Territorial Self-Governance in Troubled Times. Autonomy in the Face of Cultural Polarization and Subnational Autocratization

Autocratization has been an unfortunate trend in several democratic and authoritarian systems in recent years. Still largely unexplored is, however, if this observation holds on the sub-national level as well, in regions that enjoy a substantial amount of territorial self-governance. Moreover, fairly unsettled is the question of what drives autocratization dynamics and which role polarization between identity groups plays in this context. To address this problem, we introduce a dataset on liberal democracy and cultural polarization in 28 self-governing regions in 14 electoral autocracies and democracies with substantial deficits. The data was generated through an expert survey, providing information on nine different variables. Our preliminary findings suggest that legally hedged executive power in the liberal sense, in combination with a public arena where political positions can and are expressed, prevail in subnational regions where mistrust between relevant outgroups is low.

Self-Rule and Intrastate Conflict Risk in Divided Societies: A Configurational Analysis of Consociational Institutions (with C. Trinn)

Scholars debate whether self-rule is conducive to intrastate violence or peace. We argue that to resolve this problem the entire institutional setup of the state must be taken into account. Whereas the centripetalist view deemphasizes self-rule as a vehicle of interethnic competition, consociationalism holds that it is the interplay of accommodative institutions, with segmental autonomy among them, that promotes intrastate peace. We test the rivaling expectations on a set of 556 subnational cases in 21 culturally fractionalized post-war anocracies. We conduct a configurational risk analysis, which allows us to study self-rule and conflict risk under various institutional arrangements. We find that the full consociational ‘package’ is indeed associated with a reduction of intrastate conflict risk. However, majoritarian configurations are equally associated with a risk reduction. In contrast, models that include self-rule alone, or in combination with few other consociational elements, are consistently associated with an increase of conflict risk.


What’s Law Got to Do With It? Legalization and Post-Conflict Autonomy Success (with G. Carolan)

Territorial self-governance remains a persistent feature of contemporary conflict resolution. Existing research has identified a number of exogenous factors that impact the sustainability of such arrangements, including previous levels of violence, the level of economic development in a given territory, or the strategic importance thereof. We argue that a hitherto neglected variable lies
in the legal form of the autonomy agreement – that is, the degree to which it has been ‘legalized’
by the language and processes prescribed in the agreement. Based on an in-depth qualitative
evaluation, we assess the degree of legalization of 228 post-conflict autonomy agreements signed between 1945 and 2019. Quantitative survival analyses and Cox regression models show that a higher degree of legalization has a positive and significant effect on peace durability.

Territorial Self-Governance Dataset (TERRGO)

The high degree of conceptual confusion in the field of territorial selfgovernance constitutes  a major obstacle to robust findings. Based on a parsimonious definition involving three individually necessary and jointly sufficient criteria (constitutional protection, territorial quality, and strength of self-rule), we develop a new typology of territorial self-governance that carves out subnational differences in kind. Empirically, we take a fresh look at territorial self-governance in more than 2200 second-level regions in 96 Western and non-Western democracies, semi-democracies, and a selection of autocratic regimes between 2000 and 2018. The TERRGO dataset introduced in this article contains over 39 000 region-year assessments. Based on the identification of eight specific types of territorial self-governance, TERRGO allows to untangle country-specific profiles. The dataset can be used to analyze changes and asymmetries of state architectures. The framework reduces the conceptual complexity and enhances our grasp on the empirical complexity of territorial state structures.

Peace through Self-Determination. Success and Failure of Territorial Autonomy

Bringing together comparative politics, conflict research and social psychology, this book presents a novel theory to explain the consolidation outcomes of post-conflict autonomy arrangements. It builds on Social Identity Theory and identifies a successful process of ethnic recognition as the key prerequisite for peaceful interethnic cohabitation through territorial self-governance. As this process is highly context-dependent, the study identifies relevant structural and actor-centered factors and analyzes their occurrence in the consolidation periods of nineteen autonomy arrangements worldwide using Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA). The author concludes that elites accept autonomy reforms if they promise a high degree of self-determination and, at the same time, ethnic recognition is not hindered by horizontal inequalities. Bargaining efforts succeed within inclusive institutions involving non-nationalist parties and international organizations. Autonomy reforms fail if the degree of self-rule offered is too low and strong inequalities generate new grievances. Autocratic rule, nationalist parties, and a lack of international attention provide a breeding ground for further centrifugal activities. In-depth case studies on South Tyrol and the Chittagong Hill Tracts provide further evidence for the theoretical models.