The Princeton Encyclopedia of Self-Determination (PESD)

Project Leaders

Self-determination conflicts are once again on the front burner of international politics. This project worked to generate essays that define and explore the key terms associated with self-determination, detailed case studies to highlight how those terms are applied in a selection of conflicts, and overview essays on the phenomenon as a whole. The broader aim has been to foster ongoing dialogue and research on topics relating to self-determination, to contribute to their resolution, and to capture fully the multicultural, dynamic dimension of self-determination in today's world. These activities took place in parallel with focused LISD research and policy work in Afghanistan, the Balkans, and elsewhere.


Encyclopedia Princetoniensis: The Princeton Encyclopedia of Self-Determination (PESD) is an internet accessible encyclopedia of definitions, case studies, and analytical essays on subjects related to self-determination by leading academics and practitioners across various disciplines and regional specialties. PESD provides a comprehensive, credible source of information on self-determination issues.  In its internet-based electronic format, PESD offers immediate access to information necessary for in-depth comparative analyses as well as real-time policy making decisions. Entries follow rigorous academic standards, striving to set the parameters of debate for concepts related to self-determination, including sovereignty, citizenship, democracy, human rights, autonomy, and federalism. Contributors are at the forefront of their respective fields and, together, create a strong conceptual framework for academic discussions, political negotiations, and conflict resolution. 

Unlike other resources, PESD strives to be globally accessible in real time, with internet access and translations into multiple languages; to facilitate education and networking among researchers, students, and institutions; and to be an anticipatory tool of conflict resolution, with direct impact on conflict resolution processes.

For wide-ranging coverage of self-determination issues, PESD includes three types of entries: 

  • Definitions: concepts related to the study and practice of self-determination.  This section culls disparate and evolving understandings of important or contentious terms in order to provide a common language that can be used as a starting point for academic discourse as well as negotiations. The distinguishing feature of the definitions is their multicultural approach, highlighting how language, local context, and major ideological or disciplinary frameworks affect meanings. By introducing various perspectives, the definitions will illuminate disputed or controversial language that can foster misunderstandings or hinder negotiations.
  • Case Studies: self-determination claims from the 19th century to the present.  Given both the breadth of cases and the ongoing dynamics of contemporary claims, the Encyclopedia is the first reference work to offer a complete collection of historical (or resolved) case studies, as well as contemporary (or ongoing), claims. In its final form, the electronic database will include over 400 claims from the 19th century to the present; many will also have a separate article-length case study entry. These entries cross-reference and include discussions of leaders, movements, and concepts that have affected the unfolding of events. Accompanying maps highlight the importance of resources, political geography, historical population movements, and regional security issues.
  • Essays: self-determination and security in the international system.  These essays introduce the role of self-determination in its dynamic global context and highlight its relevance for contemporary international security. These slightly longer, more analytical works show how self-determination relates to topical debates in academia and policymaking—such as humanitarian intervention or terrorism. Other essays will consider broader trends in the international system: self-determination in the context of globalization or human security, for example. Their purpose is to frame our thinking and understanding of self-determination in a complex and evolving system so that we can begin to anticipate the challenges and opportunities for resolving self-determination issues in the future.

Initial entries to PESD cover key definitions and case studies and essays related to the Balkans. As an ongoing project, content is commissioned, peer-reviewed, and added to PESD on a regular basis.