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Conference | Kick-off Research Group

From Disorder to Order - Conflict and the Resources of Legitimacy

Thursday 20 October 2016 - Friday 21 October 2016
Pieterskerkhof 6
2311 SR Leiden

Keynote speakers

Monica Toft (University or Oxford) and
Sergio Aguayo (Colegio de México/Harvard University)
Ulrich Schneckener (University of Osnabrück)

This conference focuses on the study of competing systems of legitimacy between state actors and their opponents. The conference seeks to integrate a multidisciplinary approach, bringing together academics from history, political science, anthropology, cultural studies, sociology and law drawing on specific case studies across space and time. The conference aims to analyse both, specific cases and the larger theoretical debates on political legitimacy, state formation, statehood, and cultural production.

Counter-state actors

In contexts of conflict, expansive violence or other forms of disorder, different types of counter-state actors may appear and win legitimacy among the population with the provision of material and immaterial goods and services.

Extremist and insurgent groups, such as rebels, terrorists, guerrilla fighters, warlords and self-proclaimed police forces (autodefensas) take over functions normatively assigned to the sovereign state. Counter-state actors become a source of security, health, identity-making and belonging, financing, and other forms of emancipation. By doing so, counter-state actors restore some sense of order within disorder, and are recognised as legitimate authorities.

Even if counter-state actors can themselves be the very source of coercion or violence over larger groups, they can also be perceived as charismatic leaders, or be deeply admired and celebrated in popular culture. This is so because counter-state actors can be perceived as an ‘alternative’ to weak and inefficient governments, or as a legitimate representative for specific grievances or marginalised groups. The use of violence and insurgency may also underline a larger, shared desire for reshaping the foundations of society, or to discipline a predatory or repressive state. In many ways, counter-state actors can be seen as agents striving for some kind of emancipation or social utopia. How do counter-state actors attain legitimacy? What sort of mechanisms or resources do they employ? What categories or beliefs do they appeal to other than coercion or violence to substantiate this legitimacy?


Attendance is free; please register before October 14 by filling in this form online. In case of any problem with the registration, write to Karla Medrano.

Conference organisers

Dr. Jose Carlos G. Aguiar
Prof.Dr. Isabelle Duyvesteyn

This conference is organised by the research group ‘From Disorder to Order: Counter-
Societies and the Resources of Legitimacy’, financed by the profile area Political
 at Leiden University and supported by the The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences KNAW.

More information on programme and speakers can be found in the conference booklet [PDF]

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