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Contested Global Governance, Transformed Global Governors?

International Organisations and “Weak” States


This project aims to explore the ongoing contestations of global governance interventions of international organisations (IOs) by ostensibly “weak” states and the impact of such contestations on IOs. It proposes to approach these issues in a theoretically, empirically and methodologically innovative and ambitious way.

Theoretically, the project proposes to analyse contestations of global governance and their outcomes through the lenses of gift-giving theories originated within social anthropology and developed within international political economy focusing on such issues as international aid. On the one hand, studies of gift-giving are historically central to the French research tradition which is clearly evidenced by the seminal works produced on the topic starting from Marcel Mauss. However, the international (global) dimension of gift-giving is certainly underexplored. On the other hand, the studies of IOs and their global governance generating activities tend to focus only on their impact on “the field” and “local” actors. There is clearly not enough attention to the influences that “local” actors and “the field” project on IOs themselves. The project is interested in possible transformations of IOs at micro (individual practices and discourses), meso (organisational practices and discourses in the field) and macro (organisational practices and discourses beyond the field) levels.

Empirically, the project will investigate global governance contestations in the largely underexplored two post-Soviet Central Asian countries often defined as “fragile” or “weak” – Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan. The focus on Central Asia is particularly justified by its mixed post-colonial and post-Soviet context, as well as by attention of various international actors to Central Asian states, some of which have been used as textbook examples of “failing” governance. Revealing variations in global governance contestations in Central Asia can help explaining similar dynamics or the lack of them in other post-Soviet and post-colonial contexts. Consequently, it will allow to better appreciate transformations of IOs through such interactions. The analysis will cover various IOs present in the region and engaging with global governance frameworks of development, security, migration, human rights and gender equality.

Methodologically, the project is inspired by a relatively recent “practice turn” in international relations. Studying interactions between IOs and “weak” states as instances of international gift-giving, involving practices of acceptance, resistance and reciprocity seems promising for understanding the impact of such interactions on governance outcomes and on governors themselves. Studying such practices in the context of the post-Soviet Central Asia with a multitude of IOs whose governors’ roles are largely unexplored should be particularly rewarding. The project will combine insights from field-guided practice tracing and theory-guided process tracing relying on a combination of three strategies: investigating sites, studying controversy and following concepts. Exploring global governance contestations will, thus, involve studying controversies around certain concepts as transformative practices contextualised through different “local” sites and actors.

ANR grant: 360 956 euros
Beginning and duration: June 2016 / 42 months

ANR Programme: Accueil de Chercheurs de Haut Niveau (ACHN) 2016

Project ID: ANR-16-ACHN-0034

Project coordinator:
Dr Oleg Korneev (Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches sur l’Action Locale)