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Sovereignty and Statehood


Admission requirements

This course builds upon some of the themes and readings already introduced in the foundational courses (‘Global Challenges: Justice’ and ‘Global Challenges: Peace’). It connects to some themes raised in political philosophy and political theory and it presents case studies that connect to issues from public international law, international criminal law, and courses on human rights. Therefore, 100-level courses in Global Justice, World Politics, and International Development give access to this course, which in turn gives access to 300-level courses in the Global Justice, World Politics, and International Development.


This course examines the role of sovereignty and statehood in today’s world order. It revisits the historical, legal and political foundations of sovereignty, as well as its role in an interdependent and global society. It also studies the role and function of statehood in international law and international relations, including criteria, forms and attributes of statehood, the emergence of states (colonialism, self-determination), membership of international organisations and the (re)new(ed) understanding of sovereignty as decoupled from statehood, conditional and fragmented. The discussions will be contextualized through a number of case-studies such as Kosovo and Libya, which will highlight the tensions between sovereignty, statehood and international (external) intervention. It will also adopt a sectoral approach to the challenges of sovereignty in the international arena, through Human Rights and International Criminal Law, for example.

Course objectives

After successfully completing this course, students will understand the origins and development of the notion of sovereignty and how it relates to statehood. Students will be able to contextualise the meaning of sovereignty beginning with the Peace of Westphalia until the present day. They will understand what impact the eras of colonialism, decolonization and globalization have had and are having on our understanding of sovereignty and its interaction with statehood. Students will be able to identify and analyse how sovereignty has been employed both as a tool for non-intervention and intervention with far-reaching consequences. The course will enable a broad perspective on the fields of international law and international relations through the exploration of the defining principles of these fields. Students will also be invited to reflect on the modern decoupling of sovereignty and statehood, as well as on the fragmented and conditional nature of sovereignty today. In this context, students will be able to identify the interrelation between law and politics in the international sphere.
By the end of the course, students will be able to write and present a structured account of a specific concern to sovereignty and statehood in context.


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Mode of instruction

This course consists of interactive lectures to accustom students with the preparatory readings and to position the topic/theme and readings in the overall course design and objectives.

Each week has two classes; each class consists of 2 parts. The first one will be an interactive lecture on sovereignty and statehood generally or on a specific issue pertaining to these questions (see ‘Content’ section above and weekly overview below). In preparation for this part of the class, students will be expected to have read the relevant literature in addition to other optional readings which will be made available to students via the electronic learning environment. Students will be expected and invited to participate in the lecture in a dynamic fashion, through a series of questions that will help them engage more with the topic under discussion.

As the course moves away from the general introduction and the core principles of sovereignty and statehood, the course will partly be devoted to case studies, which will be based on student group presentations and subsequent group discussions and analysis. Therefore, from the second week onwards, each session is divided into a 45 minute lecture and a 45 minute case study. Starting from week 2, students will be divided into groups and, for the second half of the session, give a presentation based on a written paper they are required to submit at the start of the lecture. During the second part of the session, students will be expected to contribute actively to group discussions. Each week, several students will be asked to present the outcome of their paper as well as their critical assessment of the background reading. Each student will need at least to make two presentations.

Assessment method

Students will be assessed based upon their written and oral contributions to the course and by their demonstrated critical engagement with the assigned material. Students will also be required to The final session will be devoted to a written exam testing the students’ capacity to construct an argument on a broad question in a limited period of time.

  1. Interactive engagement with course material: assessed through In-class participation: (20% of final grade): Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7
  2. Understanding of course content : assessed through In-class group presentation and group paper (2 per student; 40% of final grade):Ongoing Weeks 1-7
  3. Expression of holistic understanding of the course: assessed in Final exam on a specific essay question (40% of final grade):Week 8


This course is supported by a BlackBoard site

Reading list

There is no required textbook for this course. Readings will be available online through the course website, and will consist of excerpts from foundational texts and case studies.


This course is only open for LUC The Hague students.

Contact information


Weekly Overview

Week 1 Sovereignty and statehood in a historical context

Week 2 A closer look at the core principles of sovereignty and statehood

Week 3 The Responsibility to Protect: Defiance or Reaffirmation of sovereignty?

Week 4 The Challenges to Sovereignty from International Criminal Law and Human Rights

Week 5 Sovereignty, statehood and the multiplication of actors in the international arena

Week 6 The disaggregated state and membership in international organisations

Week 7 Sovereignty reconceived: impressionist contours of a future world sovereign