In the course of my M.A. studies, I became interested in the subject of sovereign statehood in international relations.  As I worked on my M.A. thesis, my attention gradually focused on the issues of acquisition and criteria of statehood.  I had recalled witnessing the domestic debates on these issues before the dissolution of the country of my birth, Czechoslovakia, as well as following the international debates on recognition of former Yugoslav republics in the early 1990s.  Both episodes had left me with many unanswered questions, and I thought it would be worthwhile to probe them in a doctoral study.  The ultimate outcome of these efforts was a book charting the practice of recognition of new states since the late 18th century.

There are currently three areas to my research. First, I am working on various themes linked to my book.  I published chapters on the relationship between secession and state recognition in international relations and law, and on the evolution of external involvement in secessionist conflict since the 16th century. A journal article analyzing the impact of Kosovo, South Ossetia and Abkhazia on the contemporary practice of state recognition is forthcoming.  

While these projects deal with the subject of state legitimacy, the second area of research tackles the related theme of governmental legitimacy.  It asks what criteria should determine the international legitimacy of a government rather than what it means to be an internationally legitimate state.  In its recent document, the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the Organization of American States both proclaimed democracy to be the only legitimate form of government in the Western Hemisphere and designed measures to preserve it where it may internally falter.  Similar institutional developments have occurred regionally in Europe and Africa, and even globally in the United Nations.  I have published an article which examines the content of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and its application in Latin America and the Caribbean, and an article which reflects on the theory and practice of an enforceable international right to democracy in the broader global context.  

Most recently, I began a book project probing the historical evolution and current dilemmas of the norm of territorial integrity.  This research grows out of, and will build upon, my work on state recognition.  Sovereign statehood and territory are interrelated concepts which share one crucial characteristic: they are both regulated not just domestically but also internationally.  International society has institutionalized standards of not only legitimate sovereign statehood but also of legitimate territorial possession.  The norm of territorial integrity in international relations, specifically, embodies the twin notions that (1) the territorial unity of a sovereign state cannot be disrupted against the will of its government, and 2) the protection of that territorial unity is not just a national, but an international responsibility.  Recent invocations of the norm helped generate conflicts in various parts of the world, leading in the Balkans and the Caucasus to great power disputes over its actual meaning.  This practical need to make sense of territorial integrity, coupled with the relatively underdeveloped scholarly understandings of the norm, call for a systematic and comprehensive investigation. 


Honors Bachelor of Arts, International Relations, University of Toronto (1997); Master of Arts, Political Science, University of British Columbia (1998); Doctor of Philosophy, Political Science, University of British Columbia (2005)  

Project Summary

Innumerable global and regional documents espouse territorial integrity as a fundamental norm of international relations and law.  However, despite reflexive diplomatic invocations of the term, the last twenty years have seen various controversies over its actual meaning.  Most consequential for international order have been the intense disputes set off in 2008 by two seemingly like cases of foreign recognition of unilateral secession: the US-led recognition of the independence of Kosovo from Serbia and the Russian-led recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia.  Russia and the United States also led international condemnations of one another’s actions, each claiming that the other committed a grave violation of the norm of territorial integrity.  Taking these controversies as the starting point, the project will offer the first book-length examination of the idea and historical practice of territorial integrity in world politics.

Major Publications

  • Recognizing States: International Society and the Establishment of New States since 1776 (Oxford University Press, 2010).
  • “The Contemporary Practice of State Recognition: Kosovo, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Their Aftermath,” Nationalities Papers (forthcoming).
  • “International Involvement in Secessionist Conflict: From the Sixteenth Century to the Present,” in Aleksandar Pavkovic and Peter Radan (eds.), Ashgate Research Companion to Secession (Ashgate, forthcoming 2011).
  • “The Right to Democracy in International Law: A Classical Liberal Reassessment,” Millennium: Journal of International Studies, Vol. 37, No. 3 (May 2009), pp. 717-737.
  • “The Inter-American Democratic Charter and Governmental Legitimacy in the International Relations of the Western Hemisphere,” Diplomacy and Statecraft, Vol. 20, No. 1 (March 2009), 107-135.
  • “Secession and State Recognition in International Relations and Law,” in Aleksandar Pavkovic and Peter Radan (eds.), On the Way to Statehood: Secession and Globalization (Ashgate, 2008), pp. 51-66.
  • “International Norms of Territorial Integrity and the Balkan Wars of the 1990s,” Global Society, Vol. 16, No. 2 (April 2002), pp. 145-174.