Call for Papers: The Everyday Lives of Sovereignty: Contests and Conflicts in a Transnational Era

An international conference under the auspices of the research project ‘Imagined Sovereignties: Frontiers of Statehood and Globalization’


3 September 2014

​Date: 16-17 October 2015 (TBC)

Place: Buffer zone, Nicosia, Cyprus

Host organisation: PRIO Cyprus Centre

Conference organisers: Åshild Kolås (PRIO) and Rebecca Bryant (LSE)

Much recent theorizing of the nation-state has described its withering as an effective political space in an era of global capital and transnational legal mechanisms. Indeed, supranational political and legal institutions such as the European Union and the International Criminal Court today reach across borders and compel sovereign states to combat corruption or conform to human rights norms. Global financial interdependence and multinational business challenge state sovereignty, as do transnational civil society and political activism, and high-tech 'remote-controlled' warfare. Moreover, despite a common belief that state sovereignty is clear and indivisible the world today is littered with cases of compromised state sovereignty. Enclaves, exclaves, protectorates, and autonomous regions are all forms of government that do not fit the Westphalian mold of a single state controlling people within a well-defined territory. The UN protectorate of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the autonomous Kurdish government of northern Iraq, the British overseas territory of the Falkland Islands, and more recently the self-declared Islamic State of Syria and Iraq are all exceptions to the Westphalian rule. Indeed, the more closely we examine a map of the world, the more we see that it is covered with exceptions, and there seems to be no state that is not touched by some form of sovereign exceptionality.

Despite these apparent challenges to state sovereignty, the sovereign state retains its power as a sphere within which we think, communicate and act. Moreover, conflicts over sovereignty remain a prominent feature of international politics. This conference investigates cases of contested, compromised, and exceptional sovereignty, and we call for papers that examine current sovereignty contests through the ethnography of the everyday. We particularly seek to explore 'sovereignty practices,' or the ways that sovereignty is asserted, contested, and disputed in daily life. This may include the ethnography of bureaucracies or border practices, of civil society or transnational organisations, or any number of other institutional or quotidian sites. We aim to understand the everyday construction of sovereignty, or what Timothy Mitchell referred to as the 'state effect,' as well as the persistence of struggles over sovereignty at a time when so many theorists of globalisation have described state sovereignty's decline. We are especially interested to explore how quotidian debates and conflicts over sovereignty relate to changing practices, techniques and experiences of governance.

We welcome abstracts from anthropologists, sociologists, and scholars from related disciplines who address these questions ethnographically. PRIO will cover travel expenses for accepted participants upon receipt of a draft paper (ca. 8000 words) of publication quality by 15 June 2015. Following the conference, papers will be published in venues to be decided by the organisers according to paper themes.


Abstract deadline: 15 October 2014

Notification of acceptance: 15 November 2014

Deadline for draft papers for publication: 15 June 2015

Call for Papers PRIO conference Oct 2015.pdf