International Organization

Uncommon Ground: Indivisible Territory and the Politics of Legitimacy

Stacie E.  Goddard  a1
a1 Wellesley College,

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In Jerusalem, Ireland, Kosovo, and Kashmir, indivisible territory underlies much of international conflict. I argue whether or not territory appears indivisible depends on how actors legitimate their claims to territory during negotiations. Although actors choose their legitimations strategically, in order to gain a political advantage at the bargaining table, legitimation strategies have unintended structural consequences: by resonating with some actors and not others, legitimations either build ties between coalitions and allow each side to recognize the legitimacy of each other's claims, or else lock actors into bargaining positions where they are unable to recognize the legitimacy of their opponent's demands. When the latter happens, actors come to negotiations with incompatible claims, constructing the territory as indivisible. I apply this legitimation theory to Ulster, arguing this territory's indivisibility was not inevitable, but a product of actors' legitimation strategies as they battled for support over the issue of Ireland's right to self-rule. a


a For comments on this article, I thank Fiona Adamson, Tim Crawford, Consuelo Cruz, Ron Hassner, Jeff Herbst, Robert Jervis, Robert Keohane, Ron Krebs, Paul MacDonald, Daniel Nexon, John Padgett, Dan Reiter, Jack Snyder, Monica Toft, two anonymous reviewers, as well as participants in a seminar at the John M. Olin Institute at Harvard University. In addition, the John M. Olin Institute, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, the Center for International Studies at Princeton University, and the Center for International Studies at the University of Southern California all provided support for this project.