Imagined Sovereignties: Frontiers of Statehood and Globalization

Imagined Sovereignties: Frontiers of Statehood and Globalization
Led by Åshild Kolås
Mar 2013 - Dec 2017

​​Through an investigation and comparison of three empirical cases; Northeast India, Cyprus and the Basque country, this project explores the changing conditions and spaces for exercising and demanding sovereignty in the contemporary world, and how sovereignty is imagined under these conditions.

Drawing on anthropological perspectives, sovereignty is understood as imagined in similar ways as the ‘imagined communities’ that make up the ‘people’ of sovereignty demands. The project highlights how sovereignty is context-dependent and historically constructed, asking the following key questions:

  • How do changing practices of governance and new means of contestation affect the claims made by states and their contenders in conflicts over sovereignty?
  • How is the evolving global or transnational order reflected in everyday contestations and struggles over sovereignty?
  • How do sovereignty practices affect the course of conflict, including negotiations to end conflict?

The project explores how sovereignty is imagined and debated in different socio-cultural and political contexts, examining how conflicts over identity (e.g. indigeneity, ethnicity, nationhood) and governance differ in the ways in which key actors and their constituencies draw on culturally shaped notions of identity, territoriality and legitimacy in their imagining of different ‘sovereign’ futures, despite having basic ideas of statehood and global influences in common. The project thus aims to shed new light on the changing nature of conflicts over public authority, political representation, citizenship rights, and territoriality in a globalizing world.

Partners in this project are the International Catalan Institute for Peace (Institut Català Internacional per la Pau) and Omeo Kumar Das Institute of Social Change and Development (OKDISCD).


Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Kolås, Åshild (2018) Northeast Indian Enigmas, Alternatives: Global, Local, Political 42(3): 99–106.
Kolås, Åshild (2017) Truth and Indigenous Cosmopolitics in Shangrila, The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 18(1): 1–20.
Bryant, Rebecca (2016) On Critical Times: Return, Repetition, and the Uncanny Present, History and Anthropology 27(1): 19–31.
Fangen, Katrine & Åshild Kolås (2016) The "Syria traveller": Reintegration or legal sanctioning?, Critical Studies on Terrorism 9(3): 414–432.
Kolås, Åshild (2015) Framing the tribal: Ethnic violence in Northeast India, Asian Ethnicity 18(1): 22–37.
Bryant, Rebecca (2014) Living with Liminality: De Facto States on the Threshold of the Global, Brown Journal of World Affairs 20(2): 125–143.
Deka, Arunima (2013) Indigenous People and the International Discourse: Issues and Debates, Journal of Humanities and Social Science (IOSR-JHSS) 17(1): 87–99.
Kolås, Åshild (2013) Indigenous Rights, Sovereignty and Resource Governance in the Arctic, Strategic Analysis 37(4): 499–504.

PhD Thesis

Bathari, Uttam (2014) Memory, History and Polity. A Study of Dimasa Identity in Colonial Past and Post colonial Present. PhD thesis, Department of Folklore Research , Gauhati University, Guwahati, India.


Bryant, Rebecca & Mete Hatay (2020) Sovereignty Suspended: Building the So-Called State. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. The Ethnography of Political Violence.

Book Chapter

Kolås, Åshild (2017) Introduction: Basque sovereignty revisited, in Kolås, Åshild; & Pedro Ibarra Güell, eds, Sovereignty Revisited: the Basque Case. London: Routledge (1-19).
Kolås, Åshild (2016) Sovereignty at the Frontiers: Contests and Contradictions, in Dilip Gogoi, ed., Unheeded Hinterland: Identity and Sovereignty In Northeast India. New Delhi: Routledge India (17–29).
Tunander, Ola (2014) Diskurs, identitet och territorialitet: Kjellens tankar om ett europeisk statsfôrbund [Discourse, identity and territoriality: Kjellen's thoughts on a union of European states], in Edstrôm, Bert; Ragnar Bjôrk; & Thomas Lunden, eds, Rudolf Kjellen. Geopolitiken Och Konservatismen. Stockholm: Hjalmarson & Högberg (203-223).

Edited Volume

Kolås, Åshild; & Pedro Ibarra Güell, eds, (2017) Sovereignty Revisited: The Basque Case. London: Routledge. Routledge Studies in Radical History and Politics.
Bryant, Rebecca (ed.) (2016) Post-Ottoman Coexistence. Sharing Space in the Shadow of Conflict. Oxford: Berghahn Books. Space and Place, Volume 16.
Ibarra Güell, Pedro; & Åshild Kolås, eds, (2016) Basque Nationhood: Towards a Democratic Scenario. Oxford: Peter Lang. Nationalisms Across the Globe.

Non-refereed Journal Article

Baruah, Sanjib (2016) Naga peace: Road ahead still uncertain, The Seminar 677: 64–68.

Popular Article

Tunander, Ola (2016) Et Norge mellom stormaktene [A Norway among the great powers], Ny Tid, 17 November.
Tunander, Ola (2016) «Spør Vadsø» [«Ask Vadsø»], Ny Tid, 17 November.
Tunander, Ola (2016) I milliardærenes lommer [In the pockets of billionaires], Ny Tid, 13 October.
Tunander, Ola (2016) Hvem skyter statsministre? [Who shoots prime ministers?], Ny Tid, 12 May.
Tunander, Ola (2015) Brevet til Jeltsin [The letter to Jeltsin], Ny Tid, 16 December.
Tunander, Ola (2015) Taushetens diktatur [The dictatorship of silence], Ny Tid, 14 October.
Tunander, Ola (2015) Snowdens val [Snowden's choice], Ny Tid, 6 May.

Master Thesis

Al-Jubory, Zubaidah (2016) A Genealogy of Sovereignty. MA thesis, Department of International Environment and Development Studies, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås.

Conference Paper

Kolås, Åshild (2015) Sovereignty revisited: The Basque case, presented at International Workshop on ‘A Multidisciplinary Approach to Processes of Sovereignty Construction: The Basque Case’, Oñati International Institute for the Sociology of Law (IISL), 14–15 May 2015.
Tunander, Ola (2014) Rudolf Kjellen and the Birth of Geopolitics: A Geopolitical Scholar of the First World War, presented at The International Studies Association Annual Convention, Toronto, 26 March 2014.

PRIO Policy Brief

Kolås, Åshild (2017) Sovereignty™, PRIO Policy Brief, 1. Oslo: PRIO.

PRIO Paper

Alcalde, Javier & Pablo Aguiar (2017) Catalan Sovereignty in Practice: Referendum as resistance and the right to decide, PRIO Paper. Oslo: PRIO.

Book Review

Kolås, Åshild (2015) Review of The Arctic Contested, in International Affairs 91(2): 423–424.


Related pages