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Article

Andrew Delatolla

The modern state is often discussed within the context of its domestic institutions and structures or as a product that is shaped by the international system. From these discussions, attempts to define and theorize statehood have led to assumptions that the modern state is a universal product, sharing structural and normative similarities across geographies and societies. However, many of these assumptions are developed from the unique histories of European state formation and statehood, from which an ideal type is produced. By looking at these histories in relation to the global transformations of the 19th century, it is possible to interrogate how conceptions of modern statehood—derived from European histories and experiences—have been consistently upheld as a civilizational benchmark for other, non-European and non-Western states, to achieve. Beginning with a discussion on European state formation, it is evident that the conceptions and frameworks of statehood—including the development of national identities, territorialization, institutions, and organizing and ordering mechanisms, often discussed in the abstract—are the products of particular historic normative, structural, and institutional developments. These histories lay the foundation for how the modern state has been conceived, theorized, and framed, affecting not just Europe but global politics. The article subsequently discusses how modern statehood, based on the European experience of state formation, became a benchmark of civilization. Upholding statehood as the pinnacle of social, political, and economic development and progress in comparison to the underdeveloped “nature” of societies and polities outside of Europe, imperialism, and colonialism was considered a justified practice. In the first instance, the uncivilized character of societies and polities outside of Europe became entangled in racial-biological explanations of social and political development, supposedly confirming scientific racist explanations of underdevelopment. In the second instance, imperialism and colonialism were tethered to 19th-century civilizing projects, a means to organize societies and polities in a manner that reflected or mimicked the European state. While the discourses related to imperialism and colonialism, along with scientific racism, became outmoded in the 20th century, they remained apparent in practices associated with the League of Nations mandate state system, development, and state building. In the context of these practices, the concept and framing of modern statehood, as an abstract and ideal type founded on European histories of state formation, continued to be used as a benchmark for international recognition and a measurement for progress and development. Charting the continued relationship between civilization and statehood, the case of Palestine is explored, examining the politics and discourses of civilization related to statehood and Palestinian nonrecognition.

Article

Joyce P. Kaufman and Kristen P. Williams

Nationalism and the nation-state are both intimately connected to citizenship. Citizenship and nationalism are also linked to gender, as all three concepts play a key role in the process of state-building and state-maintenance as well as in the interaction between states, whether overtly or covertly. Yet women do not figure in the analysis of nationalism and citizenship in the mainstream literature, a gap that feminists have been trying to fill. By interrogating gender, along with the notions of masculinity and femininity, feminist international relations (IR) scholars shed light into the ways that gender is socially constructed. They also investigate the historical process of state formation and show where women are located in nationalist movements. Furthermore, by unpacking the sovereign state, feminist scholars have argued that while mainstream IR views the state as a rational, unitary actor, states are actually gendered entities. Two kinds of feminist literature in IR in regards to the state can be identified: women and the state (how women are excluded in terms of the public–private divide, and through citizenship), and gender and the state (gendered states). In general, feminist scholarship has led to a more complete understanding of the gender-citizenship-nationalism nexus. Nevertheless, some avenues for future research deserve consideration, such as the political and cultural exclusions of women and others in society, the inequalities that exist within states, whether there is such a thing as a “Comparative Politics of Gender,” and the concept of “global citizenship.”

Article

The prevention of communicable diseases, the containment of epidemic disorders, and the design of programs and the implementation of public health policies went through important transformations in Mexico, as in other Latin American nations, between the final decades of the 19th century and first half of the 20th century. During that period not only did the advances in medical science make possible the identification and containment of numerous contagious diseases; it was also a time when the consolidation of formal medical institutions and their interaction with both national and international actors contributed to shape the definitions and solutions of public health problems. Disease prevention strategies were influenced by medical, scientific, and technical innovations and by the political values and commitments of the period, and Mexico experienced profound and far-reaching political, economic, and social transformations: the apogee, crisis, and downfall of the long Porfirio Díaz regime (1876–1910), the armed phase of the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920), and the period of national reconstruction (1920–1940). Thus, during the period under consideration, and alongside the consolidation of an official medical apparatus as an integral part of public power, the promotion of public health became a crucial element to reinforce the political unification and the social and economic strength of the country.

Article

In Brazil, the national public health apparatus became one of the most agile and expansive regulatory mechanisms of control and care during the 19th and early 20th centuries. As Brazilian doctors and social thinkers made public health central to their ideas of modernizing the nation, they simultaneously sought to challenge the notion that Brazil’s sociocultural and racial-ethnic diversity was an insurmountable obstacle to modernization. They conceived of public health as something greater than the sum of its parts, seeing it is as the best prescription for national unity and fundamental to the project of nation-building, not only as a series of practices, outcomes, and beliefs. Proto-psychiatrists, recognizing the ideological momentum and bureaucratic strength of public health, seized upon it as a means and a rationale to ground their therapeutic ideas and treatments. Their characterization of the indigent mentally ill on city streets in Rio de Janeiro as a public health issue politicized both the mentally ill and mental illness as subjects of public intervention. Fashioning themselves as the leading experts in this effort, they garnered the support of state officials and other doctors to create a series of public institutions, organizations, and other measures to treat the mentally ill as unitary intersections of psychiatry and public health. While Brazilian psychiatrists during the late 19th and 20th centuries surely went into private practice, professional psychiatry in Rio as a field turned toward returning irrational minds to reason and “civilizing” the publicly unwell—dual and deeply complex goals of the profession. Public health offered them a preexisting muscular infrastructure through which to practice their medical knowledge and, in so doing, allowed them to expand and legitimize their professional reach. So, under the auspices of an enterprising psychiatric field, mental health largely became public health.

Article

Foreign policy analysis benefits from careful attention to state identity. After all, identity defines the field itself by making it possible to speak both of policies and of a domain that is foreign. For some scholars, identity has proven useful as a guide to agency and, in particular, to agent preferences. For others, identity has served as a guide to social or institutional structure. Theories of state identity can be divided into three categories: conditions internal to agents, social interactions among agents, and “ecological” encounters with a broader environment. Internal conditions refer to either processes or constraints that operate within the agent under consideration. In the case of the state, these may include domestic politics, the individual characteristics of citizens or other internal actors, and the collective attributes of these citizens or other actors. Although internal causes are not social at the state level, they nevertheless have social implications if they give rise to state identity, and they may themselves be social at a lower level. The social interactions of states themselves constitute a second source of identity, one that treats states as capable of interacting like persons. This approach essentially writes large social and psychological theories, replacing individuals with the state. Finally, the ecological setting or broader environment is a third possible source of identity. The environment may be material, ideational, or discursive, and treated as an objective or a subjective influence.

Article

Like many topics in Paraguayan history, the subjects of popular religion and death are under-researched. And yet, if we can conclude anything about them, experiences involving popular religion and death, like many cultural aspects in Paraguay, have intersected with experiences of nationhood. We find many historical and present-day manifestations of this, most conspicuously in language, which inevitably also draws our attention to questions of syncretic religious legacies. Still today most Paraguayans speak Guaraní, a vernacular of indigenous origin. This language itself is a colonial product of the “spiritual conquest,” whose subsequent role in galvanizing popular participation in two postcolonial wars has long been noted. In fact, perusing national monuments and local cemeteries today draws us to a specific time period when many formative links among syncretic experiences of religion, death, and nationhood were being constructed: the fateful López era (1840–1870) that culminated in the cataclysmic War of the Triple Alliance. Here we find how a modern nation-building project attempted to channel, rather than suppress, popular religious energies, and we encounter the many contradictory, and formative, consequences this project produced. A sampling of scholarly literature and primary sources from within a broader framework of Paraguayan history likewise reveals how links among popular religion, death, and state formation are indeed recurring themes for more research that needs to be done.

Article

The role of the state in economic development is broad, old, and metamorphic. Drawing on historical political economy and a critical reading of new institutional scholarship, our understanding of the developmental state is contextual and complex. Successful developmental state formation is the result of stable political-economic environments, cultural legacies of earlier state-making functioning as mental maps for new statecraft, coherent institutional and policy entrepreneurship, and sustained growth that gives positive feedback in state-making. Latin American state developmentalism has always been diverse, before and after the debt crisis. In the era of state-led industrialization, the Latin American developmental state “failed” because, with domestic and regional markets small and dependence on foreign markets and financial capital high, macroeconomic policymaking did not learn to deal with crises and cyclical external conditions. Developmental state success in the 21st century depends on undertaking less volatile political-economic pathways to facilitate organizational learning by doing. In exclusionary Latin America more than in other corners of the world, developmental state success also means reconciling economic and social goals.

Article

Tiatoshi Jamir

The northeast region of India encompasses the states of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim to the north; Manipur, Mizoram, and Tripura to the south; Nagaland to the east; and Assam and Meghalaya to the west. The region is unique not only geopolitically but also in terms of its ecological diversity, culture, and history, with the states of Mizoram and Tripura falling well within the 23° N tropical zone. Northeast India is characterized by uplands and high-altitude mountains in the north, northeast, east, and southeast, while the southwest and western regions comprise tablelands and low-lying floodplains. Early archaeological initiatives began with the colonial administration of the region, but such early reports were confined to surface sites. The first excavations in the region began in the post-Independence period and delved into some of the archaeological problems relevant to the area. Some of these problems concern identifying possible hominin dispersal routes; the scenario of Paleolithic research and what the associated archaeological and geological data yields; the importance of the region as a potential area for early plant domestication; and the archaeological evidence for early agriculture, particularly rice, millet, and tuber crops. Despite immense potential for historical archaeology, empirical research toward an understanding of the rise of early urban centers and early state formations, the emergence of village settlements marked by ancestral sites, and the later historical periods has only been marginal in nature.

Article

Pierre-Yves Manguin

Southeast Asian polities were destined to play an active role in the world economy because of their location at the crossroads of East Asian maritime routes and their richness in commodities that were in demand in the whole of Eurasia. For a long time, historians restricted their role to examination of regional peddling trade carried out in small ships. Research on ships and trade networks in the past few decades, however, has returned considerable agency to local societies, particularly to Austronesian speakers of insular Southeast Asia, from proto-historic to early modern times. As far in the past as two thousand years ago, following locally developed shipbuilding technologies and navigational practices, they built large and sophisticated ships that plied South China Sea and Indian Ocean routes, as documented by 1st-millennium Chinese and later Portuguese sources and now confirmed by nautical archaeology. Textual sources also confirm that local shipmasters played a prominent part in locally and internationally run trade networks, which firmly places their operations into the mainstream of Asian global maritime history.

Article

African military history is more than just the study of “tribal warfare,” imperial conquest, military coups, and child soldiers. Moving beyond conventional questions of strategy, tactics, battles, and technology, historians of precolonial Africa are interested in the role of armies in state formation, the military activities of stateless societies, and armed encounters between Africans and foreign visitors and invaders. Scholars working in the 19th and 20th centuries are similarly focused on the role and influence of African soldiers, military women, and veterans in society. In this sense, African military history is part of a larger effort to recover the lived experiences of ordinary people who were largely missing from colonial archives and documentary records. Similarly, Africanist historians focusing on the national era are engaging older journalistic and social science explanations for military coups, failed states, and wardlordism. The resulting body of literature productively offers new ways to study military institutions and collective violence in Africa.

Article

Claudia Leal

The history of Colombian national parks started in 1948 with the establishment of a reserve for scientific research, which stood alone until the 1960s, when various state agencies created a few parks with quite different goals in mind, including preserving imposing landscapes and conserving water. This rather casual development changed after the growing international concern for the environment led to the creation of an environmental agency in 1968 and the enactment of an environmental code in 1974, which served as institutional platform for the planned expansion of a system of national parks based largely on ecological criteria. Chronically underfunded and understaffed, the Office of National Parks has confronted its weakness by establishing parks which confer legal protection on areas whose natural attributes were deemed valuable. Such a strategy has led to confrontations with local populations living in and around parks, whose rights to resource use have been hampered. The office’s incapacity to properly enforce rules and its attempts to work with rural communities, especially indigenous groups, have to some extent mitigated such tensions. It has further sought to enlist the support of the middle classes and been forced to deal with illegal armed groups on the left and the right, as well as the national army, vying for territorial control. Although parks have not fulfilled their ideal, they have fostered the notion that the nation has a natural patrimony and have contributed decisively to its conservation.

Article

In Argentina, tensions between the military and Indigenous People have been present since the formation of the nation-state in the late 19th century. During the so-called “Campañas al desierto” (Desert Campaigns), when the Argentine military occupied the northern and southern sovereign Indigenous territories, Indigenous Nations were seen as the main opponents to the military project of building a civilized nation. The confrontation between the military and Indigenous nations were seen as the main opponents to a civilized nation. Against analysis that regards relations between the military and Indigenous People as inherently violent, a new line in historiographical studies traces too the trajectories of Indigenous troops joining the military. The 19th-century relations between the military and Indigenous People were therefore more complex than an opposition between contrary nations. During the colonization of Indigenous lands in Pampa and Patagonia region to the south and in the Chaco region to the north west, Indigenous groups were both enemies and allies and necessary for the success of the nation-state’s advance. Within these alliances and relations of proximity, military officers produced a specific racialization of Indigenous bodies related to positive perceptions of them as strong and skillful soldiers. These sets of ideas, present in military memoirs in the 19th century, re-emerge in how Toba Indigenous men experience being racialized during the Mandatory Military Service in the mid- and late 20th century.

Article

Colin Mitchell

The Safavids (1501–1722) controlled a land-based empire that comprised the modern-day nation of Iran, with extensions into Iraq, the Caucasus, and Afghanistan. The family of the Safavids originated as Sufi mystical sheikhs based in the region of Azerbaijan but were later imperialized thanks to the dynastic founder, Shah Ismaʿil (r. 1501–1524). The transition from Sufi tariqa to imperial polity was not smooth, and Ismaʿil faced external threats from the Ottoman Empire to the west, as well as internal pressure from his popular base, the Qizilbash tribal Turks who revered their shah as both a Sufi sheikh as well as a manifestation of the millenarian figure Mahdi who was popularly understood as the Muslim agent of the Apocalypse. The success of the Safavids was partly based on their ability to distance their family from such decentralized, tribal elements and seek out those constituencies that could help with regard to establishing and building legitimacy: orthodox Twelver Shiʿite jurists and scholars as well as urban Persian administrators and bureaucrats. It was Ismaʿil and his successor, Shah Tahmasp (r. 1524–1576), who proclaimed and enforced Twelver Shiʿism as the new state doctrine, thus contributing to a stark Sunni-Shiʿite division between themselves and their neighboring rival empires of the Ottomans and the Uzbeks. The apogee of the Safavid Empire took place during the reign of Shah ʿAbbas (r. 1589–1629) who, among other things, transformed Isfahan into a city of international stature with fantastic architectural patronage while at the same time enticing European merchants and traders to trade in textiles, silk, and other manufactured goods. Following the reign of Shah ʿAbbas, the Safavid Empire became less stable and more susceptible to outside elements, namely those Caucasian nobles and landed gentry who had been previously incorporated into the Safavid state as court officials, provincial governors, and ranking military officers. Concurrently, there was a rise in conservative orthodoxy among the Shiʿite religious scholars, and the previous era of open trade and strong international relations began to wane as Christians, Jews, and other minorities became increasingly targeted and persecuted. By the end of the 17th century, the Safavid court was politically isolated from the other provinces, so much so that the imperial capital was easily besieged and conquered in 1722 by an invading conglomerate of Afghan tribes.

Article

Climate has emerged as one of a number of themes in debates concerning the formation and disaggregation of African state structures before the colonial era. The proliferation of paleoclimatic data series from “natural archives” such as tree-rings has shed increasing light on changes in temperature and precipitation stretching back millennia. Such long-term climatic changes could have enduring effects on human livelihoods in agriculturally marginal areas. The apparent coincidence of periods of climatic change with major turning points in African history over the last millennium has therefore led to claims of causation, with early moves towards state formation in the Shashe–Limpopo basin (c. 1000–1220ce) and in KwaZulu-Natal (c. 1750–1800) linked to contemporaneous warm–wet conditions, and the decline, or “collapse,” of state structures, including Mapungubwe (c. 1300ce) and Great Zimbabwe (c. 1450ce), linked to a shift to cooler and drier regional climates. Recent literature from both within and outside of the southern African context has begun to question the veracity of climate-driven historical change. In the southern African case, there remains considerable uncertainty concerning the climate history of the region prior to 1800. The climatic signatures captured by some records are ambiguous in their representation of temperature or precipitation, while many long-duration climate records available for southern Africa are simply of insufficient temporal resolution to capture the short-term extremes in rainfall that have proved challenging to societies in more recent centuries. Even where there is robust evidence for the coincidence of wet or dry conditions with societal change, African farming communities were far from passive observers, but responded to environmental stress in a variety of ways. The relative length, continuity and richness of the historical record in Zimbabwe and Mozambique after. c. 1505 provides opportunities to look more closely at these relationships. From the early 16th century onwards, Portuguese observers left records of those droughts which most impacted societies. These short-term extremes—usually back-to-back years of deficient, irregular or delayed rainfall, sometimes coupled with locust plagues—had varying effects between and within societies as they were “filtered” through different levels of societal vulnerability and resilience, which in turn engendered divergent responses. Analysis of over three centuries of written records on the pre-colonial period suggest that climate-related stress alone, while sometimes leading to famine, was rarely enough to cut deeper into the political fabric of the region; yet, when combined with weak institutional capacity, warfare, or increasingly uneven distributions of power, extreme and protracted droughts could prove decisive and help bring about transformations in society. The Mutapa state and lower Zambezi valley during the late 16th and early 19th centuries, as well as the Zulu kingdom in the 1820s, serve as cases in point.

Article

Gema Kloppe-Santamaría

Despite the formal end of civil war and armed conflict, Mexico continued to experience significant levels of violence during the 1930s and 1940s. This period has traditionally been associated with the process of pacification, institutionalization, and centralization of power that enabled the consolidation of rule in postrevolutionary Mexico, a process epitomized by the marked national decline in levels of homicide that began during the 1940s and continued during the second half of the 20th century. The dynamics of coercion and resistance that characterized state-society relations at the regional and local levels reveal, however, that violence pervaded all aspects of society and that it was perpetrated by a multiplicity of actors, including vigilantes, pistoleros, private militias, lynch mobs, military, police, and other violent entrepreneurs. Violence was used as both a means to contest the legitimacy of the postrevolutionary state project as well as an instrument of control and coercion on behalf of political elites and local power brokers. Conversely, violence superseded the realm of traditional politics and constituted a central force shaping Mexican society. Violence against women in the public and private spheres, violence driven by economic interests, and citizens’ attempts to control crime and social transgressions reveal that citizens—and not only state actors—contributed to the reproduction of violence. Although violence in postrevolutionary Mexico was neither centralized nor exercised in a top-down manner, impunity and collusion between criminal and political elements were central in the production and perpetuation of violence both within the state and within civil society. When examined in light of these two decades of the postrevolutionary period, the character and levels of violence in contemporary Mexico appear less as an aberration and more as the latest expression of a longer, though uneven and nonlinear, historical trajectory of decentralized, multifaceted, and multi-actor forms of violence.

Article

Dominant narratives and theories developed at the turn of the 21st century to account for the links between state formation and civil wars in Africa converged around two main ideas. First was the contention that the increase in civil wars across the continent—like that in many parts of the globe, including South Asia and Central Europe—was linked to state failure or decay. Violent conflict thus came to be seen as the expression of the weakness, disintegration, and collapse of political institutions in the postcolonial world. Second, guerrilla movements, once viewed as the ideological armed wings of Cold War contenders, then came to be seen as roving bandits interested in plundering the spoils left by decaying states, and their motives as primarily, if not only, economic or personal, rather than political. However, recent research has challenged the reductionism that underlay such accounts by looking into the day-to-day politics of civil war, thus moving beyond the search for the motives that bring rebels and rebel movements to wage war against the established order. Drawing on this literature, this article argues that violent conflict is part and parcel of historical processes of state formation. Thus, in order to understand how stable political institutions can be built in the aftermath of civil war, it is essential to study the institutions that regulate political life during conflict. This implies a need not only to look at how (and if) state institutions survive once war has broken out, but also to take into account the institutions put in place in areas beyond the control of the state.

Article

Roman North Africa has traditionally been studied from a Mediterranean and colonialist perspective, in part reflecting the development of the field during the modern colonial era when archaeology was too readily recruited to the aid of modern imperial projects. The traditional approaches have emphasized the exogenous contribution to the emergence of North Africa as one of the richest and most important regions of the Roman Empire’s core territory. The corollary of this has been a lack of investigation of the cultural, political, and economic institutions of the autochthonous peoples of the region prior to the Roman conquest, with the partial exception of Phoenician coastal settlements. Such approaches are very outdated in the early 21st century and in need of revision, taking account of important new knowledge of North African peoples. The Garamantes, who were a people of the Libyan Sahara external to the Roman Empire, provide an excellent case study for an alternative approach that considers the story of Africa in the Roman Empire in its broader Maghrebian and Saharan context.

Article

From the end of the Paleolithic Period onwards, cultivated cereals have interacted with ritual practices and social patterning through a variety of channels: the agrarian cycle provides a society with an array of stories and practices that are enshrined into its system of local knowledge; representations associated with grains develop into everyday practices; and cereal cultivation favorizes (or is triggered by) specific political forms, thus becoming embedded into the rituals through which political entities assert their legitimacy. Interactions between cereals, rituals, and social forms are informed by the characteristics proper to each staple cereal (maize, wheat, rice, sorghum, and millet, among others): the length of the maturation cycle, the degree of solidarity required from the rural community, the environmental requirements linked to its cultivation, its process of transformation into alcohol—all these factors inform the way a cereal inserts itself into a ritual and social complex. Starting with the changes in farming methods that coincided with the First Industrial Revolution, technological, social, and cultural transformations have been seemingly working toward the elimination or transmutation of cereal-based rituals. However, the timing, intensity, and effects of such transformations have differed widely from region to region. Besides, critical observation highlights the fact that these rituals are often hybridized, a phenomenon that repeatedly happened in history. Furthermore, current social processes affecting both producers and consumers may lead to a progressive ritualization of new beliefs and ways of proceeding.

Article

From the moment the expedition of Magellan gave Patagonia its name, it became a land where European fantasies and fears dwelled. A no man’s land inhabited by giant anthropophagites located at the antipodes of civilization, this steppe swept by icy winds was not transformed into a colonial setting until the 19th century. The territory then became the object of an ongoing territorial dispute between the new states of Argentina and Chile, whose efforts to establish sovereignty as landowners languished until the late 1870s. Nomadic indigenous sovereignties had faced slow Western expansion on the continent; here, they were swiftly replaced by sheep. On the continent, the Tehuelche were displaced; on the island of Tierra del Fuego, the Selknam faced extermination. Sheep sovereignty, fully integrated into imperial networks, was the driving force behind local state building. Just as the British pastoral colonization of the Falkland Islands conditioned any possibility of permanent presence in the South Atlantic, the sheep industry, arriving swiftly in the shape of capital, persons, and animals, allowed for the Argentinization and Chileanization of what was once the frontier of civilization. In this sense, the occupation of the Falklands/Malvinas, Patagonia, and Tierra del Fuego may be considered successive colonial processes that form part of the same frontier drive as the Empire in capital.

Article

This article focuses on the shifts in the ways of seeing the history and historiography of the emergence of agrarian landscapes, manufacture of crafts, and trade and commerce in north India, during the mid-first millennium bce to the 13th century. Continued manifestation of settled agrarian localities, or janapadas, with its attendant concomitant processes, is visibly more noticeable from the middle of the first millennium ce onward, though their early beginnings can be traced back to the later Vedic times. The study of the janapadas or localities and regions, as distinguished from earlier regional studies, focusing on the trajectory of sociopolitical developments through time is a development dating to around the turn of the 21st century. It has much to do with the recognition of the fact that historical or cultural regions and modern state boundaries, which are the result of administrative decision-making, do not necessarily converge. Simultaneously, instead of engaging in macro-generalizations, historians have moved on to acknowledge that spaces in the past, as in the present, were differentiated, and there were uneven patterns of growth across regions and junctures. Consequently, since 1990 denser and richer narratives of the regions have been available. These constructions in terms of the patterns for early India have moved away from the earlier accounts of wider generalizations in time and space, colonization by Gangetic north India, and crisis. Alternatively, they look for change through continuities and try to problematize issues that were earlier subsumed under broader generalizations, and provide local and regional societies with the necessary agency. Rural settlements and rural society through the regions are receiving their due, and so are their networks of linkages with artisanal production, markets, merchants, and trade. The grades of peasants, markets, and merchants as well as their changing forms have attracted the notice of the historian. This in turn has compelled a shift in focus from being mostly absorbed with subcontinental history to situating it in its Asiatic and Indian Ocean background.