Panel 7

Panel 7 - Open, with a set session


Fredrik Söderbaum ( School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg 

Kilian Spandler - School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg 

Title & Content:

Development Regionalism in the Global South: Return of Sovereignty?

This working group investigates the contested relationship between national sovereignty and regionalism in the Global South, and how it shapes development dynamics across the world and in different policy fields.

It is clear that the relation between sovereignty and regionalism is a crucial determinant for the trajectory of development around the world. However, most discussions and theories of regionalism remain trapped in simplified and binary understandings of the relationship between national sovereignty and regionalism, whereby regionalism is either believed to presuppose a transfer of sovereignty to supranational regional institutions, or believed to work only if it protects and strengthens national sovereignty.

This panel explores a more diversified and intricate relationship between national sovereignty and regionalism. The point of departure is that there is no single definition of national sovereignty, as researchers have variably treated it as the institutional distribution of political authority, as a socially constructed political concept or international norm, and as part of the academic discourse on development. We also see that the sovereignty-regionalism nexus plays out differently in different regions and policy fields.

Students of regionalism also need to account for the rise of populism in many countries. A more narrow pursuit of self-interests might exacerbate inequalities and lead to inadequate responses to urgent challenges for sustainable development, like climate change and the provision of global common goods. There are clear indicators that it affects existing regionalist projects. In Southeast Asia, for instance, pundits decry the failure of ASEAN member states to find unity in the face of political and socio-economic challenges. In Latin America, several regional organizations have been decimated as governments saw membership as detrimental to their national interests.

The proposed working group brings together scholars from different disciplines and theoretical backgrounds for a productive debate on the role of national sovereignty in Development Regionalism. We invite papers with a theoretical, empirical or methodological focus. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • How can the relation between national sovereignty and regionalism be theorized?
  • How has the meaning of sovereignty transformed in different locations of development? Are there different understandings of sovereignty between North and South, between countries and within societies?
  • How does contestation between different understandings of sovereignty affect development and the promotion of regional integration by the North in the South?
  • How does the relationship between national sovereignty and regionalism play out across different policy fields (trade, health, environment, security etc)? We invite case studies as well as comparative studies within and across different policy fields
  • What are adequate methods of studying different conceptions of national sovereignty?