Secession and the theory & practice of international relations
Secession has been noticeably absent from International Relations theory although its role in the creation and recognition of states is clearly relevant. Traditionally, the dominant perspectives in IR have not questioned state formation and this has effectively barred secession as a topic since it cannot be thoroughly treated without looking across the inside/outside divide of state sovereignty. Secession must be placed in its historical context-as a phenomenon only possible in the modern era and only perceived as a global threat in this century. Theorists from other disciplines who have discussed secession have relied on a problem-solving theoretical perspective which has kept them from considering secession as an outcome of problematic assumptions about identity and territory in the international system. In contrast, a critical theoretical perspective, which affirms the constitutive processes of historical discourse allows an analysis of secession which exposes the contingency of its basic assumptions. Historicising the territorial state allows us to recognise the different structures of political power through which we have already passed and thus to theorise about different forms for the future. The secessionist imperative narrates the boundaries of a specific people who must be secured by a territorial state. Textual analysis of secessionist documents reveals that the narrative strategies they employ are exclusionist and historically short-sighted. Recognising identity as a continuous and relational process is a necessary step towards a post-territorialist order. If different forms of political space are practiced, democracy must also be re-theorised. There is no single model which can guarantee peaceful democratic politics since ambiguity and conflict are inherent in the political process itself and must be encouraged. However, an understanding of the intersubjective processes through which we have generated our present day politics of territory and identity can open up the theoretical space required for alternative politics.