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The necessary indeterminacy of self-determination: politics, law and conflict in the Horn of Africa

De Waal, Alex and Nouwen, Sarah (2020) The necessary indeterminacy of self-determination: politics, law and conflict in the Horn of Africa. Nations and Nationalism. ISSN 1354-5078

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Identification Number: 10.1111/nana.12645


This article frames a themed collection on Nationalism and Self‐determination in the Horn of Africa. It demonstrates how the praxis of self‐determination in the Horn of Africa has contributed to normative developments. On the basis of case studies of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan/South Sudan this article argues that nationalism and self‐determination have had different meanings in the political cultures across the different countries and have changed over time. We contend that such indeterminacy is unavoidable and should be welcomed. Nationalism is driven by historical circumstances that are contingent and often transitory. Self‐determination claims based on such nationalism are equally contingent and transitory. When the principle of self‐determination gets translated into concrete legal entitlements (for instance, a referendum on independence), it tends to solve one problem only by creating others. Instead, the pursuit and realization of self‐determination require constant political processes.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2020 The Authors
Divisions: International Development
Subjects: J Political Science > JC Political theory
J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
Date Deposited: 30 Jun 2020 08:27
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2024 17:06

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