feared the domino effect that autonomy (and even more, the bogey of secession) might have on ‘their own’ Kurds (about 15 million in Turkey, 4.7 million in Iran, and 1.7 million in Syria). In fact, the fear of a more all-embracing ‘Grand Kurdistan’ is something of a chimera, given that Kurdish speakers fall into at least four major dialect groups – for example, speakers of Zaza (one of the dialects in Turkey) and Surani (one of the dialects found in both Iran and Iraq) are unintelligible to each other. My paper will focus on Iraqi Kurdish nationalism since 1991, with particular attention on the extent to which secession has (and has not) been regarded as a realistic political goal by Iraqi Kurdish politicians and their constituents. To many Iraqi Kurds, given their sufferings under the Ba‘th, as well as their awareness of the ineptness, opportunism and unscrupulousness of some members of their ‘own’ political leadership, the crisis in Iraq seems to present an enormous opportunity to realise the dream (albeit in rather different terms than those proposed at the time) first outlined in 1920 in the (unratified) Treaty of Sèvres (1920), while to others -- who may be less romantic but more practical -- taking such a course seems foolhardy in the extreme. Of course, the longer the crisis continues in the ‘rest of Iraq’, the more likely it is that the proponents of secession will gain the upper hand. While officially advocating a federal constitution for Iraq as it now exists, some US voices are less adamantly opposed to secession than they were several years ago (although Senator Biden’s more ambitious plans for federation are, to say the least, very seriously flawed). Whatever may happen, it is as well to remember that landlocked ‘Iraqi Kurdistan’ is in an entirely different situation from that of, say, equally landlocked Austria, or Luxembourg, which are surrounded by friendly neighbours associated with the European Union, and which have every interest in the free movement of goods and individuals (as long as they hold the appropriate passports) across their borders. One the one hand, secession may well be a hard row to hoe: on the other, there may never be a better time.
- Towers, Frank (University of Calgary, Canada, History) “Romantic Ethnic Nationalism, Modernity, and the Secession Movement in the American South” This paper explores secession in the American South as an example of the ways that romantic ethnic nationalism facilitated modernization in the Western world. It analyzes secessionist writings in conjunction with southern social and economic history and broader transatlantic trends. Although it is tempting to see southern denunciations of modernity by well known figures like George Fitzhugh and James Henry Hammond as a reaction against the nineteenth-century and all it stood for, insights from cultural history and the history of nationalism suggest that secessionists’ anti-modern rhetoric actually facilitated their section’s modernization. Historian Michael O’Brien argues that Romanticism, which rejected Enlightenment rationalism’s efficiency, progress, and uniformity in favor of heroics, anachronism, and community, influenced Americans’ sectional discussion of a backward South and an advanced North. His findings resonate with scholarship on nineteenth-century nationalism that demonstrates how ethnic definitions of the nation, which reinforced Romanticism’s glorification of local traditions, pushed aside the liberal, natural-rights creeds forged in the American and French Revolutions. Analyzing Southern secession in the framework of transatlantic nineteenth-century nationalism offers a means for reconciling two contradictory strands of recent historiography. Historians who focus on political economy depict the South as a prosperous and politically dominant region that seceded in order to maintain its advantages vis-à-vis a more populous but historically weaker North. Conversely, studies of Old South intellectuals portray them as pessimistic secessionists seeking to preserve traditions under threat from the northern-associated trends of industrialization, city-building, and individualism. My own work addresses this interpretive divergence by focusing on the gap between southern social reality and secessionist ideology. Wealthy southerners, most of them slaveholders, were building railroads, factories, and cities at a rate faster than most contemporary societies, except, of course, for their counterparts in the North. Nevertheless, slave-state politicians and intellectuals, many of them modernizing investors, depicted the South as a bulwark of traditional agrarian communalism fighting against the North’s modern cosmopolitan individualism. My argument starts from the premise that secessionists’ critique of the North distorted the character of both sections. I argue that, viewed from this departure point, the South’s version of Anglo-Saxon ethnic nationalism, which emphasized shared social experience as well as shared ethnicity, was one way that southerners addressed the contradiction between slavery and the Revolution’s natural rights ideals. Secessionists replaced universalistic nationalism with a localized definition of political community grounded in an invented folk tradition. As did elites in Europe and the North, planter politicians used ethnic nationalism to manage the new realities of mass democracy and a wide-open market economy that had imperiled traditional sources of authority. When viewed in a transatlantic context rather than strictly in relationship to the North, secessionists’ embrace of romantic ethnic nationalism appears as an ideological expression of modernizing nation states rather than the death rattle of a fading premodern society.
- Viator, James E. (Loyola University New Orleans, USA, Law) “Secession as a Contractual Right: The American and European Approaches Compared” This paper will first examine contractarian premises and precedents for secession during the American revolutionary and constitutional periods, particularly the early practice of “conditional ratification.” Several States, both Northern and Southern, ratified on the express condition of their having retained the capacity to “resume” their full sovereign powers whenever they deemed it in their interest to do so. For example, New York ’s ratification document declared “That the Powers of Government may be resumed by the People, whensoever it shall become necessary to their Happiness ….” On 29 May 1790, the Rhode Island delegates made a similar declaration in their ratification document, asserting that “the powers of government may be resumed by the people, whensoever it shall become necessary to their happiness.” And the states of Virginia and Kentucky in the late 1790s passed “Resolutions” against the Alien and Sedition Acts that were based on the expansive understanding of popular sovereignty that also buttressed conditional ratification. Thus the paper will elucidate both the revolutionary/natural rights origins of conditional ratification and also the widespread acceptance of the validity of such conditions as inhering either in the nature of statehood or in the terms of the constitutional contract. Finally, the American technique of “conditional ratification and resumed authority” will be compared to current European views of secession rights. Hence there will be a treatment of the “secession” cases involving Danish Greenland and the French territory of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon--both of which arose under the self-determination principles of the Treaty of Rome (1957)--and also of the somewhat different right of withdrawal contained in Article I-60 of the Constitution for Europe (2004). The paper will then end with a conclusion as to the similarity vel non of conditional ratification and the European approach to self-determination/withdrawal.
- Vickers, Jill (Carleton University, Canada, Political Science) “Gender/Nation Dynamics in Separatist Projects” The paper argues that separationist nationalisms are ‘gendered’; and that the success of separationist projects depends on their incorporation of women. Explaining that all national phenomena are ‘gendered’, I explore four contexts producing separationist-nationalisms in our 25-nation Gender and Nation study: multi-ethnic empires; direct rule in state-nations; power restructuring in white-settler states; and globalization. A gender audit of mainstream and gender/nation literatures, and case studies, reveals insights about why ‘women’ support nationalist movements, from which I extrapolate hypotheses about women’s support of separationist projects. My findings dispute beliefs that women support separationist movements only if coerced; or that women are duped by male nationalists who promise benefits for participating without ever delivering. Women are not just passive observers of separationist struggles, but support them because they hope they can make the resulting polity more ‘women-friendly’ and more open to their autonomous agency, and claims for gender justice. This is most fully realized in feminist-nationalist movements. In some cases, as in the former Yugloslavia, secession involves violence, collapse of the ‘host’ state and women’s coerced participation. Considering positive and negative experiences, we realize that women must decide if the possibility of creating more ‘women-friendly’ nation-states is worth the costs. While women’s participation clearly increases the success of separationist projects, especially in democracies, whether women ‘getting in on the ground floor’ always makes the resulting polity more ‘women-friendly’ needs further analysis.
- Vidal, Nuno (Coimbra University, Portugal, Political Studies), “Cabinda: the quest for independence of an oil rich enclave” Cabinda, an enclave between Angola, Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo home to 120,000 people has been the scene of conflict and separatist unrest since Angola's independence in 1975. The insurgency, mainly conducted by the Liberation Front for the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC), was initially based in a sense of cultural, political and historical distinctiveness of the province, but since Angola's first oil boom in the early 1970s, it has mainly focused on the province’s major contribution to the country’s economy. Oil revenues gave a regional-international dimension to the Cabinda problem, mixing corporate and State interests. Separatist leaders were soon involved in regional-international politics and became somehow increasingly divided. Divisions among the elite conducting the fight became progressively clear after the end of the civil war in April 2002. A process of unification between opposite factions within the separatist movement led to the creation of the “Cabinda Forum for Dialogue-CFD” to facilitate negotiations with the government. A Memorandum of Understanding for Peace and Development between the government and the CFD was signed in July 15, 2006, complemented by the signing of a ceasefire agreement on July 19. The government seemed to have solved the problem, co-opting several Cabindan leaders to the State administration, but even before the agreement was signed, the CFD was abandoned by N’Zita Tiago - a prominent FLEC leader –and Mpalabanda was contesting the negotiation terms together with an influent Catholic leader, Raul Taty. The divisionism that had characterized the separatist movement since late seventies (with pre-colonial and colonial roots) reemerged stronger than ever. The MPLA government took advantage of this divisionism banning the Mpalabanda civic association and supporting those leaders in favor of the agreement, but found out that separatist feelings have deeper roots within the general population and can not be easily supplanted through the simple co-option of selected elites. As in several cases throughout Africa, there seems to have occurred a progressive distancing between the aims and expectations of the population and the interests of part the elites traditionally conducting the political and armed fight. This paper starts with an historical contextualization of the Cabinda case, follows with an analysis of the secessionist arguments and the way the quest for independence became a regional-international issue involving the local elites at the same time it distanced them from the original aims of the general population that is now trying to find out new ways to proceed its quest for independence.
- Wachman, Alan M. (Tufts University, USA, International Politics) “Fooling Some of the People: Did Abraham Lincoln Oppose Taiwan’s ‘Secession’ from China?” The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is adamant about its determination to prevent the secession of Taiwan from China. The leadership in Beijing asserts that its opposition to the “independence” of Taiwan and its resolve to ensure that Taiwan remain a part of China should be evaluated as no less noble a cause than was Abraham Lincoln’s resort to war as a way of preserving the unity of the United States. To Beijing, secessionism is one of three great evils—along with terrorism and religious extremism—that the state must combat. Abraham Lincoln’s opposition to secessionism has featured prominently in the PRC’s narrative about Taiwan and the “one China policy.” The reference to Lincoln rings true to some observers because the PRC has succeeded, to a considerable degree, in depicting itself as the defender of sovereignty and territorial integrity and the leadership on Taiwan as a secessionist force. Hence, it is not difficult to find on the pages of respectable publications and to hear in the words of otherwise sober scholars expressions of irritation with Taiwan for resisting unity and imagining itself to be independent. A consideration of Lincoln’s posture toward the U.S. Civil War and an examination of the context from which the PRC plucked his words suggests that Beijing has managed to fool some of the people all of the time. However, a close reading of China’s modern history calls into question Beijing’s characterization of the Republic of China (ROC) government—the official name of the government on Taiwan—as secessionist. Likewise, a close reading of Lincoln’s statements calls into question the PRC’s conclusions about where Lincoln might have stood on the cross-Strait controversy. Moreover, as one considers the PRC’s comparable posture on the question of Tibetan autonomy and the status of the Uighur community in Xinjiang, one senses that the PRC has perverted the notion of secession to justify its defense of a multi-nationality state in which peripheral peoples and territories were subsumed into an empire by the rulers of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911). Thus, Lincoln and the U.S. Civil War are invoked not to defend some national unit that resulted from an original compact among sovereign actors from which one now seeks to secede, but the territorial fruits of imperial conquest that the PRC aims to inherit.
- Wellman, Christopher (Washington University, USA, Philosophy) “Secession and International Law” Most concede that secession is permissible when the rump state does not contest the political divorce or in cases where the separatists have been subjected to sufficiently severe and ongoing injustices at the hands of the parent state, but few people believe that a separatist group can have a primary right to secede in the absence of injustice. In this paper, I argue that groups can have a right to separate from even a perfectly legitimate state, as long as the political divorce will leave both the newly sovereign country and the remainder state able and willing to perform the requisite political functions. After defending this stance both against “statists” (who insist that a legitimate state’s claim to its territory entails that there can be no primary rights to secede in the absence of injustice) and “nationalists” (who contend that the secessionists rights are grounded principally in a distinctive cultural group’s right to self-determination), I will revisit some of Abraham Lincoln’s arguments against the Confederacy’s right to secede. And finally I will respond to a series of criticisms which allege that a sufficient appreciation for international law reveals the dangers of recognizing such a permissive posture on state-breaking.
- Wichhart, Stefanie (Niagara University, USA, History) “British Policy towards Kurdish Nationalism and Separatism in Iraq and Iran, 1941-1946” This paper examines Britain’s response to the resurgence of Kurdish nationalism in both Iraq and Iran during World War II by focusing on two events: Mulla Mustafa’s uprising in Iraq from 1943-1945, and the establishment of the short-lived Kurdish republic of Mahabad in Iran soon after the war. Britain attempted to mediate among divergent currents of nationalism in Iraq and Iran: the efforts of the central governments to turn them into unified nation-states; the regional ambitions of Iraq with respect to the pan-Arab movement; and various ethnic nationalist movements, including the Kurds and Azerbaijanis. These events provide an ideal case study of the interactions between Kurdish nationalist groups and the tensions inherent within the Kurdish nationalist movement against the backdrop of Anglo-Soviet competition in Iran.
- Zahlmann, Stefan (University of Konstanz, Germany, History) “Our Cause was Foredoomed to Failure: Secession in Germany and the United States” Secession and socialism - The combination of these words is far more than a tongue twister. Not only from a linguistic but also from a historical perspective the relation of both terms is highly tense. My essay sets its focus on autobiographical reflections by representatives of GDR elites and asks for the ideological and political significance as well as the defining boundaries of the East German 'secession' between 1949 and 1990. The result of the initially surprising outlook is the resemblance between the strategies within the Southern States of the USA after 1865 and those within Eastern Germany after 1989, both trying to legitimize their particular social order and to partake in the national interpretation of a divided past.
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