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Professor Nina Caspersen
Head of Department

Profile

Biography

My research focuses on the dynamics of intra-state conflicts, peace processes and peace settlements, unrecognised/de facto states, rebel governance, and state recognition. In my work, I have emphasised the importance of examining dynamics within communal groups and I am particularly interested in intra-communal rivalry and contestation, popular mobilisation and legitimising strategies, and issues of governance.

My research is comparative in nature, but much of it has been focused on the Caucasus and the Balkans. My articles have appeared in several leading journals and I am the author of three monographs: Peace Agreements (Cambridge: Polity, 2017), Unrecognized States (Cambridge: Polity, 2012), and Contested Nationalism (Oxford: Berghahn, 2010).  

I am currently working on a project on the relationship between de facto states and their external patrons, funded by the Norwegian Research Council and led by the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. Prior to that, I was involved in a large interdisciplinary project on the health consequences of the conflict in Colombia (jointly funded by DFID, ESRC, MRC and the Wellcome Trust). I was awarded a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship for my project Peace Agreements: Resolving intra-state conflicts since the end of the Cold War, and my earlier work on unrecognised states was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Over the years, I have worked with a number of international organisations, NGOs and think tanks. This work resulted in an Impact Case Study for REF2021. I am a Trustee of International Alert, one of the world's leading peacebuilding organisations.  

Google Scholar page

Twitter: @NinaCaspersen

Career

I hold a PhD in Government from the London School of Economics and Political Science. After finishing my PhD, I was a Lecturer at Lancaster University. I joined the University of York as Senior Lecturer in 2012 and was promoted to Professor in 2016. 

Departmental roles

Head of Department, since 2019

University roles

Member of the Senior Leaders Group; Member of the Capital, Enterprise Systems & Infrastructure Strategy Board; Co-Director and founder of the university-wide Security, Conflict and Peace network (SCoPe)

Research

Overview

My research is broadly focused on the dynamics of intra-state conflicts, peace processes and peace settlements, statehood, and sovereignty. This has resulted in three main projects/themes that I continue to work on: 1) unrecognised/de facto states, 2) peace processes and agreements, 3) rebel governance

1. Unrecognised/De Facto States

My work on this subject started with an ESRC-funded project entitled 'The Politics of Unrecognised States' (RES-000-22-2728). This project drew on a range of examples (from Abkhazia to Somaliland) and on two in-depth case studies: Nagorno Karabakh (Azerbaijan) and Republika Srpska Krajina (Croatia). The aim of the project was to improve our understanding of unrecognised states and thereby engage with, and question, dominant conceptions of sovereignty, statehood, democratisation, and conflict resolution.

This project resulted in the very well-received book Unrecognized States: The Struggle for Sovereignty in the Modern International System (Cambridge: Polity, 2012)."An essential addition to the literature, which dispels the myth of unrecognised states as dark spots on the world map." Political Studies Review

Since then I have done a lot of work on engagement with de facto/unrecognised states.

Currently, I am working on a project which examines the relationship between de facto states and their external patrons, funded by the Norwegian Research Council and led by the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. I examine how patrons exert their influence, including in peace processes involving de facto states, and how the relationship between the patrons and their clients is renegotiated following a significant change in the position of the de facto state. Case studies include: Nagorno Karabakh, Abkhazia, Northern Cyprus and Repuplika Srpska

2. Peace Processes and Peace Agreements

My project Peace Agreements: Resolving intra-state conflicts since the end of the Cold War, funded by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship, provided a systematic and comprehensive analysis of peace agreements signed in separatist conflicts since the end of the Cold War and aimed to uncover:

  1. How contentious issues – relating to territorysecuritypower and justice – have been addressed
  2. How the institutional design, and its success or failure, was affected by the context of the conflict
  3. The interaction between the conflict context, the content of the agreement and the peace process.

The main output from this project was a monograph, Peace Agreements: Finding Solutions to Intra-State Conflicts (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2017)

I am currently examining the significance of ambiguity in peace agreements and how this uncertainty affects the acceptance and implementation of negotiated settlements. I am also continuing to work on peace processes and agreements in conflicts involving de facto states.

3. Rebel governance

I have recently expanded my research on de facto states to a broader focus on rebel governance. Together with colleagues from the Centre for Health Economics, University of York; the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; and Escuela de Gobierno, Universidad de los Andes, I worked on a large interdisplinary project that investigated the health consequences of the conflict in Colombia - before and after the signing of the 2016 peace accord: War and Peace – the Health and Health System Consequences of Conflict in Colombia.  This project was funded by a large grant from the Joint Health Systems Research Initiative (the Department of International Development, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Medical Research Council, and the Wellcome Trust). 

My part of the project examined the extent and form of healthcare provisions by FARC, and the effect of this wartime rebel governance on post-war state governance. The findings are currently being written up.

PhD supervision

I would welcome PhD applications in these and related areas of study, and encourage potential supervisees to get in touch.

Teaching

Undergraduate

In the 2021/22 academic year, I contribute to the following modules: 

2nd year: War and Peace 
MA:  Causes and Conduct of Conflict

External activities

Overview

Over the years, I have worked with a number of international organisations, NGOs and think tanks. Examples include: the Berghof Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Conciliation Resources, the Council on Foreign Relations, InterPeace and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.  

The impact of my research outside of academic resulted in an Impact Case Study for REF2021.

I am a Trustee of International Alert, one of the world's leading peacebuilding organisations.  

Memberships

I am on the Advisory Board of the Association for the Study of Nationalities (ASN) an Honorary Fellow at the Exeter Centre for Ethno-Political Studies (EXCEPS), and a member of the ESRC Peer Review College. 

Editorial duties

I am on the Editorial Board of the journal Ethnopolitics, and I review articles for leading academic journals and publishers

Invited talks and conferences

I am frequently invited to present my work at international conferences and workshops. 

Recent invited talks include: 

  • Keynote speech: ‘De Facto States Then and Now’, launch of the ECPR Research network of Statehood, Sovereignty and Conflict, June 2021
  • Invited participants. Three-day meeting of the Karabakh Contact Group, organised by Conciliation Resources, ‘Preparing peoples for peace: Implications for Armenian-Azerbaijani peacebuilding.’ Tbilisi, Georgia, May 2019.
  • Roundtable discussion with H.E. Ambassador Lamberto Zannier, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities: ‘Inter-ethnic relations and international security in the former Soviet states,’ , Chatham House, March 2019.
  • Invited speaker at workshop organised by the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination at Princeton University and the Liechtenstein Mission to the United Nations: ‘Lessons from Dialogue: Self-Determination in Conflict Prevention, Mediation, and Resolution,’ December 2018
  • Roundtable-Discussion Hosted by MEP Rebecca Harms, European Parliament: ‘Engagement with the South Caucasus de facto States: A viable Strategy for Conflict Transformation?’ , Brussels, December 2018

 

Contact details

Professor Nina Caspersen
Department of Politics
University of York
Heslington
York
YO10 5DD

Tel: (01904) 323555

Feedback and Guidance hours, Online appointments (Autumn term) by appontment