Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Susan L. Woodward

Committee Members

Peter Liberman

Bruce Cronin

Subject Categories

Comparative Politics | International Law | International Relations


state recognition, self-determination, regional powers, great powers, regions


State secession is a rare occurrence in the international system. While a number of movements seek secession, the majority fail to achieve statehood. Of the exceptional successes, many have not had the strongest claims to statehood; some of these new states look far less like states than some that have failed. So what accounts for these secessions? I argue that the politics of regional actors drive the process. If a secessionist movement does not have the support of actors in the region, it will not achieve statehood. There are three mechanisms through which regional actors can determine outcomes: (1) they can provide tangible support to the secessionist movement; (2) they can provide diplomatic support to the movement by framing the conflict to the international community or acting as a gatekeeper between the movement and the international community; and (3) they can shape great power policy in the region. Through an analysis of six secessionist movements across three regions, I seek to demonstrate that regional actors hold the key to explaining variation in the recognition of secessionist states.