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Public Anthropology Series: “In defense of sovereignty: When history is stranded between law and fact”, with Prof Dr Theodoros Rakopoulos

29 November 2023, Iwalewahaus, 6.00 p.m. CEST

Prof Dr Theodoros Rakopoulos

The Anthropology of Global Inequalities research group (University of Bayreuth) invites you to the fourth event of its Public Anthropology Lecture series, in collaboration with the Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies.

Prof Dr Theodoros Rakopoulos, University of Oslo, will talk about "In defense of sovereignty: When history is stranded between law and fact".


Sovereignty and struggles around different versions of it, caught between “real” and “fictional”, seem to be at the centre of our political predicament nowadays. Engaging Carl Schmitt, in this paper I defend the concept of sovereignty, considering the experiences of the people of a post-colonial, post-war, small island. Looking at how sovereignty beyond the soil is imagined and experienced by Cypriot refugees, the paper confirms a consensus among political sociologists and especially anthropologists, that sovereignty is an exercise of social relations’ political life, which mobilises a sense of remembrance but also a sense of justice and legitimacy.

The paper, however, goes beyond this agreed point, focusing not only on the factual and grounded experience of exercising sovereignty but also on how the legal (and “fictional”) imagination of it creates its own world. This way, it inquires into the jural fictions on sovereignty as not only imaginaries but as acts constitutive of people’s political existence. The paper therefore finds that the legacy of colonialism is palpable in the very form sovereignty takes both on the ground and on paper – and that it is the combination of facts on the ground and law on paper that formulates post-colonial and post-conflict realities of sovereignty. De jure and de facto are productive domains of sovereignty that co-exist in the minds of the population in Cyprus. The paper thus invites to compare with post-colonial experiences of the many scales of sovereignty elsewhere in the world.

For more information on this and the next talks in the Public Anthropology series, please visit the webpage of the Anthropology of Global Inequalities research group.

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