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2020 | Book

Nomad-State Relationships in International Relations

Before and After Borders


About this book

This book explores non-state actors that are or have been migratory, crossing borders as a matter of practice and identity. Where non-state actors have received considerable attention amongst political scientists in recent years, those that predate the state—nomads—have not. States, however, tend to take nomads quite seriously both as a material and ideational threat. Through this volume, the authors rectify this by introducing nomads as a distinct topic of study. It examines why states treat nomads as a threat and it looks particularly at how nomads push back against state intrusions. Ultimately, this exciting volume introduces a new topic of study to IR theory and politics, presenting a detailed study of nomads as non-state actors.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction: Nomad-State Relationships in International Relations
State consolidation has commonly been understood as depending on the coercive power of governments. Nomads are less easily coerced than settled populations and are difficult to track or otherwise administratively document, tax, or conscript. Nomads, therefore, undermine or stand outside of the core features of the modern international order. However, they also present a challenge to the legitimacy of the state. Nomadic societies are not just non-state actors. They are non-state political communities, independent, or potentially so, in their modes of social ordering. Fixed and monopolistic territoriality is important not only to the efficiency of modern states but it is also a defining element of their identity. As such, nomads challenge the legitimacy of modern statehood. Furthermore, their lack of fixity stands at odds with the project of modern nationalism. The movement of a cohesive group across, and their presence within, national borders is contrary to the notion that a particular geographically bounded area (i.e., a state) is the exclusive home to one people who share a common language, culture, and history (i.e., a nation). Among premodern states, migratory peoples were commonly derided as uncivilized, barbarian, or archaic. These biases seem to have persisted even in the context of scant material threats.
Jamie Levin, Joseph MacKay
Chapter 2. Nomads and States in Comparative Perspective
Today every inhabited part of the world is controlled by sovereign states of various types and sizes. In contrast before 1600 a majority of the world’s territories were outside their control either because they were unknown to them or because their sovereign claims on paper were effectively resisted by non-state actors. The most numerous and effective of these non-state actors lived as pastoral nomads. Organized as mobile social and political groups, they occupied and defended territories but did not define themselves by them. If they lost one territory, they could re-establish themselves elsewhere and still maintain their solidarity. Those living on the borders of powerful states such as China developed their own political and military strategies that kept them independent until the early modern period, sometimes creating their own empress as did the Mongols in the thirteenth century. On other occasions (particularly in North Africa and the Middle East), they became the ruling dynasties of established states. Changes in military technology and transportation beginning in the nineteenth and accelerating in the twentieth centuries gave territorial states such an advantage that they completely displaced older alternative forms of that had been politically significant for thousands of years.
Thomas Barfield
Chapter 3. The Anti-Nomadic Bias of Political Theory
Political theory has always taken the life of nomads as its unacceptable other. According to the ancient Greeks, politics was only possible in a polis, a city-state. According to apologists for the early modern state, sovereignty protected us from the state of nature. According to the philosophers of the Enlightenment, nomadism was a backward condition which history would render obsolete. In this article, these moments of anti-nomadic prejudice are discussed and compared.
Erik Ringmar
Chapter 4. Before and After Borders: The Nomadic Challenge to Sovereign Territoriality
While non-state actors have recently proliferated, nomads we argue challenge sovereignty in ways others do not. Nomadism undermines states’ capacity to tax, conscript, and otherwise regulate population. However, nomadism constitutes an additional non-material threat to the modern territorial state. By disrupting states’ claims to territorial exclusivity, nomadism undermines the ideational foundations of statehood. States have responded to nomadism in three ways. Many forcibly settle nomads. Weak states, unable to secure borders, may allow nomads to migrate relatively freely. Others voluntarily facilitate freer migration by reducing the salience of borders.
Jamie Levin, Gustavo de Carvalho, Kristin Cavoukian, Ross Cuthbert
Chapter 5. Standard of Civilization, Nomadism and Territoriality in Nineteenth-Century International Society
In this chapter, the encounter between the Russian Empire and the nomads of the Eurasian steppe in the nineteenth century is analyzed using the theoretical framework of the standard of civilization. The creation of the Westphalian state-model in Europe in the seventeenth century, linked to the later emergence of the notion of the standard of civilization led to the ‘othering’ of the nomads of the Eurasian steppe as barbarians, as a threat to the borders of civilized Europe. The chapter presents also an argument to define ‘territoriality’ as not only an institution of international society of the time but also as a distinctive quality and requirement for being considered ‘civilized’. In this analytical framework, the nomads become the ‘other’, the ‘alien’, the ‘menace’, onto which projections of rationality and modernity were cast in order to prevent threats to Russia’s European and civilized identity. The chapter sheds light on the encounter between ‘fixed’ and ‘mobile’ units in the course of expansion of international society; contextualizes the role played by nomadic tribes in resisting the application of Westphalian spatial categories in the Eurasian space; and scrutinizes what the role of nomads was in constructing a European, civilized identity.
Filippo Costa Buranelli
Chapter 6. Frontier Energetics: The Value of Pastoralist Border Crossings in Eastern Africa
This chapter focuses on the history of boundary-making in two frontier settings in Eastern Africa and on the everyday trans-border dynamics that arise out of the mobile nature of pastoral land use and territoriality. Do pastoral movements across frontiers question the integrity of national borders and the capacity of states to defend their frontiers and govern trans-border populations, or do they confirm the advantages of enhancing flows of people and goods between states, validating the continuation of mobility by other means? Frontiers were drawn in Eastern Africa in dry, lowland rangelands inhabited by pastoral or agro-pastoral peoples that lie between highland regions where colonial states were localized and capitals created. The metaphor of entropy suggests that by blocking free flows of people, livestock or goods, borders create potential social, political and economic energy. Borders protect frontier opportunities; nomads cross frontiers not to challenge but to secure some blessings from the state. This chapter describes the history and current dynamics along the Kenyan and Ethiopian and Kenyan and Tanzania borders to illustrate how frontier energetics work. From the inception, demarcation and consolidation of national boundaries to processes of trans-boundary flows, trans-border people both recognize the line and profit from it.
John Galaty
Chapter 7. Seeing the Nomads Like a State: Sweden and the Sámi at the Turn of the Last Century
In modern history, states have typically attempted to eliminate nomadism. Perhaps uniquely, Sweden reinforced nomadism among some of its Sámi population. In this chapter, I argue that the reason for this was twofold. First, reindeer herding necessitated nomadism, and it was thought to be the only economic contribution parts of the traditional Sámi land could provide. Second, a discourse of Borealism romanticized the Sámi and allowed them to be a contained element of Swedish national identity, rather than a threat to it.
Martin Hall
Chapter 8. African Community-Based Conservancies: Innovative Governance for Whom?
Community-based conservancies (CBCs) are growing in numbers throughout Africa, particularly in the arid and semi-arid (ASAL) regions where pastoralists raise livestock and live among much of Africa’s remaining wildlife. CBCs emerge around national parks and other protected areas of wildlife spaces apart from people. Community conservancies, in contrast, are land tenure and land use governance arrangements to conserve wildlife while providing for the livelihoods of African pastoralists. Some conservancies are developed by communities in partnership with public agencies, while others are associated with nongovernment organizations and/or the private sector. Others are more top-down in origin, supported by large international donors and governments. Conservancies tend to develop in nation states that, until recently, have ignored the ASALs. Currently, however, ASALs are converting to towns and croplands as human populations and consumption grow. Shifting market incentives encourage different livestock strategies away from local production to commercial livestock products. Energy extraction and renewable energy production are expanding into these areas, transforming landscapes, communities and rural cultures. Formerly communal rangelands are increasingly privatizing and subdividing as pastoralists permanently settle. Fragmentation of communal lands is the result. We assess the goals of formation of community-based conservancies, their partnerships and outcomes for pastoralists.
Kathleen A. Galvin, Danielle Backman, Matthew W. Luizza, Tyler A. Beeton
Chapter 9. In Limbo of Spatial Control, Rights, and Recognition: The Negev Bedouin and the State of Israel
The Negev Bedouin have long struggled with the state of Israel around issues of spatial control, land rights, and recognition of their villages. In this chapter state policies toward the Bedouin on these three issues since the 1950s are reviewed, followed by an analysis of Bedouin responses. It is shown how the Bedouin have been mobilizing their social and cultural resources as derived from their centrifugal heritage and layered as nomadic, Palestinian, colonized, and indigenous minority, to confront the dominant centripetal sedentary politics in the country. Our conclusion is that they have been quite successful with regard to spatial control and recognition of their villages, yet the issue of land ownership remains unsolved as neither side is ready to step back from its entrenched ideological and political positions. Another conclusion is that the recent de-nomadizing discourse, which almost entirely ignores nomadic centrifugality, decontextualizes contemporary Bedouin society from its seminomadic historical heritage.
Avinoam Meir
Chapter 10. Imperial Chinese Relations with Nomadic Groups
This chapter assesses the nomad-sedentary interface in the long-run context of Imperial China. I focus on the late imperial Ming and Qing dynasties. I identify three distinct ideal-type forms of nomadic groups. The first comprises the nomadic peoples of the Inner Asian Steppe, which confronted China on its non-Western frontier, and which occasionally constituted themselves as rival empires. The second comprises the smaller upland nomadic and migratory peoples, chiefly on China’s southern peripheries. These were not threats per se, but were still habitually constructed as “others” by the Chinese state. The third group, not traditionally, parsed as nomads, were pirates: seagoing social groupings on China’s southeastern coastlines that occasionally organized themselves at scale, controlling territory, levying taxes, and praying on the rural margins of the Chinese state. By degrees, successive dynasties proved adept at regulating relations with all three—likely doing so with greater flexibility than modern states.
Joseph MacKay
Chapter 11. On Being Orang Suku Laut in the Malay World
Southeast Asia is a region steeped in long-established maritime traditions, and sea nomadism has prevailed within its waters for centuries. Until today, widely scattered communities of sea nomads can be found across the region. This chapter traces the story of historically changing commitments of power holders in the region’s macro-politics and the stakes they held in forging the rise and decline of the sea nomads. Presently, the wider society sees them as a backward and unprogressive people. In the name of modernization and development, policymakers have tried to forcibly settle and assimilate them. Yet, their continued widespread distribution in Southeast Asia bears testament to their proficiencies to strike- and pushback against state intrusions. An examination of their relationship with space, their adoption of Christianity and Chinese religion as resources to establish modernity as well as their practices of not doing or undoing provide but just a few ethnographic glimpses into their wide-ranging strategies to ward off the State.
Cynthia Chou
Chapter 12. From Gypsies to Romanies: Identity, Cultural Autonomy, Political Sovereignty and (the Search for a) Trans-territorial State
The chapter explores the viability of a trans-territorial (or non-territorially based) Romani state within Europe. The starting point for the exploration is a recognition that, for generations, European Romanies have experienced acute forms of racism, discrimination and maltreatment at the hands of both governments and civil society organizations, without having had an institutional arrangement through which they could meaningfully address their condition of on-going marginalization. The chapter argues that the formation of a trans-territorial Romani state would significantly alter Romanies’ relationship with the European community by creating an institutional framework for engaging with Europe on more equal, just and effectual terms, and by establishing productive socio-cultural and political mechanisms for dealing with the thorny issues of Romani physical security, cultural autonomy and political sovereignty. Thus, the chapter’s primary objective is to consider the question of viable foundations for the Romani socio-cultural and political mobilization that can lead to the formation of the trans-territorial Romani state.
Dalibor Mišina, Neil Cruickshank
Chapter 13. International Relations and Migration: Mobility as Norm Rather Than Exception
This chapter engages the theoretical core of the volume from a critical perspective, aiming to problematize and complicate its underlying assumptions. While acknowledging the value of the “nomad-state” relationship as a subject of study in International Relations, we draw this emerging research agenda into conversation with work on the history, politics, and sociology of human mobility. As emphasized in the volume, nomadic groups, cultures, and peoples remain largely neglected in IR. However, we argue that this is an instance of the field’s broader inattention to migration, which until recently was consigned to the domain of “low politics” and area studies. Despite its important contribution, a focus on “nomads as the state’s other” leaves unchallenged the dominant paradigm of a world of stationary people within bounded states. We complicate (and perhaps upend) this view of mobility as exception by historicizing the relationship between states and human mobility. In particular, we draw attention to the contingency of borders and migration controls, emphasizing the recent institutional and technological developments which reified and naturalized static, territorialized populations. In doing so, we advance the provocative claim that for much of history this view of the state’s relationship to human mobility has been more myth than reality.
Kiran Banerjee, Craig Damian Smith
Nomad-State Relationships in International Relations
Jamie Levin
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