Governance and Citizenship in Protracted Conflict


The research project focuses on (changing) governance constellations and forms of citizenship in protracted conflict. It aims to develop a multidisciplinary and policy-oriented research agenda to investigate questions such as: What kinds of governance arrangements emerge in areas of protracted conflict? What kinds of institutions and citizenship experiences does this produce? To what extent do non-state (armed) actors attain legitimacy in such arrangements? How can these institutions and arrangements be acknowledged and regulated by (international) law? The project also investigates what research methods are best suited to study these topics and seeks to encourage more interaction between disciplines on the topics. 

Protracted conflict: A central challenge of our world today

Globally, armed conflicts tend toward increased protractedness. These developments connect to a robust trend of state fragmentation and debilitation as well as to a reversal in conflict resolution successes, with peace settlements and postwar transitions suffering frequent disintegration and backlash. This situation is reflected in areas that have seen sequences of armed conflicts such as the horn of Africa and the Middle East, and is also apparent in many parts of the world where the security landscape is shaped by gangs, security companies, vigilante groups and so on.

Citizens face informal dealings with armed actors for survival

Nowadays large amounts of citizens face informal dealings with armed actors for survival. The phenomenon presents a complex problem for policymakers. International peacebuilding initiatives often consider armed conflicts as temporary emergencies and have mostly focused on strengthening the state as a counterweight to informal and segmented political orders.

Rather than discarding such situations as temporal vacuums or pockets of chaos, it is pivotal to study these forms of “hybrid governance” (Boege et al, 2008; Bagayoko et al. 2016) and to understand how such governance arrangements derive legitimacy from multiple registers including affect, coercion, patronage, ethnicity, religion, kinship, customary traditions (Baker and Scheye 2007), thereby challenging state-centered political and legal paradigms.

Protracted conflict thus forms one of the central security challenges of our world today, forcing academics and practitioners alike to rethink their conceptions of governance, statehood, conflict, emergency, legitimacy and the roles and responsibilities of state and non-state actors.


  • Symposium, 14th of May, Utrecht: Governance in Conflict
  • Series of Masterclasses, September 2018 – January 2019 

Embedding Centre for Global Challenges

The project brings together a group of UU researchers with relevant research experience in a variety of geographical contexts (El Salvador, Brazil, Mozambique, Sudan, Kosovo) and discuplines. By combining the expertise of researchers from History of International Relations / Conflict Studies, Cultural Anthropology’s “Sovereignty and Social Contestation” research group, and the Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance, the project combines ethnographic rigor with interdisciplinarity, and a keen eye for policy relevance.    

Scholars of Utrecht Universty involved: