nl en

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 and World Politics give access to this course, which in turn gives access to 300-level courses in Global Justice and World Politics.


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 nonintervention 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.

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.





Contact Information


Weekly Overview

(the order and content of topics is subject to change)

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

Preparation for first session