The Politics of Recognition and Armed Non-state Actors
What an armed non-state actor (ANSA) is named and how it is discursively framed opens up certain options for states for engaging with it while precluding others. Whether or not to “talk to terrorists” is the most prominent version of the dilemma states – and sometimes international organisations (IOs) – face when weighing their options: On the one hand, they may fear rewarding violent behaviour, and thus incentivising similar strategies for other actors. They do not want to show any weakness by giving in to coercive strategies like terrorism and extortion. On the other hand, there may be a desire to put an end to violence and armed conflict, as well as a hope to transform the respective ANSA and integrate it into a more peaceful society and political system. Under these circumstances, states and IOs may choose to initiate (secret) talks and negotiations, to crack down the respective group in an attempt to violently dissolve it, or to initiate a process of reframing the ANSA in a more accommodating or more hostile way, thus opening up new trajectories for conflict transformation or escalation.
All of these forms of interaction involve some type of recognition, non-recognition, or mis-recognition of the ANSA by the respective state or IO. Recognition describes a basic human need for the formation of identities, both on an individual and a collective level. The project seeks to introduce the concept of recognition to the debate on how to deal with ANSAs, explore its academic and political potential, and, by drawing on different examples from various world regions, discuss its validity for understanding conflict transformation and escalation.