Franziska Smolnik


"A Question of Honour? Violent conflict and political authority in the de facto states of Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh"


The PhD project explores the organisation and (re-)production of political authority in conditions of violent conflict. The de facto states Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh that emerged from secessionist conflict with their ‘metropolitan states’ Georgia and Azerbaijan, respectively, constitute its empirical basis. On a theoretical level this study supplies input to a political sociology of violent conflict as well as to research on political domination, particularly beyond the OECD area, while on an empirical level it adds to our knowledge of two of the unrecognised entities of the South Caucasus. Challenging approaches to violent conflict that narrowly focus on the level of physical violence, it is demonstrated that notably in prolonged conflicts an understanding of violent conflict as social condition – that puts violent conflict on one continuum with peace and alongside the exertion of physical violence equally considers violence’s mediate or symbolic dimensions as well as a particular system of meaning – offers a more suitable analytical lens. The study thus ties into more recent research that has shifted the perspective from assessing (intra-state) violent conflict in terms of disorder and state-breakdown to assessing those alternative orders that violent conflict gives rise to. These complex authority configurations are traced by drawing upon the conceptual vocabulary of Pierre Bourdieu whose notions of capital (resources) and field of power clarify the analysis’ conceptual linchpins power, legitimacy, and (political) authority. Alongside the detection of different resources and a variety of self-justifications used by actors to secure political power, a central insight of this research is that ‘low level’ violent conflicts, too, may become deeply embedded in the socio-political organisation of the involved parties and influence actors’ empowerment and disempowerment.


Prof. Dr. Klaus Schlichte, University of Bremen
Dr. Nina Caspersen, University of York

Academic degree

Osteuropastudien Kunstgeschichte, Politikwissenschaften: 2008 FU Berlin