Conflict as contradiction : a critical geopolitics of international conflict
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The conflict research subdiscipline within international relations commonly distinguishes international conflict between nation-states from civil war within nation-states. By regarding conflict research as a state-centric geopolitical discourse the thesis challenges this categorisation because (1) of the many links and therefore blurry practical distinction between the two, and (2) stateless nations can be involved in conflict with other nations, thus constituting an 'international' conflict. To overcome this problem an alternative, nation-centric critical geopolitics of international conflict is proposed. In this way the thesis aims to extend both conflict research and critical geopolitics. To do this the critique utilises recent literature on the contemporary conceptualisation of nation and nationalism to argue against the conventional conflation of nation and state and to reconstruct the adjective "international". Recognising that nations can exist without also being states enables the conceptualisation of international, and when such nations come into conflict, either with other stateless nations or nations that are states, this becomes 'international conflict'. This typology allows for conventional 'international' conflict, or rather inter-state conflict, by distinguishing between ethnic and official nations. The theoretical argument is reinforced by consideration of an empirical case study, that of the Kurds of the Middle East. The Kurds are presented as a distinct and unique stateless nation, the largest in the world, in conflict with the Persian (Iran), Arab (Iraq), and Turkish (Turkey) nations that surround them. The case study is undertaken through analysis of the Kurds and their national homeland of Kurdistan at the local, Middle Eastern, and global scales, each demonstrating in different ways the divergence of nation and state and, in the case of the latter two discussions, an example of an international conflict.