Bouris D. & Fernández-Molina I., “Contested States, Hybrid Diplomatic Practices, and the Everyday Quest for Recognition”,
International Political Sociology, vol.1, N°19, 2018
This article examines the diplomatic practices of contested states with the aim to challenge structural legal-institutional accounts of these actors’ international engagement, which are unsatisfactory in explaining change and acknowledging their agency. Considering contested states as liminal international actors, their diplomatic practices stand out for their hybridity in transcending the state versus nonstate diplomacy dichotomy, as well as for their structure-generating properties in enabling social forms of international recognition—absent legal recognition. The concept is empirically applied to examine the everyday interaction between the representatives of Palestine and Western Sahara and the European Union (EU)’s institutions in Brussels. It is argued that there has been a renewal and expansion of the Palestinian and Sahrawi repertoires of diplomatic practices vis-à-vis the EU, which has entailed growing hybridization. Innovation originated in more “transformative” diplomatic practices capitalizing on the contested states’ own political in-between-ness, which established relations that contributed to constituting and endogenously empowering them in the Brussels milieu. The way was thus paved for more “reproductive” diplomatic practices that mimic traditional state diplomacy to gain prominence. The impact achieved on “high politics” demonstrates how bottom-up practice-led change may allow contested states to compensate for their meagre material capabilities and punch above their structural weight in international politics.