Responding to Secessionist Demands for Self-Determination: Great Power Coordination, Conflict

Event Date: 
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Event Time: 
4:30 p.m.
Location: 
016 Robertson Hall

Bridget Coggins, Assistant Professor of Government at Dartmouth College, presented a public talk, "Responding to Secessionist Demands for Self-Determination: Great Power Coordination, Conflict, and Bargaining," at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 14 in Bowl 016, Robertson Hall. The lecture was part of LISD's 10th anniversary lecture series, "Changing Notions of State, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination." This lecture was co-sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson School.

Bridget Coggins received her bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in International Relations from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Before entering academia, Coggins worked at the Human Rights Center at the University of Minnesota Law School and the UN Sub- Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Geneva. She received her PhD from The Ohio State University in 2006 with concentrations in international security, foreign policy and political psychology. At Ohio State she was a Pre-Doctoral Fellow at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies and a Presidential Fellow in the College of Arts and Sciences. Currently an Assistant Professor at Dartmouth College, Coggins offers courses on international relations, civil war, secessionism, and research design and qualitative methodologies. In addition to English, Coggins speaks Chinese and Spanish.

Coggins’ research lies at the nexus between domestic politics and international relations. She has two major ongoing projects. The first is a book manuscript, States of Uncertainty, which focuses on contemporary secessionist conflicts and the politics of external recognition. In it she argues that statesmen regularly disregard international law in favor of their own parochial interests and international political concerns when it comes to recognizing new states. If it is true that politics, rather than law, determines legitimacy, important consequences follow. For one, the international community may be trading short term gains for long term instability in these “socially promoted” states. Second, if the determinants of recognition are not plain to combatants, they will continue to seek military solutions to fundamentally political problems, civil wars will drag on indefinitely, and civilian casualties will mount. In addition to her book manuscript, Coggins has published an article on the history of secessionism and has a working article based on the book’s quantitative findings.

Coggins’ second project focuses on failed states’ international security consequences. From Pakistan to Somalia, current scholarly wisdom ties internal collapse to external threats like terrorism, illegal trafficking, spreading disease and maritime piracy. However, evidence supporting the relationship between failure and international insecurity is tenuous and unspecific. This project uses new data on state failure and international insecurity to precisely identify the scope and intensity of the threats collapsed states pose to their neighbors and the wider international community. The United States and others have made significant changes in infrastructure and dedicated large monetary resources to combating threats associated with failure. Only research into the precise nature of the threats can tell us whether policy initiatives to address them 1) make us more secure or 2) prevent failure’s negative consequences long term.