In the fall of 2021, the Chair of International Relations hosted – with generous funding from the German Foundation for Peace Research – the workshop “International Patron-Client Relations in Secessionist Conflicts: Empirical Insights and Conceptual Innovations”. Several junior and senior researchers from the field of secessionism and de-facto statehood came together from 16 to 19 September in the historic Dornburg Castle to lay the conceptual groundwork for an ambitious new research program on Patron-Client Relations (PCR) initiated by Prof. Bierman.
The main goal of this workshop was to overcome the persisting vagueness relating to the usage of the patron and client terminology in International Relations research and conceptualize patron-client relations in secessionist conflicts by arriving at a core definition, exploring key properties, and assessing their impact on conflict.
Two covid-related postponements did not adversely affect the quality of the workshop. Aside from inspiring presentations by established and upcoming researchers it was especially the innovative use of small group brainstorming sessions that stimulated the conceptual debate and resonated positively with all participants. A roundtable discussion with practitioners and a keynote speech by a Deputy Director-General of the EU Commission's Directorate for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations provided great practical insights on the topic of PCRs.
As was to be expected at the outset of establishing a new research program, the workshop posed more questions than it answered. Chief among them were the issues of delineating patrons from non-patron external supporters, distinguishing between patrons of varying significance and factoring in non-state patrons and host state clients. However, the workshop succeeded in furthering the understanding of patron-client relations of all participants and contributed greatly to the refinement of the conceptualization.
A more in-depth review of the workshop will be published, as well as a special issue containing an introductory chapter conceptualizing PCRs and a selection of revised papers of the participants. To further deepen the research program Prof. Biermann is organizing, together with Kamaran Palani from Erbil University in Kurdistan, another workshop at the upcoming EWIS Conference in Thessaloniki. The aim is to expand the scope of the PCR concept from the secessionist setting to world politics at large. The call for papers is open until 31 January 2022 and can be found here.
Finally, the Chair for International Relations managed to secure a scholarship for a fully funded PhD Project researching PCR in secessionist conflict. The call for tenders can be found here .