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The Big Leiden Presidential Breakfast USA America elections

Project 2: From Disorder to Order

One of the current research projects funded by the profile area Political Legitimacy is the research group From Disorder to Order: Conflict and the Resources of Legitimacy.

This project is supervised by José Carlos Aguiar (assistant professor of History/Latin-America Studies) and Isabelle Duyvesteyn (professor of International Studies/Global History). 


- Kick-off conference: 20-21 October 2016 
- Conference: "Rebels, criminals, militias and warlords on a global scale", 14 November 2017
- Conference: "Drug War: Organized Crime and Late Capitalism at the Mexico/USA border", 13 June 2018


Since 2016, the profile area Political Legitimacy sponsors three interdisciplinary research projects at Leiden University. With this financial impulse, the profile area supports innovative, interdisciplinary research into legitimacy issues in Leiden and The Hague - as well as the appointment of new researchers and the acquisition of new research funds from outside Leiden University.

Project description

In the process of state formation, institutions win and maintain legitimacy often, but not solely, through the circulation or exchange of social and cultural goods. In contexts of disorder or crisis, counter-state actors also win legitimacy with the provision of social goods and security. Extremist and insurgent groups, such as rebels, terrorists and self-proclaimed police forces (autodefensas) can become widely accepted; the power and authority of counter-state actors thrives in contexts of disorder. But competing systems of legitimacy create conflict: the expanding legitimacy of counter-state actors takes from that of the state. When counter-state actors attain legitimacy, the outcome is often deemed as negative, since they do not (directly) conform with formalized structures of political organization or statehood.

This project brings together a research group of scholars interested in the study of competing systems of legitimacy. Based on a comparative preoperative, this research focuses on the factors and processes that explain the supremacy of non-state legitimacy in contexts of disorder. This project builds on a multidisciplinary approach, coming from political science, law, social history, cultural studies and anthropology, in order to look at the mechanisms and resources 'from below' through which counter-state actors become legitimate. The dialogue across the disciplines will create a specific a lens for analysis. It will link empirically-based data of a set of case studies with larger theoretical debates on political legitimacy, state formation, statehood, and cultural production.

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