In the social sciences, recognition is considered a means to de-escalate conflicts and promote peaceful social interactions. This volume explores the forms that social recognition and its withholding may take in asymmetric armed conflicts. It discusses the short- and long-term risks and opportunities which arise when local, state and transnational actors recognise armed non-state actors (ANSAs), mis-recognise them or deny them recognition altogether.

The first part of the volume contextualises the politics of recognition in the case of ANSAs. It provides a historical overview of recognition regimes since the Second World War and their diverging impacts on ANSAs’ recognition claims. The second part is dedicated to original case studies, centring on specific conflict phases and covering ANSAs from all over the world. Some examine the politics of recognition during armed conflicts, others in conflict stalemates, and others still in mediation and peace processes. The third part of the volume discusses how the politics of recognition impacts practitioners’ engagement with conflict parties, gives an outlook on policies vis-à-vis ANSAs, and sketches trajectories for future research in the field.

The volume shows that, while non-recognition prevents conflict transformation, the recognition of armed non-state actors may produce counterproductive precedents and new modes of exclusion in intra-state and transnational politics.

Risks and opportunities for conflict transformation
Maéva Clément, Anna Geis, and Hanna Pfeifer

Many contemporary violent conflicts involve armed non-state actors (ANSAs) as conflict parties. Governments are often hesitant to enter informal talks and negotiations with ANSAs, and yet in many violent conflicts such ‘talks’ are initiated at some point. Engaging with ANSAs is considered risky. Talking and negotiating usually imply gradual steps of recognising and legitimising the counterpart. In successful cases, ANSAs can be transformed into non-violent political parties and their legitimate goals eventually become incorporated into state policy. But recognition can also backfire by creating counterproductive precedents and new modes of exclusion in politics. In unsuccessful cases, armed non-state actors might escalate the violent struggle. At the same time, mis-recognition, which individuals or collective actors experience as humiliation, disrespect or false representations of their identity, can be seen as a major cause of political resistance and escalation.

By conceptualising the (mis-/non-)recognition of ANSAs, pointing to potential ambivalences and addressing its meaning for conflict transformation, the introductory chapter provides the broader analytical frame and contextualisation for the edited volume. It links the concept of recognition as developed in international political theory to research on ANSAs in peace and conflict studies. What forms of (non-/mis-)recognition of armed non-state actors occur in violent conflicts? Which risks and opportunities arise in processes of conflict transformation when state actors recognise armed non-state actors or, conversely, deny them recognition? The theoretical-conceptual considerations presented here draw on examples from the case studies as discussed in the individual contributions to the volume.

in Armed non-state actors and the politics of recognition