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The Institutionalization of Interpretative Authority in Post-Conflict Societies

An Analysis of the Transitional Authority in Kosovo and Cambodia

Our research project aims at gaining a deeper understanding of the challenges local and international actors are faced with, when trying to establish themselves as (political) authorities in this very process.

Employing the theory of institutional interpretive authority, we put forward the idea that political authority is closely related to identity. The idea of a stable and unified state can only be achieved if people identify to a high degree with their institutions. It is therefore crucial to observe how and to which degree these institutions attempt to become the points of reference in the peoples’ discourse about their present and future as a political community. Equally important will be to observe how the international administration will manage to temporarily assume authority in order to guide this very process: Obliged to be a neutral and unbiased player the IA is bound to maneuver differently from the local actors in order to maintain its temporary status as a legitimate authority.

Using longitudinal analysis of the institutional transition processes in Kosovo and Cambodia, this project seeks to make a strong theoretical contribution to the role of political authority in such a time period – a contribution that will be of direct practical relevance for those involved in conflict management and settlement.

Project period: 2010-2013

Funding: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

Principal investigator: Prof. Dr. Thorsten Bonacker

Team: Prof. Dr. Thorsten Bonacker, Prof. Dr. André Brodocz, Katrin Travouillon, Werner Distler