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Prof. Dovilė Jakniūnaitė
Vilnius university, Institute of International Relations and Political Science


Bordering and state-building in 21st century


International relations are first and foremost a territorial practice. We might not notice but most of the time our analyses start from the assumption that the territorially divided world is given - the assumption which leads the thought a certain way and cuts other roads. Analysis of a territory is inseparable from borders that define, limit, and create it. There is an interesting case in the contemporary international relations - the unrecognized, or de facto, states - that allow looking through the different lenses at the problem of borders and territories in our century.

The situation of such unrecognised states is ambiguous. On one hand, they are anomalies, a problem to be resolved, something that should not exist, and thus are to be treated as temporary phenomena. On the other hand, they continue to exist and become a stable feature of international and regional politics – their existence as such needs no explanation. In my talk I aim to present the subjectivity conditions of the unrecognised territorial entities asking how the prolonged existence of these entities is related to territorial and bordering processes. I will uncover the common state building practices and show the power and limits of these practices, and the ambiguous position of the unrecognised states provides the special context to reflect the power of state borders and territoriality.

The talk will also tackle such questions as: How do unrecognised territorial entities utilize the habitual practices of international affairs? How a political-territorial entity justifies its existence? How are certain limits (borders, lines) agreed upon, and what effects do those agreements entail? How does our system of international relations work – this system that allows some to be a part of it and denies that to the others? What does the existence of an unrecognised territorial entity tells us about the everyday, established practices of international relations?




Dr. Dovile Jakniunaite is professor at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science of Vilnius University and head of the Institute's International Relations Department. Her current research focuses on borders in the context of territorial conflicts, mobility studies, and relation between security and identity in contemporary politics. Her fields of expertise also encompass foreign policy analysis, security studies, international relations theory, Russian foreign policy, conflicts in Georgia and Ukraine, de facto states, and EU Eastern Partnership policy. She has written books Russia's neighbourhood policy (2007) and the role of borders in Georgian territorial conflicts (2017).