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.


  • The project is jointly conducted with Anna Geis (Helmut Schmidt University / University of the Federal Armed Forces Hamburg) and Maéva Clément (University of Osnabrück).
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