‘Shadow States’? State building and national invention under external constraint in Kosovo and East Timor (1974-2002)
Kosovo and East Timor have often been jointly considered for their common experience of new ‘international protectorate’. These two territories were ‘liberated’ in 1999 by multilateral ‘interventions’ and thereafter ruled by United Nations transitional administrations. This feature is at the core of nearly all comparative exercises about the two territories to this day. However, another less obvious set of resemblances calls for renewed attention: it was indicated by the post-liberation resilience of indigenous institutions that had emerged during the 20 to 25 years of resistance. From this initial observation, I spent months in the field between 2000 and 2003 and uncovered a wider array of similarities. Three main parallels appeared. In both, the clandestine resistance networks, described here as ‘crypto-states’ have 1) directed their strategic choices on the resort to violence according to perceived international opinion, 2) while remaining a hybrid association of anti-state kinship groups and ‘modern’ urban elites, 3) with the result of producing a dual discourse on nationhood: exclusive and militant on the one hand, inclusive and ‘liberal’ on the other. After empirically discovering what may well be a singular political object, a necessary step was to assess its relevance to social science research. This required testing its set of similar features against established political theory on state and nation building: First by assessing the very ‘stateness’ of these clandestine administrations, then by exploring their rich and often contradictory production on national identity. In conclusion, this preliminary exploration suggests that the parallel trajectories of Kosovo and East Timor during the past 25 years point to a new way of nation-state building in a context of external constraint, directed by the changing post-cold war norms on international intervention. I argue here that this type of ‘externalized’ state construction and nation building is perhaps ill-fitted for the post-conflict construction of stable institutions.
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