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7. Humanitarian Intervention and State Sovereignty: a Social Constructivist Analysis

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Chapter Summary

This chapter proposes a perspective on the relationship between state sovereignty and humanitarian intervention. It argues that humanitarian intervention should be seen as a practice that is shaping the very content and meaning of state sovereignty. The discipline of International Relations provides the starting point for the chapter. Its theoretical basis is social constructivism, and more specifically Foucaldian discourse analysis. The chapter examines how state sovereignty and intervention are conceptually linked. It analyses how humanitarian interventions have been legitimised in recent years. The chapter distinguishes between three different strategies which have been used to legitimise humanitarian intervention: genocide, crimes against humanity and gross violations of human rights. The analysis is primarily based on how NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999 was justified, but it also draws on examples from interventions in Bosnia and northern Iraq in 1998.

Keywords: Bosnia; Foucaldian discourse analysis; genocide; human rights; humanitarian intervention; Kosovo; northern Iraq; social constructivism; state sovereignty



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