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Rebels, criminals, militias and warlords on a global scale: Comparing actors and their resources across regions

  • Prof. John Gledhill (University of Manchester)
Tuesday 14 November 2017
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden
Klein Auditorium

In the study of the legitimacy of rebels and armed actors, notions of honour, trust, security, religion, gender and material progress can play a role. Some degree, or even promise, of social emancipation can help to explain the strategies counter-state actors employ to win popular support. Clearly, rebels respond to, and act within, specific social, political and normative contexts. Still, the resources actors employ in order to win and retain legitimacy are linked to pre-existing ideas about order, authority and power that circulate locally, regionally, and globally. The content of these political projects and the identity of counter-state actors are influenced by events occurring around the world and they themselves are influenced by these events.

In this research seminar, we seek to unpack ‘the global’ in the mechanisms and strategies counter-state actors employ in order to win popular support. Our interest is to discuss the relevance of, and limits in, comparing rebel and counter-state actors in local, regional, and global contexts. The case studies include Brazil, DRC, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Kosovo, Mexico, and Nigeria. By choosing a global perspective, we will be able to debate, first, the validity of comparing rebel legitimacy claims and legitimizing processes across time and place. Second, the global perspective will allow us to discuss the different methodologies to study armed actors in specific regions, and the challenges researchers face when gathering first-hand information in contexts of high violence. Finally, it will enable us to highlight differences and similarities, continuities and discontinuities in rebel legitimization strategies. 

To what extent does globalisation influence the political projects and aesthetics of counter-state actors? How can comparisons across the cases be established? What kind of conceptual insights does this debate engender?

Keynote address

John Gledhill, University of Manchester: ‘Rebels, criminals and the criminalised: global perspectives on illegality, violence and legitimacy’

Presenters (in alphabetic order)

  • Laurens Bakker, University of Amsterdam
  • Carrie Comer, International Federation for Human Rights (to confirm)
  • Ian Madison, University of Oxford/Leiden University
  • Rodrigo Peña, Leiden University
  • David Pratten, University of Oxford
  • Judith Verweijen, Ghent University


Please register until November 10 through this link.


The research group 'From Disorder to Order' will be organising the conference. This conference has been made possible thanks to the financial support of the Profile Area Political Legitimacy at Leiden University.

Full conference programme

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