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While member-state structures—the number, relative sizes, and demographic characteristics of states in federal regimes—could be thought to be one of the defining features of different federations, the comparative literature has paid relatively little attention to this important topic. There is the well-known distinction between “coming together” and “holding together” federations, but this has not led to comparative examinations of how these different formative experiences relate to the member-state structure of a federation, its evolution over time, and the processes for defining new or revised member-states. There has been more comparative attention to differences between “ethnic” and “territorial” federations, but often with limited linkage to other variables, such as the number and relative sizes of the member-states. For example, the literature on consociational power-sharing arrangements in central federal governmental institutions has largely neglected consideration of how the member-state structure and the pattern of territorial cleavages in the society affect the likelihood or form of power-sharing arrangements. This relates to the need to see the political geometry of federations in their broader social context: how the member-state structure compares with the underlying social and territorial cleavages in the country. While these cleavages may affect the member-state structure of the federation, they will certainly affect the political dynamics as institutional arrangements and societal pressures interact.

Article

The discipline of International Relations is not at the cutting edge of dealing with planetary ecological problems such as the worsening climate crisis. The notion of the Anthropocene developed by earth scientists highlights the extent to which humans are a geological force shaping earth’s ecosystems. This official scientific discourse has gained traction in the United Nations climate negotiations process and is beginning to shape the knowledge project even in the academy. However, the discipline of International Relations has not engaged in any serious way with the Anthropocene discourse. Its claim that the Anthropos, the human as a species, and more generally 7.8 billion people on the planet are responsible causally for dangerous impacts such as climate change clashes with how the discipline of International Relations understands and seeks to explain global politics through its theoretical frameworks, relations, dynamics, and institutions. This claim warrants critical engagement from the International Relations discipline. However, mainstream International Relations epistemology reinforces coloniality in international relations such that an oppressive and relational hierarchy between the Global North and South is reproduced while being oblivious to how the ecological substratum of our lifeworld is being destroyed through replicating modes of living central to global modernity. Ecological relations are not part of mainstream International Relations thinking. Within mainstream International Relations, its hegemonic theories and frameworks are the problem. The conception of the international and international relations operating within the Anthropocene discourse also reproduces coloniality. Although the science it furnishes to understand the human–nature relationship is compelling and important, its human-centered explanation of how global power works is inadequate and reinforces the subordination of the Global South. To overcome these problems, a decolonized approach to the discipline of International Relations is crucial. At the same time, given the urgency of the climate crisis, countries in the Global South need to remake the world order and its future through decolonized International Relations. Several Southern decolonial thinkers are crucial for this task.

Article

De facto states have become an increasingly interesting topic for scholars and policy makers. Regarded as an anomaly in the international system, their increasing prevalence is raising serious questions about the nature of statehood and secession in the contemporary international system. But they present a number of definitional and conceptual issues. Quite apart from how they should be called, which is a debate that seems to be close to settlement, there have been debates about which territories should qualify as de facto states. More importantly, what hope do these territories have of being legalized or legitimized in the future? It seems that the strong aversion to recognizing unilateral acts of secession will remain in force. It is also worth noting that the very nature of the international system is now changing. The international system focused almost exclusively on states is disappearing rapidly. All sorts of bodies, organizations, and companies now interact on the world stage. In this sense, de facto states may well find that they find a place in their own right in an evolving and expanding international community.

Article

Milena Komarova and Katy Hayward

The emergence, development, and transformation of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland reveals much about the changing nature of nation-statehood over the century that followed its creation. In its own way, it is also a subject of innovation. The three interrelated strands of relationships safeguarded by the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement of 1998 in many ways define the border. These relationships run within and between the two islands of Ireland and Britain, and also between the two political traditions in Northern Ireland. Nationalists and Unionists have come to define much of their ethos in relation to the symbolic meaning of the Irish border: The former want the border removed and the latter see the border as necessary to keep Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. This helps to understand the prominence given to the Irish border in the context of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU), as well as the controversy around the terms of the U.K.–EU Withdrawal Agreement, which changed the nature of the relationship between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom as well as between Northern Ireland and Ireland. As a consequence of Brexit, the future of borders in and around Ireland—their openness and their governance—will be inevitably shaped by the vicissitudes of the EU–U.K. relationship.

Article

Xiang Li, Mengqi Shao, and May Tan-Mullins

President Xi Jinping announced the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI一带一路) in 2013. The BRI, which will pass through over 60 countries in Asia, Europe, Middle East, and Africa, aims at improving and creating new trading routes and investment opportunities. It consists of the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and the Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI), and is a continuation of China’s “opening up” policy. It comprises six overland and one maritime economic cooperation corridors, supporting the expansion of Chinese enterprises abroad to facilitate industrial upgrading at home, paving the way for Chinese outward foreign direct investment (OFDI) and trade abroad, and advancing the internationalization of the Chinese currency. In addition, the project is welcomed by recipient countries due to their need for infrastructure investment. China remains the biggest player in the initiation and implementation of BRI projects. As such, the impact of Chinese projects on the economic, political, cultural, and environmental fabric of host countries will likely be dramatic, especially since many BRI projects are large-scale infrastructure projects that cut across different regions and states. The COVID-19 pandemic further implicated the progress of BRI projects in these areas.

Article

In the 21st century and particularly during the 2010s, the Eastern Mediterranean acquired unprecedented attention and significance as a distinct geopolitical space with new international and security dynamics. This “new” Eastern Mediterranean geopolitical order was largely “constructed” by global and regional power shifts as well as local developments, such as the trajectory of Turkish foreign policy and the discovery of offshore hydrocarbon reserves. The result was a change in the region’s patterns of interstate conflict and cooperation. On the one hand, countries such as Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, and Israel became part of an emerging network of cooperation and security architecture. On the other hand, owing to its problematic relations with these states, Turkey remained an outsider wanting to “deconstruct” this new state of affairs and change it to its own benefit. As such, the new Eastern Mediterranean was ushered in during a period of geopolitical polarization that is more conducive to crisis rather than peace and stability and often transcends its boundaries.

Article

Mariana Santos and David Bassens

Money and finance are often thought of as forming a uniform, frictionless global space. While events in the last decades have certainly shown how monetary and financial practices and events have consequences that span the globe, this global reach of money and finance is far from evenly distributed. Rather, money flows and lumps unevenly across space, with the financial system connecting some places better than others, producing effects that are geoeconomic, sociocultural, and material in nature. One productive way of opening the black box of “global finance” is by exploring money’s manifold entailments with space and borders. Borders is here meant writ large. It means, of course, the geopolitical borders of the sovereign state and jurisdictional territory, showing how global finance is rooted in the contemporary architecture of states and international relations. But it also means attending to how lines in this cartographical space of geopolitical borders are rearranged, stretched, and inflected through cross-border networks of actors, notably financial institutions, concentrated in key places of international finance. This article seeks to bring to the broader academic debate on money and borders a reading whereby the “plumbing and wiring” of international finance is seen as entailed with practices of “b/ordering” that “dissolve” borderlands and connect space as much as they produce margins, edges, and fringes. Thinking money and finance in terms of borders and frontiers help us understand how money and financial markets (notably, credit–debt relations) materialize differently on either side of financial inclusion and exclusion lines, with implications for the bodies that inhabit them.

Article

Space has always animated world politics, but three spatial orientations are striking. First, the Westphalian orientation deems space a sovereign power container. Second, the scalar takes recourse to the local, regional, national, and global spaces in which world politics is played out. Third, the relational deems space a (re)produced, sociohistorically contingent phenomenon that changes according to the humans occupying it and the thought, power, and resources flowing through it. Under this latter orientation, space is lived, lived in and lived through. Whilst relationality, to a degree, calls into question the received wisdoms of International Relations (IR), the fixity of sovereignty and territory remain. The orientations coexist concomitantly, reflecting the “many worlds” humankind occupies.

Article

Kerry Goettlich

Since roughly the late 19th century, international borders have generally been characterized by linearity, or the appearance as a series of one-dimensional points, connected by straight lines. Prior to this, various kinds of frontiers existed globally, some of them being more linear than others, but most included some kind of formal ambiguity. International relations (IR) often takes for granted the historical process which brought about the global linearization of borders, culminating in the late 19th century and still ongoing in ocean spaces and in outer space. But because cross-border relations are the main substance of inquiry in IR, many theories and areas of study in IR contain some perspective on that process, at least implicitly.

Article

Muslim views on the polity represent the paradigmatic understandings of how Muslims relate citizenry, authority, territoriality, and sovereignty to the overarching influence of the Western nation-state system. For instance, the meaning of citizenry in the modern state system was adopted by several Muslim societies during the decolonization period. Faith or submission to the will of God was the main criterion to become part of the group (usually referred to as the ummah). However, orientalists regarded ummah as a synonym for tribe, while Arab linguists insisted on a religious connotation. Authority, on the other hand, is ultimately enshrined in the personhood of the Prophet who is the spiritual leader, executor, legislator, and judicial interpreter of God’s message. Since in reality the Prophet is no longer existing, leadership is bestowed on the subsequent followers, and sometimes the ummah may possess leadership status through a social contract between the ruler and the ruled. The manifestation of operationalized authority needs a political space, domain, or place, which is attainable via the notion of territoriality. This is loosely conceptualized as an ummah that has geographical aspects, cultural traits, and a lingua franca. In the 8th century, jurists divided Muslim territoriality into two analytical terms, the abode of Islam (dar al-Islam) and the abode of war/the enemy (dar al-Harb), while the Shia version of abodes rests in the Qur’anic dichotomy of “oppressed–oppressor.” The last concept pertains to sovereignty (hakimiyyah), commonly understood as “the will of God” and advanced by Islamists in the 20th century. In medieval times, it was understood as the promotion of public welfare envisaged in Shari’ah, while in modern times, Islamic modernists argued that Islamists wrongfully understood sovereignty and that the root word used in the Qur’an meant “to govern.” Nowadays, the assertion that symbolizes God’s sovereignty can be found in some modern Muslim states.