Recognising armed non-state actors
Risks and opportunities for conflict transformation
in Armed non-state actors and the politics of recognition

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.

Introduction

Internal wars are the prevalent contemporary type of violent conflict (Sarkees and Wayman 2010). Many violent conflicts involve armed non-state actors (ANSAs) such as insurgents, rebels, guerrillas, warlords, militias, paramilitaries and private security companies. In addition, the so-called ‘global war on terrorism’ indicates that transnational terrorist networks are considered to be one of the major security threats today. Whatever label is used for a certain armed actor by a government, official authorities are usually hesitant to enter into informal talks and negotiations with ANSAs, especially with those they have labelled ‘terrorists’ (Podder 2013: 16). However, in many violent conflicts, such (often secret) ‘talks’ are initiated at some point (Görzig 2010; Toros 2012). Some of the groups involved may have gained such relevance in the course of a protracted armed conflict that governments face increasing pressure to negotiate with them; some ANSAs may have suffered military losses and seek such talks out of weakness; and sometimes third parties intervene and exert pressure on both state and non-state conflict parties to start negotiations.

The recent – very fragile – peace agreement between the US and the Taliban, signed on 29 February 2020 in Doha, Qatar, is a striking example of how engagement with a violent actor can change over the years. The Taliban regime was overthrown in 2001 by the US-led military intervention after being blamed for providing a safe haven for al-Qaeda, which was accused of having committed the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. While many actors have rejected negotiations with the Taliban despite the protracted violent conflict in Afghanistan, a reconsideration has come about since 2018. Several attempts to initiate talks failed, for example after the opening of a Taliban office in Doha in 2013 (Bell 2014: 264). The start of the US–Taliban peace talks in 2018 – excluding the Afghan government from the negotiation table, as the Taliban refused to negotiate with what it regards as a ‘puppet regime’ – was a major step. While the negotiations were being conducted, the Taliban continued to use violence, mainly against Afghan forces and government officials, but also resulting in civilian casualties. As this book is being written, the controversial peace pact is being met by resistance from the Afghan government and has also failed to stop the Taliban's violence (Allen 2020).

Talking and negotiating usually imply gradual steps of recognising the counterpart. Engaging with ANSAs is thus considered risky by governments (Miller 2011; Toros 2012). In successful cases, armed non-state actors can be transformed into non-violent political parties and their legitimate goals can be incorporated into state policy. In unsuccessful cases, armed non-state actors might escalate their violent struggle, which often results in governments being perceived as weak. With regard to international humanitarian law and humanitarian issues in general, any kind of engagement with ANSAs is often difficult to avoid, leading to similar concerns of (in-)directly recognising or legitimating armed groups through engagement (Barbelet 2008; Herr 2015; Jo and Thomson 2014; MacLeod et al. 2016).

When dealing with armed non-state actors, the complex role of recognition merits far greater attention than it has received so far from researchers in the field of Peace and Conflict Studies. Only few researchers have dealt with the issue of the (non-)recognition of ANSAs and sought to analyse the kinds of consequences recognition has on conflict dynamics (Aggestam 2015; Bell 2014; Biene and Daase 2015; Herr 2015). This is surprising, given that ‘recognition’ is a crucial concept in Social Science and Philosophy which has recently gained more attention in the discipline of International Relations (IR) (Hayden and Schick 2016: 1–2). Experiencing recognition in private and public life is considered a vital human need (Taylor 1994: 26). Mis-recognition, which individuals or collective actors experience as humiliation, disrespect or false representations of their identity, is seen as a major cause of political resistance and as a significant factor in the escalation of potentially violent conflicts.

Scholars have thus argued that recognition can have positive consequences on conflict dynamics in inter-state conflicts and in domestic conflicts, in which minority groups struggle for the recognition of their rights and identities. 1 The present volume seeks to address the research gap in the scholarship on armed non-state actors and to advance both recognition research and Peace and Conflict Studies by analysing which impacts – positive or negative – practices of (non-, mis-)recognition have on conflict dynamics in the short and long term. The application of analytical-conceptual tools from recognition research informs the theoretical frameworks of the case studies of the book, which cover (i) a broad range of ANSAs from different regions, as well as transnationally operating actors; and (ii) a broad range of political objectives for which ANSAs claim to fight, including ethno-political, politico-religious and ‘revolutionary’ ones. The introductory chapter first outlines different concepts of (mis-)recognition that have been developed in Political Theory and IR and discusses their merits and challenges for studying armed non-state actors. In the subsequent section, the focus is shifted to the armed non-state actors themselves, stressing different types and characteristics of ANSAs, and problematising the complex interplay of seeking and granting recognition in asymmetric violent conflicts, that is, conflicts in which actors of different status (state, non-state) are involved as conflict parties. The final section discusses the (ambivalent) short-term and long-term effects of recognition in processes of conflict transformation.

Recognition concepts in Political Theory and International Relations

‘Recognition’ is a prominent concept in several disciplines such as Social Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology and International Law, with the latter focusing on law-based acts of formal recognition of states. Political ‘struggles for recognition’ (Honneth 1995) have also received growing attention from empirical Political Science, as well as Peace and Conflict Studies. 2 The most intensive debates on social recognition started in social philosophy and Political Theory in the late 1980s and 1990s. The increase in different forms of ‘identity politics’ and struggles for recognition by minorities and social movements in liberal societies at that time stimulated attempts at theorising these phenomena (Fraser 2000; Fraser and Honneth 2003; Taylor 1994).

‘Recognition’ is a fuzzy term that is used quite differently by authors and speakers. Three interrelated usages can be distinguished (Ikäheimo and Laitinen 2011: 8–11). First, the term can be used as a synonym for ‘identification’; secondly, it is roughly synonymous with ‘acknowledgement’; this implies recognition having ‘evaluative or normative entities or facts as its objects, so that we can acknowledge something as valuable, as valid, as giving reasons, and so forth’ (Ikäheimo and Laitinen 2011: 8). The third use of the term is most prominent in Hegel-inspired accounts of recognition and refers to interpersonal recognition, as exemplified by the works of Axel Honneth (Schmitz 2019). Recognition of a specific identity, of rights and/or of a certain status has been regarded as one of the goals of (new) social movements organised around class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion or language. Drawing partly on Hegelian theoretical ideas (Markell 2003), and partly on empirical studies from evolutionary psychology, recognition theorists conceive of recognition by other individuals or by society as a vital human need. It is only when an individual is accepted as having certain qualities that (s)he will be able to develop self-esteem as well as an ‘intact’ personal identity (Taylor 1994: 26–37).

With regard to society, recognition operates as a mechanism that constitutes a normative status (of equals) and allots rights and duties within a society (Fraser 2000; Honneth 1995). The desire for recognition is not only inherent in individuals but also in social groups. For instance, as Alexander Wendt argued: ‘What groups want is for Others to recognize them, not necessarily to recognize Others. Nor does it mean that groups are forever unchanging. Group identity is a process not a thing, and its transformation into larger collective identities is precisely what begins to happen through mutual recognition’ (Wendt 2003: 516).

According to recognition theorists, acts of mis-recognition constitute acts of injustice in so far as they violate personal integrity and impede people from becoming full members of a social collective. Experiences of mis-recognition can provoke strong responses, including violent resistance, on the part of affected individuals or social groups (Heins 2010: 150). Despite its relative importance, mis-recognition has attracted less conceptual debate than recognition (Martineau et al. 2012: 3). Axel Honneth identified ‘the core of all experiences of injustice in the withdrawal of social recognition, in the phenomena of humiliation and disrespect’ (Fraser and Honneth 2003: 134). Nancy Fraser developed an alternative approach to identity-based forms of mis-recognition by conceiving of recognition as a question of social status:

Misrecognition, accordingly, does not mean the depreciation and deformation of group identity, but social subordination – in the sense of being prevented from participating as a peer in social life. To redress this injustice still requires a politics of recognition, but in the ‘status model’ this is no longer reduced to a question of identity: rather, it means a politics aimed at overcoming subordination by establishing the misrecognized party as a full member of society, capable of participating on a par with the rest.

(Fraser 2000: 113)

With regard to the study of ANSAs in violent conflicts, Heins aptly points out that one should keep in mind a blind spot of Hegel-inspired accounts of recognition: disrespected and marginalised groups might not necessarily struggle for inclusion into the community from which they were excluded. He stresses: ‘They might as well struggle for inclusion into an altogether different community yet to be created’ (Heins 2016: 79).

In contrast to conceiving of recognition as a single act (Agné 2013: 100–102) or as a thing which one ‘has’ more or less of, we regard recognition as a process, as a social interaction ‘that can go well or poorly in various ways’ (Markell 2003: 18). Similarly, we think of struggles for recognition as an ‘ongoing activity rather than as a project with a fixed goal’ (Markell 2003: 16; Tully 2000: 477). Recognition in real-world politics can thus be based on single formal or symbolic acts of recognition (such as being officially invited to peace negotiations or being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize) but it can also unfold as a gradual process and, as such, can also be ‘stopped’ or (gradually) ‘reversed’. Recognition and non-recognition, that is, the deliberate withholding or denial of recognition, occur in complex and entangled forms. They constitute two poles on a continuum of policies and outcomes, ranging from highly formalised to very informal modes of recognition. This notion of gradual recognition implies that recognition is not only granted or withheld among actors of equal legal/social status, but also within asymmetric power relations (Daase et al. 2015; Wendt 2003: 511–514). With regard to ANSAs, one can distinguish between several types of act: formal acts (e.g. putting an actor on or removing it from ‘terror lists’, letting a group run in elections, etc.); symbolic acts (e.g. invitation to a negotiation, hand-shaking, etc.); discursive/speech acts (e.g. changing the discourse on an actor, changing conflict narratives); and material acts of recognition (e.g. redistribution of resources).

Since recognition is closely linked to the formation of individual or group identities, the concept has in particular attracted the attention of social constructivist scholarship (e.g. Ringmar 2002; Wendt 2003). One of the main questions in recognition-related IR studies is whether and how the mis-recognition of states promotes violent conflict and, vice versa, whether and how recognition fosters peaceful relations. To what extent such insights can also be applied to armed non-state actors is a question that has not been addressed in the scholarship so far. The authors of the present volume thus explore new ground in their case studies. It is a certain challenge to apply recognition concepts from Political Theory to ANSAs in violent conflicts: many armed groups seek to attain political goals and might be willing to refrain from using violence once they have reached these goals – which implies a change of their identity over time (Herr 2015: 92). Thus, in the long term, an armed non-state actor may transform into a political party, be part of the government or become a state-builder (Huang 2016: 91; Podder 2013; Schlichte 2009: 178–202). Hence, in contrast to the more stable collective identities of states, the group identity of an ANSA can change far more quickly, also due to changes in leadership, decreasing or increasing support of followers, or failures and successes in violent conflicts. They can re-group, re-name and develop new narratives and agendas. As several chapters in this volume show, identities are shaped and changed by the very (non-, mis-)recognition experiences with ‘significant others’ over time (see Dudouet; Görzig; Hensell and Schlichte; Pfeifer; Sienknecht in this volume).

It follows that more empirical research is required to analyse the types of political claim or identity trait for which a specific ANSA seeks recognition. It is a plausible assumption that ANSAs with political goals (especially those holding some territorial control) do seek recognition from significant others in order to enforce their agendas – since recognition can increase their legitimacy and help to mobilise material and symbolic support from local and regional actors or the transnational community, resulting in gains of status and reputation (Duyvesteyn 2017: 675; Herr 2015: 84, 95). As Thomas Lindemann (2012: 221) points out, ‘the quest for recognition is often quite strategic and reputation is a resource in the struggle for power’. Some armed groups might also be willing to comply with specific norms of international humanitarian law in order to gain recognition, and the political and material benefits that come with it (Herr 2015: 235–240; Pfeifer in this volume). Insights like these underline that struggles for recognition are not only about identity questions – as social constructivist research in IR often seems to suggest – but also imply material gains and strategic rivalry considerations for social groups. In a similar vein to state-centred IR research on recognition, studies on ANSAs should not be limited to ‘culturalist’ interpretations only (Geis et al. 2015: 5–6).

Given that the application of social recognition concepts in conflict transformation studies is still a research gap, we suggest that concepts which allow for capturing gradual processes and ‘shades’ or gradations of recognition can be especially useful (Geis et al. 2015: 15–18). A well-known conceptual approach is the distinction between ‘thin’ and ‘thick’ forms of recognition, as briefly introduced by Wendt (2003: 511–512) and further developed by Lindemann (2010), Pierre Allan and Alexis Keller (2012) and Lisa Strömbom (2014). ‘Thin’ recognition between conflicting parties refers to recognition of each other ‘as agents, as autonomous “entities” [that have] the right to exist and continu[e] to exist as an autonomous agent’ (Allan and Keller 2012: 76). ‘Thick’ recognition requires much more than accepting the other as an autonomous agent and negotiating partner; it means that ‘each party needs to understand the Other in terms of essential elements composing its identity’ (Allan and Keller 2012: 77). The quest for a stable and just peace, it is argued, requires ‘thick’ recognition among the conflicting parties, including an understanding of one's own identity. It is evident that this is a demanding challenge for most parties involved in violent conflicts and requires the long-term transformation of narratives, rules and institutions by the actors involved (more in the final section).

Recognition of political actors often occurs in gradual steps and is not necessarily an intended result but an eventual outcome of negotiations. In order to grasp such different degrees of ‘recognition as’, Janusz Biene and Christopher Daase (2015: 223–225) suggest the identification of several ‘recognition events’. They assume that armed non-state actors can seek recognition strategically. The gradual granting of recognition could influence their strategic options: the first step is ‘thin’ recognition as a party to the conflict. This is relevant since states often try to deny the existence of a conflict to delegitimise armed non-state actors. The next step is acceptance as a participant in informal talks, indicating their relevance in the present and the future for successful conflict management. The third step is the invitation to participate in formal talks. This move signals that the state government acknowledges the possibility that an ANSA might have legitimate claims to bring to the table (Biene and Daase, 2015: 224). A final degree of recognition is realised if a non-state actor is recognised as a political authority, as a legitimate representative of a collective with the capacity to enforce binding decisions.

Analysing the (non-/mis-)recognition of armed non-state actors and its impact on conflict transformation can also provide insights into related research fields, for instance into the ‘politics of legitimacy’ of armed groups (Duyvesteyn 2017; Schlichte and Schneckener 2015) or ‘rebel governance/diplomacy’ (Arjona et al. 2015; Huang 2016; Mampilly 2011). Such studies examine the agency, the diplomatic and ‘lobbying’ efforts, and strategic calculations of rebel groups vis-à-vis different domestic and external actors. The case studies of this book do not refer to the concept of ‘rebel diplomacy’, given that this volume probes a different conceptual perspective. However, the chapter on the Kurdish PKK (Sienknecht in this volume) clearly identifies such elements of ‘officialisation’ (Hensell and Schlichte in this volume) – for example the professionalisation and institutionalisation of political representation of the PKK in European countries, especially in Brussels and Strasbourg.

‘Recognition’ and empirical-analytical concepts of ‘legitimacy’ are very closely linked (Hensell and Schlichte in this volume; Herr 2015: 98–100), insofar as legitimacy depends on the social recognition of the legitimacy claims of actors:

Political actors are constantly seeking legitimacy for themselves or their preferred institutions and in doing so they engage in practices of legitimation. Because legitimation is a normative process, it is characterized by actors seeking to justify their identities, interests, practices, or institutional designs. … An actor making [such] a legitimacy claim does not mean, however, that she commands legitimacy – only when such claims are recognized as rightful within the political realm in which the actor seeks to act … would this be the case.

(Reus-Smit 2007: 159–160; emphasis added)

Some authors seem to conceive of recognition as a kind of precondition for achieving legitimacy: ‘Armed opposition groups may want to achieve recognition as a viable political entity, which is a necessary step towards achieving legitimacy’ (Jo and Thomson 2014: 326). A similar point was made in the context of states’ recognition of states (Mastanduno et al. 1989: 464): for new states ‘external validation involves first and foremost the quest for diplomatic recognition. Gaining the recognition of the international community appears to be an exceptionally powerful means for a nascent state to establish legitimacy in the eyes of its domestic population.’

However, in our view there is empirically no clear-cut causal relationship between legitimacy and recognition in the context of studying ANSAs. A specific armed non-state actor might gain legitimacy by being recognised by a state government – but it might also lose legitimacy in the eyes of some constituencies in society that perceive this government to be particularly corrupt. It is also conceivable that an actor is (normatively) legitimate and finds a high degree of acceptance (empirical legitimacy) among some people, but is not recognised by ‘significant’ interaction partners – that is, it is legitimate both normatively and empirically, but not recognised as and for what it seeks to be recognised. Conversely, significant others may grant recognition to an actor without him/her being legitimate – neither normatively nor empirically. To conclude this section: the extent to which an ANSA enjoys legitimacy and/or recognition is an empirical question, which is dependent on the respective legitimacy- and recognition-granting of ‘others’ and their ‘significant’ relationship to the ANSA.

The complex interplay between recognition-seekers and recognition-granters

Social actors always want to be recognised as and/or for something by other (groups of) actors. Aside from multiple practices of recognition, mis-recognition and non-recognition, diverse actors are involved in such dynamics. The chapters in this volume focus on armed non-state actors as recognition-seekers. As for the actors that grant recognition, the contributions to this volume show that there is a great variety of states, international and regional organisations, as well as non-state actors from which ANSAs may seek recognition. Moreover, several actors may become involved in recognition dynamics as a third party, both as promoters or spoilers of the process. What is often neglected in the recognition-related literature in International Relations, International Law, and Peace and Conflict Studies is the role of domestic populations as potential recognition-granters – not only in democratic governance contexts but also in areas of contested or fragile statehood. Recognition practices are often considered as some kind of ‘(semi-)official’ interactions between organised actors, such as social groups, states and organisations. In our view, this is an unwarranted narrowing-down of recognition practices in politics. Armed groups in particular have also to rely on the support of parts of the population. Seeking recognition by local communities, by regional or nation-wide audiences is an important element of recognition-seeking behaviour of ANSAs. Gaining or losing recognition by ‘ordinary citizens’ can have a significant impact on the chances of survival, (domestic and international) legitimacy, reputation and transformation of an armed group. Several chapters in this volume indicate how important populations as ‘significant others’ are, for example in Colombia, Northern Ireland and Lebanon (Boesten and Idler; Görzig; Pfeifer in this volume).

Academic accounts of ANSAs and recognition dynamics

The umbrella term ‘armed non-state actors’ unites quite diverse types of actor. A basic distinction can be made between ANSAs that have a political agenda and those whose activities are motivated economically (Ezrow 2017: 85–86; Schneckener 2006: 30), even though this is not always a clear-cut opposition. This volume analyses ANSAs with a political agenda, since they can be expected to make more pronounced recognition claims. ANSAs can be defined as ‘distinctive organizations that are (i) willing and capable to use violence for pursuing their objectives and (ii) not integrated into formalized state institutions …, [and that] (iii) possess a certain degree of autonomy with regard to politics, military operations, resources, and infrastructure’ (Hofmann and Schneckener 2011: 604). It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between states and non-state actors, since ANSAs usually have a much more problematic relation with the state than other non-state actors, such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or companies (Barbelet 2008: 54–55). Many of them not only try to escape the state's control but also actively seek to overthrow it (Aydınlı 2016: 3–5). Yet, other ANSAs are – more or less deeply – intertwined with state structures. This is certainly true for those ANSAs that are both a violent actor and a political party (Pfeifer in this volume), as well as those which receive funding from their own or an external state. Moreover, ANSAs that are capable of gaining and maintaining territory, as well as exerting effective control over it, can establish structures similar to a state (Boesten and Idler; Kaden and Günther in this volume). Some ANSAs even coordinate their activities and engage in a form of ‘complementary governance’ (Idler and Forest 2015) among themselves and with the state. Thus, relations between ANSAs and states are multifaceted and often ambivalent. They impact a state's willingness to recognise ANSAs and for what it would grant recognition.

There are many academic efforts to develop typologies of politically motivated ANSAs. Their agendas may be socio-economic, nationalist or ethnic, religious or sectarian, or a combination of all of them (Zohar 2016). Other scholars distinguish groups according to their specific political goals, which range from setting up a state and providing state-like functions, to influencing global, regional or local policy, to transforming governance and obtaining political power and control, to challenging local or global value systems (Ezrow 2017: 85–117). Our case studies cover a broad spectrum of political motivations and goals which ANSAs can have. Actors striving for statehood, independence or secession should be expected to be denied recognition, given that they threaten the integrity of a given state, sometimes even the state system as such, for example in the case of ISIS (Kaden and Günther in this volume). But the chapters in this volume show that states do not always react to such movements in the same way, sometimes not even within one country: state reactions may range from the (partial) recognition of claims by one ANSA to harsh security measures against another (Nwankpa in this volume). Yet another strategy of how to deal with such ANSAs is to actively recognise them for something they do not themselves identify with and claims they do not bring forward. Such acts of mis-recognition are often accompanied by the non-recognition of the claims actually made by an ANSA, and sometimes by violent state practices (Chung; Nwankpa in this volume). Interestingly, if ANSAs are not successful in gaining recognition by states, they may turn to other actors instead, for example other states or international organisations, as was the case with the PKK seeking recognition from the EU (Sienknecht in this volume).

Besides goals and motives, most typologies distinguish between strategies and tactics employed by different groups (Ezrow 2017; Schneckener 2006; Zohar 2016). ANSAs may strive for change or the preservation of the status quo. Depending on their goals, they may or may not have territorial aspirations. To pursue their goals, ANSAs employ different methods of warfare, including conventional fighting, terrorism and guerrilla tactics. Moreover, ANSAs can be classified according to their internal organisation, and in particular with regard to the characteristics of a group's leadership and its (local) supporters, as well as the relationship between them (Staniland 2014). Some ANSAs have a strong leadership with hierarchical command structures and a high level of compliance and discipline by supporters on the ground (integrated groups). On the other side of the spectrum, ANSAs may be very fragmented, with both a weak leadership core and low levels of control over local adherents. Depending on how it is organised and what its respective goals are, an ANSA may limit itself to local activities or engage on a transnational level. Thus, ANSAs also differ with regard to their degree of transnationality (Zohar 2016). Indeed, the transnational ties of an ANSA may play an important role for recognition dynamics. For instance, in the cases of Hezbollah and al-Shabaab, one important strategy of the respective state and the international community is the claim that these actors are exogenous to Lebanese society and politics or, respectively, the conflict in Somalia (Pfeifer; Toros and Sugal in this volume). This specific version of mis-recognition may be met by a similar claim on the part of the respective ANSA vis-à-vis the state, as is the case with al-Shabaab and the Somali government. The reciprocal allegations of being ‘foreign’ or ‘controlled from outside’ equal a mutual denial of the other actor's legitimacy as part of the conflict – and of its solution (Toros and Sugal in this volume).

Finally, ANSAs vary with regard to the scope of representation they can claim and perform. Representation consists of two (sometimes conflicting) potentials: assuring ‘regeneration’ of the armed group and managing ‘overstretch’ (Aydınlı 2016: 11–15). An ANSA needs to be able to both keep old members and attract new ones. It can achieve this, first, through creating a compelling identity, in particular by defining the goals and scope of its agenda. Secondly, an ANSA needs to gain legitimacy among actual and potential members, that is, credibly demonstrate that it is capable of satisfying their needs and pursue common goals successfully. Thirdly, an ANSA needs to find ways of generating loyalty among its members. Besides common experiences and rituals, as well as everyday practices, ideology plays an important part here. On the other hand, ANSAs also need to make sure that their regeneration efforts do not lead to an overstretch of their agenda and/or organisation. For the larger a group gets, the harder it is to implement agendas and maintain control. Moreover, if an agenda becomes too encompassing, it becomes more difficult to achieve success.

The question of representation points to an important dimension of recognition processes: ANSAs usually seek recognition by several actors, and often for different identities and grievances. One addressee of recognition claims is the members and supporters of an ANSA, but also the broader community and local population in its areas of activity. This need for recognition becomes particularly pronounced in cases where an ANSA transitions towards a new role in a conflict and embraces a new identity – in such cases, it may lose parts of its supporters while gaining recognition from the state and other conflict parties (Görzig in this volume). It is at this point that other actors may become involved in recognition dynamics: competing ANSAs and other conflict parties. In this regard, recognition processes may sometimes have ambivalent effects for conflict transformation. An instructive case is the recognition process of the Colombian FARC, which went hand in hand with a disarmament and demobilisation process. The FARC had enjoyed some degree of acceptance in many rural areas of Colombia where it had the de facto monopoly of violence. The local population had recognised it as a political authority which set the rules. With the withdrawal of the FARC from these areas and the simultaneous failure of the Colombian state to fill this gap, the fear of new violence among the remaining armed conflict parties arises. Recognition alone – and in particular the recognition of one actor in a multi-party conflict by one actor, that is, the state – is not sufficient for successful conflict transformation (Boesten and Idler in this volume).

Conversely, however, the attempt to simultaneously grant recognition to several conflict parties in conflict transformation efforts, for example by including them in mediation processes, may be equally problematic. Inclusion into a peace process may be perceived as a form of mis-recognition if, for instance, another actor is included according to the same standards and thus grouped together with an actor who perceives him- or herself as radically different. Inclusion is thus essentially different from recognition because it may precisely misconstruct an actor's identity (Pring in this volume). Finally, some ANSAs do not seek recognition from states or international organisations at all – on the contrary, it may be part of their agenda to remain in the role of a villain and an outsider to the state system, as is for example the case for ISIS (Kaden and Günther; Dudouet in this volume).

ANSAs’ recognition claims

These complex actor constellations demonstrate that recognition dynamics are always context-bound and sometimes ambiguous, and that they unfold at multiple levels. ANSAs may address their recognition claims to various actors. Generally speaking, such claims are demands for recognition addressed to a politically significant other; they are not fixed in time and may change in the process of (non-/mis-)recognition. 3 More specifically, these demands can take two forms. First, ANSAs may seek recognition as a certain kind of actor, or for a certain quality they claim to possess, such as being a politically autonomous actor (solely) representing a given community, mattering as a conflict party or having more legitimacy than other ANSAs. Secondly, ANSAs may seek recognition for their own political grievances, or those of the community they claim to represent. For instance, ANSAs may claim that a certain social or ethnic group is not sufficiently represented in the political process or suffers from economic marginalisation, that a religious community is discriminated against, that certain values are not respected adequately, and so on. Of course, such claims may not always mirror the grievances as perceived by the community for which an ANSA professes to speak. Moreover, if the addressed actors actually grant recognition for some grievances, this does not mean that they simultaneously recognise the respective ANSA. For instance, an ANSA may seek recognition as an ethnic minority in order to be granted certain rights, but the state may seek to cure these identity claims by socio-economic policies (Chung in this volume). It is, of course, possible that an ANSA's leadership or follower base misreads such a partial, grievance-related recognition as being recognised as an armed group as well. Given that ‘recognition’ is a very complex and often not formally validated social phenomenon, certain mismatches between what a recognition-granter is exactly recognising in the other, and what the recognition-seeker perceives on his/her part can be quite common.

Interestingly, some ANSAs explicitly emphasise whom they do not seek recognition from, for example ‘the West’, the international community (Dudouet; Kaden and Günther in this volume). This is usually the case when the agenda of an ANSA concerns the state system or global normative order as a whole. Yet, this does not mean that these ANSAs do not seek recognition at all: rather, they turn to other addressees, for example certain parts of the population, transnational communities, and so on. Sometimes, ANSAs are recognised for a quality or grievance for which they did not make any demands. In such cases, these acts are perceived as forms of mis-recognition (Chung; Pring in this volume). Finally, actors who are addressed by an ANSA's claim may choose not to grant the actor or its cause any recognition. Whenever there is some form of engagement with an ANSA that goes beyond fighting it, however, we hold that there is some degree of recognition involved. This leads to the question of what options and strategies are actually available for actors, and particularly states, in dealing with ANSAs.

In this context, the political use of certain concepts for ANSAs is even more important than the academic efforts to categorise them and develop typologies as sketched above (Barbelet 2008: 43–57). For a volume on recognition, it can even be counterproductive to start from a fixed typology for case selection: the political practice of labelling ANSAs is deeply intertwined with processes of (mis-/non-)recognition. Practices of naming and labelling are what constitutes ANSAs as an ‘other’ in the first place. Thus, it is precisely the framing of an ANSA which is contested, negotiated or imposed in recognition processes. For example, if a government or the European Union ‘lists’ an armed group as a ‘terrorist organisation’, this will have an impact not only on the identity of the ANSA but also on the possibility for negotiations or engagement with the group so labelled (Dudouet; Pfeifer; Sienknecht in this volume). At the same time, however, practices of renaming also enable recasting an ANSA's identity, thereby opening up a space for the recognition of these actors or their claims and, potentially, for conflict transformation.

The effects of recognition on the transformation of asymmetric conflicts

Researchers have discussed a variety of approaches on how to deal with ANSAs, addressing different levels of action (individual, group, societal and international) and considering strategies as disparate as repression and dialogue. Both democratic and autocratic states, however, often employ hard measures, such as counterinsurgency, counterterrorism or warfare (Cronin and Ludes 2004). Formal or informal talks are often perceived as detrimental (Steinhoff 2009: 301). Many states adhere to a no-negotiation policy (at least publicly) and sometimes prohibit engagement by law (Dudouet 2010; Pecastaing 2011: 171). Arguments against engagement include the unreliability of outcomes (Zartman and Faure 2011: 5), the possibility of failed attempts provoking further escalation of violence (Steinhoff 2009: 302), and the fear of losing political credibility (Pecastaing 2011: 188) or of raising non-state actors’ legal and/or social status (Miller 2011). However, repressive measures often result in the radicalisation of non-state actors’ agendas and/or the escalation of violent means. As such, the need to engage politically with ANSAs is increasingly acknowledged in research, with all the political, legal and ethical dilemmas that come with it. 4

Acts and processes of recognition in asymmetric conflicts

At a basic level, acknowledging that there is a conflict is not enough; the state actor needs to recognise the opposing non-state actor as a party to the conflict (Biene and Daase 2015). Although recognition can be started by a single act (e.g. an official speech), it is understood as a process, which takes time and commitment to take root. As outlined above, there are different ways and forms to grant recognition, such as thin and thick acts of recognition. While thin acts are necessary to ‘move conflict in a more peaceful direction’ by opening minimal space for dialogue (Strömbom 2014: 171), they are not enough for transforming a conflict from antagonism to agonism. Conversely, thick acts of recognition are very difficult to attain and require much iteration in order to transform conflict relations over time.

The recognition of an ANSA as a legitimate conflict party constitutes a case of thin recognition. It is easier to reach thin acts of recognition than thick acts in asymmetric conflicts characterised by a particularly unequal distribution of political power, military resources and legal status. Crucial to this end is the conflict parties’ recognition of their mutual interdependence, which might be possible in situations where neither conflict party has the capacity ‘to force the other side to yield to their demands’ and where their effective power is thus ‘essentially equivalent’ (Levinger 2013: 48). Thick acts of recognition are very demanding and usually embedded in long-term reconciliation processes in post-conflict societies. Strömbom (2014: 170) stresses that identity is at the core of acts of recognition aiming to ‘transform destructive relations into ones that allow for differences and promote shared responsibility for injustices in the past’. Indeed, moving towards understanding, accepting and respecting the other's subjectivity and difference not only modifies the interaction between conflict parties, but also slowly changes each party's identity and, ultimately, each party's perception of the relationship. Such changes within the conflict structure usually take a long time.

Although the case studies in this volume do not study post-conflict reconciliation processes but analyse prior stages of violent conflicts, we briefly outline what thick acts of recognition might look like in a conflict transformative perspective. While this is no exhaustive catalogue, thick acts generally play a role in the following processes: the recognition of social dignity, the recognition of mutual responsibility for the past, and the recognition of the former opposing party as an inherent part of one's social tissue. A typical example for the first process – the recognition of the opposing party's social dignity (Poder 2019: 76) – would be the recognition of an indigenous people's rights in a multi-ethnic society. Especially in contexts where the humiliation of a social collective dug deep into fundamental rights – what Poder (2019) calls ‘dignity humiliation’ –, redressing former acts of mis-/non-recognition is very important (Haldemann 2008). For instance, it may require showing respect for the leaders of former enemy group(s) as symbolic carriers of the social dignity of a collective.

The second process – the recognition of a mutual responsibility for the past – is aimed at the co-existence of different macro- and micro-histories. It can consist in fostering truth inquiries, the emergence of inclusive histories, multi-voiced historical reappraisal, and so on, all processes which have been documented for instance in Northern Ireland (Dybris McQuaid 2019). According to Strömbom, a particularly fruitful way to do so is to weave thick recognition into narratives about past experiences of a conflict; narratives of war would thereby be ‘reversed’ by ‘narratives of recognition’ (2014: 176–177). The third process – the recognition of the former enemy group (and, beyond that, community) as an inherent part of the larger social tissue – aims to move beyond mere co-existence. Increasingly shared by members of a society (not just elites), such a conviction over time generates forms of reconciliation and fosters regaining trust in community relationships.

Specific obstacles to the initiation and continuation of recognition processes

Beside the obstacles traditionally encountered in mediation efforts and peace processes, the politics of recognition-claiming and recognition-granting entails specific challenges. Broadly, these can be subsumed under two categories: (i) the transnational prevalence of a specific regime of recognition; and (ii) the differentiated perception of acts of recognition within a given conflict. Both potentially impact the initiation and/or the continuation of a given process of recognition.

Regarding (i), ANSAs’ claims to recognition have a higher likelihood of being heard and considered as legitimate in specific international normative contexts. The ‘global time’ plays an important contextual role (Hensell and Schlichte in this volume). ‘Recognition regimes’ (Ringmar 2015) have changed since the end of the Second World War. An example of a favourable regime for recognition-claiming was the global time of decolonisation in the 1960s and 1970s: ANSAs were granted recognition comparatively more easily for their participation in liberation struggles. The current recognition regime, on the other hand, is characterised by the disqualification of ANSAs’ political agendas based on the actions that they use. Under this regime, recognition claims are suppressed under the counterterrorism norm (see Dudouet in this volume). Not only is it harder for recent ANSAs to be cast as anything other than terrorist organisations, but older ANSAs are also reconsidered and mis-recognised under this norm (e.g. the FARC in Colombia after 9/11). The current ‘recognition regime’ thus contains higher normative barriers for recognition-claiming and, consequently, for recognition-granting than before. Further, this regime affects disproportionally those ANSAs who (claim to) represent Muslim communities (Clément 2014; Kaden and Günther; Nwankpa; Pfeifer in this volume). For example, ANSAs claiming to represent the Uyghurs have been negatively impacted by ISIS's repeated declarations in which the organisation stated that it had supporters as far as China (Chung in this volume). In short, since the early 2000s, the counterterrorism norm has enabled state actors to increasingly ignore and largely disqualify ANSAs’ recognition claims. 5

Practices of mis-recognition tend to have long-lasting impacts. Casting an ANSA as a terrorist organisation, for instance, confers a label that is particularly ‘sticky’, even when the ANSA is not listed as a ‘terrorist organisation’ or perceived as such by most states (Dudouet; Sienknecht in this volume). Sticky labelling impacts the way in which the majority population, as well as third parties, perceive an ANSA's struggle and its responsibility in the conflict. Further, it constrains the scope of future responses that the state will be willing to take. States that have cast an ANSA as a terrorist organisation tend to reject dialogue and favour repression over de-escalation (Toros 2008).

Regarding the second category, when a state starts engaging in acts of recognition, such acts might not be acknowledged as such, especially in the conflict situations mentioned above. Indeed, attempts at initiating a recognition process might not be perceived as acts of recognition by the recognition-seeking ANSA, or might be misperceived as ungenuine acts of recognition. Where non-perception or misperception bars the way to the parties’ reciprocal recognition, mediators might be able to help conflict parties ‘recognise recognition’. Arguably, this may be more difficult in intractable conflicts, which display a ‘boiling emotional core … replete with humiliation, frustration, rage, threat, and resentment between groups and deep feelings of pride, esteem, dignity, and identification within groups’ (Coleman 2014: 720).

Yet, micro-sociological research shows that emotional phenomena such as trust, hope, loyalty and forgiveness are fostered in peacebuilding activities, which enable cooperative interaction among participants and empower them over the long run (Bramsen and Poder 2018). This opens possibilities for attributing more value to recognition efforts over time. In the short term, however, recognition efforts may destabilise the fragile social tissue further. In conflict-torn societies, in which parts of the population have become used to governance by armed groups, changes to the status quo can raise new fears among local communities (Boesten and Idler in this volume).

The impacts of recognition acts and processes

We argue that there is no clear-cut causal relationship between entering a process of recognition and transforming conflict dynamics. The politics of recognition between state and non-state actors may move the conflict towards non-violent resolution (conflict transformation), may result in almost unaltered interactions between the opposing parties (conflict continuation), or may backfire and make interactions deteriorate (conflict escalation). In the following, we discuss some of the more damaging unintended consequences of recognition acts and processes.

First, the costs of granting recognition to an ANSA may be too high in regard to human life, human rights and liberal values. For example, recognising al-Shabaab as a potential partner in negotiation with the Somali government and, eventually, a legitimate political actor may have dire long-term consequences for the Somali population, especially considering al-Shabaab's positions on human rights issues (Toros and Sugal in this volume). The recognition of an ANSA may also have very negative short-term impacts on the population. For instance, the recognition of the FARC in Colombia resulted in the worsening of the local population's well-being in areas formerly under FARC control, as these were suddenly exposed to other armed non-state actors profiting from the temporary power vacuum (Boesten and Idler in this volume). Similarly, in Nigeria the government's ‘pay-outs’ to former Niger Delta militants to maintain the peace under the amnesty contract is seen as largely disregarding the plight of the civilian victims (Nwankpa in this volume).

Secondly, the recognition of an ANSA may strongly affect other non-state actors which are occupying the same political space, especially competing ANSAs which do not gain (the same) recognition. The recognition of some conflict parties but not others may alleviate tensions in the short term (e.g. with the largest ANSA) but risk aggravating them in the long term (e.g. with smaller ANSAs). In the case of South Sudan, the SPLM – the larger opposition actor – was eventually invited to the negotiation table, while all other ANSAs which had opposed the regime were treated as one group with one voice. While such a practice was expedient, and a peace process was signed, mis-recognising the other ANSAs as one group negated their differences (and different needs), which ultimately led to a new armed conflict (Pring in this volume). Fuelled in part by the values the mediator held as key to a successful process, this transformation failure can be imputed to the unbalanced redistribution of recognition. Hence, the paradox is that by recognising one conflict party, others are (even more) excluded or reified. This bears potential for direct conflict escalation or a future relapse into armed conflict, in a slightly modified configuration of conflict parties.

In addition, the recognition of an ANSA indirectly impacts the non-state actors which use non-violent means. Such actors may disappear after the normalisation of a former ANSA. They may also be actively suppressed by state authorities that are unwilling to make more concessions in the future and prefer to pre-emptively crush any other form of contestation. The state repression of the IPOB movement in southeastern Nigeria, paralleling the recognition efforts towards Boko Haram, illustrates this (Nwankpa in this volume). In short, the costs of recognising an ANSA are often borne by non-state actors who do not resort to violence.

Thirdly, the recognition of an ANSA by various types of third party, while it is not (yet) recognised by the state actor to the conflict, can aggravate the conflict situation. In theory, the recognition of an ANSA's legitimacy (claims and representation) by another state, a community of states or a mediating party would provide it with some measure of protection and force the state party to peace talks. In practice, though, ANSAs’ recognition by third parties is often used by the state actor to delegitimise the ANSA, casting it as a foreign element, an import from malevolent foreign powers or alien ideologies (Chung; Pfeifer; Toros and Sugal in this volume). The unintended consequences range from conflict continuation to conflict escalation.

Studying recognition in violent conflicts

In social science research, recognition is often seen as a means to de-escalate conflicts and promote peaceful behaviour. As we have argued so far, it would be illusory to expect recognition to act as a panacea for transforming armed conflicts. In certain contexts, recognition may backfire and produce counterproductive precedents and new modes of exclusion in intra-state and transnational politics. More empirical research is needed to analyse the complex and sometimes unexpected consequences of the (non-/mis-)recognition of ANSAs in violent conflicts. The present volume contributes to this research gap by including a diverse range of case studies discussing asymmetric conflict dynamics under the prism of recognition. Further, it features case studies from various world regions: some are ‘classic’ cases, others have rarely been dealt with in the extant literature. Table 1.1 presents the case studies along four key analytical categories. It captures succinctly the form of (mis-/non-)recognition studied, the main political agenda pursued by each ANSA (i.e. the recognition-seekers), their respective addressee(s) (i.e. the potential recognition-granter[s]) and the phase of conflict at stake in each chapter.

Table 1.1

Case-study chapters by analytical category

No. Chapter Recognition concept(s) used Recognition-seekers’ political agenda Addressees Conflict phase analysed
3 Nigeria/Boko Haram; Niger delta; IPOB; Fulani militia
Nwankpa
Mis-recognition, non-recognition Heterogeneous; differ according to the four ANSAs (religious-political agenda; economic rights; greater political inclusion and autonomy) Nigerian state During the armed conflict
4 Somalia/al-Shabaab
Toros and Sugal
Mis-recognition Religious-political agenda Somali population; other states During the armed conflict
5 Syria and Iraq/IS
Kaden and Günther
Recognition order Religious-political agenda Sunni ummah; Sunni tribes in Syria fighting Assad's regime During the armed conflict
6 Turkey/PKK
Sienknecht
Recognition, non-recognition; mis-recognition Independence; later: cultural and political rights States; international organisations Various conflict phases; currently stalemate
7 China/Uyghurs
Chung
Mis-recognition Cultural rights; political autonomy and independence Chinese state Stalemate/repression by the state
8 Lebanon/Hezbollah
Pfeifer
Mis-recognition Recognition for its defence of Lebanese society and state; recognition as important transnational actor in the region Lebanese publics; transnational Shiite community and regional actors; Western states Stalemate/post-Lebanese civil war; Syrian war; ‘war on terror’
9 Ireland/PIRA
Görzig
Recognition Religious-political agenda; independence PIRA followers; other ANSAs Entering peace negotiation
10 South Sudan/SPLM-IO
Pring
Mis-recognition Political inclusion IGAD; mediating parties Peace mediation process
11 Colombia/FARC
Boesten and Idler
Recognition Political inclusion in local institutions Local civilian population Peace process post-accord

Source: the authors.

The case-study chapters illustrate various socio-political configurations in different conflict stages. They pinpoint the forms social recognition may take in asymmetric conflicts and discuss the short- and long-term risks and opportunities which arise when local, state and/or transnational actors recognise armed non-state actors, mis-recognise them or deny them recognition altogether.

In addition to the introductory and concluding chapter, the nine case studies are contextualised by two further chapters that address more encompassing aspects on a macro level of international ‘labelling’ trends and recognition regimes. The next chapter (Hensell and Schlichte) is devoted to a historical overview of recognition regimes since the Second World War and their diverging impacts on the chances of success of ANSAs’ recognition claims. The case studies are then structured in three parts corresponding to different conflict phases: Recognition during armed conflicts (part II), Recognition in conflict stalemates (part III), and Recognition in mediation and peace processes (part IV). The volume ends with a chapter discussing the consequences of labelling practices on conflict transformation, from the vantage point of practitioners’ engagement with conflict parties, and a chapter offering concluding remarks on the politics of recognition of armed non-state actors.

We are completing this introductory chapter with some reflections on methodological issues. How can we recognise recognition? Studies in International Relations and International Law that deal with recognition practices rarely offer details on how they identify phenomena of (non-/mis-)recognition. In International Law, it is usually the study of formal acts, such as formal declarations between officials, sustaining diplomatic relations or the act of awarding membership to international organisations. The International Relations scholarship on recognition among states tends to focus on speech acts among officials and their emotional impact, such as anger at perceived humiliation or the display of empathy for the predicament of another state (e.g. Lindemann 2010: 87–133; Wolf 2011: 126–132). Drawing on methods developed in research on emotions would be a fruitful way to study the collective experiences of mis- and non-recognition (Clément and Sangar 2018).

To study (changing) identities, discursive approaches, including storytelling and narrative analysis, are a useful way of identifying recognition processes, as Erik Ringmar (2012: 6) has argued (see also Görzig in this volume):

In the end, identities are created through an interplay of these two alternative perspectives. We start by telling stories about ourselves, which we go on to test on people around us. We let other people know who we believe we are, and they let us know whether or not our account is reasonable. In this way, our stories about ourselves are, or are not, recognized. Stories are told about states in much the same fashion. A community of storytellers could be referred to as a ‘nation’.

Process-tracing can be a useful tool to analyse ‘recognition events’, that is, the gradual steps towards recognition (Biene and Daase 2015). Studying recognition practices related to ANSAs seems more difficult than studying state-centred recognition-seeking and -granting, given that armed groups partly act as clandestine organisations and have different ways of engaging and communicating with the outside, and that interactions between state officials and ANSAs often do not take place in public during violent conflicts. In this regard, the authors of this volume draw on written (and audio-visual) material produced by ANSAs themselves, as well as fieldwork, using interviews with experts from different areas, including members of ANSAs and/or local communities.

Towards a more competitive recognition regime in global times of ‘great power competition’?

As a number of chapters in this volume suggest, recognition practices are at least partly influenced by overarching regional or global norm contexts. The strong impact of the ‘global war on terror’ narrative, emerging after the terrorist attacks of ‘9/11’, on the recognition and labelling practices of many ANSAs around the world since the early 2000s has been noted in many contributions. While some of the ANSAs have their roots in the Cold War period, others experienced their highest relevance during the heyday of the liberal international order in the 1990s and the first decade of the millennium. The extremely complex conflict constellations in the Syrian violent conflict(s) of the 2010s underline that the number of ANSAs can grow rapidly within a short period of time, and they can rename themselves and realign quickly, but also that great powers seek to instrumentalise certain ANSAs within the increasingly competitive global politics environment. As Harold Trinkunas argues in the final chapter to this volume, global recognition regimes might enter into yet another ‘stage’ by the global politics of great power competition among the US, China and Russia.

‘Timing’ is an important element of recognition practices also in another respect: it is far from clear when the right ‘timing’ for the recognition of an ANSA might be. Given that policy-makers can use recognition strategically, the issue of timing is crucial but can also backfire in a violent conflict. Future research should address the timing issue more systematically and also explore the political and legal restraints that an actor, such as a national government willing to recognise an armed group, is facing on the domestic and the international level.

In addition, in the digitised era of ‘hybrid’ warfare enhanced strategic disinformation and the emergence of transnational and global audiences can also impact recognition practices of ANSAs. ‘Recognition’ in violent conflicts is not just a social interaction process among two or more actors – it is witnessed by domestic, regional and international audiences. ‘How these audiences might react and interact is likely beyond the analytical capacity of most policy-makers or state bureaucracies, which will in turn place a premium on the ability for states to adapt and react quickly to the effects of recognition on peace processes’ (Trinkunas in this volume: 268). While the volume is not able to address such future changes, we hope to demonstrate with the book that studying recognition practices in asymmetric violent conflicts can provide an important analytical lens for understanding conflict dynamics more deeply – without assuming that recognition always has beneficial effects for conflict transformation.

Notes

1 See, for example, Daase et al. (2015), Fraser and Honneth (2003), Geis (2018), Lindemann and Ringmar (2012) and Wolf (2011).
2 A detailed state of the art on recognition research in International Relations, Peace and Conflict Studies and International Political Theory is beyond the scope of this introduction; see for this Geis et al. (2015) and Geis (2018).
3 Non-state actors do not seek recognition from everybody. They also struggle over the question of ‘which particular individuals, groups or institutions are worthy sources of recognition. … Freeing oneself from the very need for recognition from particular quarters is an essential part of liberation’ (Heins 2016: 80).
4 See, for example, Byman (2006), Dudouet (2010), Görzig (2010), MacLeod et al. (2016), Podder (2013), Toros (2008, 2012), Zartman (2009).
5 While this is not a completely new phenomenon, as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil in Sri Lanka and the PKK in Turkey were already labelled as terrorist organisations in the 1980s and 1990s, this practice reached a transnational scope with the ‘war on terror’ script.

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