Systemic Instability and the Emergence of Border Disputes

September 5, 2019


Name: David Carter-Associate Professor, University of Washington at Saint Louis

Title: Systemic Instability and the Emergence of Border Disputes

Date:  June 24 2019 – Monday

Place: CASE Z-48

Time: 10:00

Abstract: Although much evidence shows that territorial disputes fundamentally shape relations among states, we know surprisingly little about when territorial claims are made. We argue that revisionist states have incentive to make territorial claims when the great powers that manage the system are in crisis. We identify five main sources of systemic instability and develop measures of each of them, demonstrating that the majority of territorial claims in Europe are drawn at times when regional great powers are embroiled in crisis, e.g., 1848 or 1870 during the 19th century. Importantly, the claims that emerge at these times are not necessarily among states involved in the crises that generated turmoil in the system, e.g., Prussia and France in 1870. Moreover, we use a newly developed spatial measure of historical boundary precedents in Europe from 1650-1790 to demonstrate that the effect of this known spatial correlate of where claims are drawn only matters when the European system is in crisis. We further demonstrate that this pattern of claim-timing is general to the global system of states. Finally, we corroborate our explanation of our findings with a detailed case study of the territorial claims that led to the formation of the contemporary Italian state.

Bio:  David Carter’s research is in the field of international relations, with a focus on interstate conflict substate political violence. Recent published work explores territoriality and conflict and how the historical legacies of boundary institutions shape patterns of conflict and cooperation among states. He is currently working on a project that uses new digital maps of secessionist groups’ territorial claims to understand where and why these groups directly attack government forces versus civilian targets.

Carter has published his research in most of the top political science and international relations journals, including American Political Science Review and International Organization. He earned his doctorate from the University of Rochester and then served as an assistant professor at Princeton University from 2011-17.