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The project

This project contends that in recent years in post-war states, understandings of ‘state’, ‘society’, ‘local’ and ‘international’ have created perceptions that are inaccurate to the reality on the ground. The project approaches this problem by interrogating literatures around the state and sovereignty (Caporaso 2000; Gainsborough 2010; Scott 1998) and the postcolonial nation (Chatterjee 1993; Harris-White 2003; Jalal 2002) to form a robust critique of the post-war state. Employing interview material from fieldwork in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Kosovo and Sri Lanka conducted between 2012 and 2019, the project analyses the human side of these ideas and the intricacies surrounding how resilience and exhaustion are experienced.

This project asserts that the component parts of the state and society—and the individuals within them—must be analysed separately, as sweeping arguments based on the idea of ‘the state’ behaving in a certain way toward ‘the society’ are inaccurate to any post-war context. The project argues that the difference between state and society actors depends much more on their individual backgrounds and objectives than on which sphere they ‘belong’ to. Thus, individuals belonging to NGOs perceived as ‘anti-government’ may well have close working and personal relationships with public servants (Evans 1996: 1122). Equally, employees of the state may hold highly critical views of that state (Stepan 1978: xiii). And while ‘the state’ as an effect may close-down civil society activities deemed to be anti-state, in the cases analysed this is done in a much more calculated manner than one might expect. These ideas are substantiated with interview material.

This project interrogates the idea of there being a fixed ‘international’ in relation to a fixed ‘local’. It contends that the state is more an effect caused by an assemblage of practices and power relations—that the state is not a unitary physical entity but the projection of multiple physical entities (even though these individual departments or actors often disagree with each other). Timothy Mitchell terms this the effect of the state (1991: 94–95). It is further argued that similar projections occur for civil society, local actors and international actors alike, an oversimplification which has only served to confuse those analysing a post-war environment. Through this analysis, the project illuminates the detailed human interactions taking place often in contravention to these categorisations. This analysis is applicable to other states (including the UK), as it helps us to understand far more about why individuals who are members of externally-homogeneous organisations in fact have heterogeneous views.


If you have any questions about this project, you can contact Dr Gilberto Algar-Faria at g.j.algar-faria@bristol.ac.uk.