DSF Project “(Non-)Recognition of Armed Non-State Actors: Risks and Opportunities for Conflict Transformation” (Geis/Clément/Pfeifer)


12. August 2021

Project start in March 2017. Organisation of an international conference, funded by the German Foundation for Peace Research (DSF). The conference took place at the HSU in June 2018. An edited volume on the results of the conference is currently in preparation. A conference report can be found here.

Organisers: Anna Geis, Maéva Clément, and Hanna Pfeifer

Social science research on “recognition” and “mis/non-recognition” has not yet entered the field of study addressing conflict transformation, especially with regards to conflicts with armed non-state actors (ANSAs). This international conference was dedicated to addressing this gap and thereby advancing by both recognition research and Peace and Conflict Studies. The driving research questions throughout the conference were: Which forms of (non-)recognition of ANSAs do occur in violent conflicts and how can we analyze them? Which risks and opportunities arise in processes of conflict transformation, when state actors recognise or, conversely, deny ANSAs recognition?

The conference was structured around individual case studies of particular relevance to the topic. The line-up of researchers covered prominent conflicts in which ANSAs participate, from various world regions and different socio-political contexts. Additionally, Véronique Dudouet (Berghof Foundation) reflected in her keynote speech on the relevance of recognition as a concept and potential tool for practitioners involved in conflict transformation.

In terms of results, three central hypotheses emerged from the conference: (i) Recognition is causal for conflict transformation, (ii) Non-recognition is an impediment to conflict transformation, and (iii) misrecognition might even be a cause of conflict escalation. In particular, the labelling of an actor as a terrorist group – as a drastic form of misrecognition – and consequent delegitimisation of both its claims and its actorness, minimises the prospects for conflict transformation. In this regard, the “global war on terror” stood out as among the most important normative frameworks within which (failing) recognition practices operate contemporarily.

Participants of the conference

  • Jan Boesten University of Oxford
  • Chien Peng Chung, Lingnan University Hong-Kong
  • Maéva Clément, Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg
  • Christopher Daase, PRIF / Goethe University Frankfurt
  • Véronique Dudouet, Berghof Foundation Berlin
  • Anna Geis, Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg
  • Carolin Görzig, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology Halle
  • Christoph Günther, University of Mainz
  • Stephan Hensell, University of Hamburg
  • Annette Idler, University of Oxford
  • Tom Kaden, York University Toronto
  • Michael Nwankpa, University of Roehampton
  • Hanna Pfeifer, Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg
  • Jamie Pring, University of Basel / Swisspeace
  • Gabi Schlag, Eberhard Karls University Tübingen
  • Klaus Schlichte, University of Bremen
  • Mitja Sienknecht, WZB Berlin Social Science Center
  • Solène Soosaithasan, Université Lille 2
  • Harmonie Toros, Kent University



Anna Geis/Maéva Clément/Hanna Pfeifer (eds.) 2021: Armed non-state actors and the politics of recognition, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Three chapters are available as open access:
Recognising armed non-state actors. Risks and opportunities for conflict transformation
Recognition dynamics and Lebanese Hezbollah’s role in regional conflicts
Shifting recognition orders. The case of the Islamic State