Playing in the sandbox: state building in the space of non-recognition

Rebecca Richards, R. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
63 Downloads (Pure)


For unrecognised states in the international system recognition of sovereign statehood is the ultimate goal. Not being ‘a state’ means being excluded from global networks. However, even in the most basic definitions and criteria for unrecognised states there is a period of relative autonomy accorded due to non-recognition. This is a period when political actors can use isolation to establish the state’s narrative, identity and structure. It is this period that provides the foundations for external interaction. It is in this period that the state is born. This article examines another side to the politics of recognition: the politics of non-recognition. Drawing on the contemporary examples of Somaliland and Kurdistan, the article assesses the benefits as well as the costs of non-recognition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1717-1735
Number of pages19
JournalThird World Quarterly
Issue number9
Early online date25 Sep 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

This is an Author's Original Manuscript of an article submitted for consideration in Third World Quarterly copyright Taylor & Francis. Third World Quarterly is available online at .

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Third World Quarterly on 25th September 2015, available online:


  • unrecognised states
  • recognition
  • legitimacy
  • state building
  • Somaliland
  • Kurdistan


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