James Ker-Lindsay’s YouTube Channel
By James Ker-Lindsay
YouTube, since 2019

The COVID-19 pandemic has obtained many people making an attempt our hand at on-line educating and studying. However some teachers had been forward of the pack in foreseeing the probabilities of unrestricted data dissemination by means of widespread video-sharing platforms equivalent to YouTube. That’s the case for Professor James Ker-Lindsay, whose channel has lately celebrated its first anniversary. Over the previous yr, this channel dedicated to “worldwide relations, independence, statehood and the origins of nations” has accrued some 60 movies and over 6,000 subscribers. In about 10 to fifteen minutes, the movies accessibly look at key ideas equivalent to the state, state recognition, self-determination, remedial secession, UN membership and de facto states, in addition to a variety of circumstances of secessionism, contested states and statehood conflicts from (Southeast) Europe, the post-Soviet space, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania. Pleased endings following notably intricate paths to independence – from Belgium to Eritrea to Bangladesh – are additionally mentioned in a separate part.

Clearly scripted, concise and completed off with a useful wrap-up, the movies principally depend on Ker-Lindsay’s on-camera talking. Which means, whereas they incorporate helpful graphic help (e.g. maps, flags, footage of political figures, screenshots of newspaper headlines, web sites, main paperwork and educational articles), they will additionally simply be listened to as podcasts – as I did myself with a number of of them. In both format, James Ker-Lindsay’s channel seems to be an extremely invaluable pedagogical and dissemination useful resource. The dialogue of all points and circumstances advantages from an authoritative voice, accuracy and effectiveness. A wealth of factual info is offered combining insights from historical past, regulation and politics, usually in a welcome effort to make clear misunderstandings. This leaves the spectator/listener with a way of satisfaction and a stable fundamental understanding. On this regard, the goals and magnificence of the channel largely coincide with the thrust of Ker-Lindsay’s latest co-authored e-book Secession and State Creation: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Mikulas Fabry). Larger analytical depth and extra distinctively authentic arguments could be discovered within the movies that construct on earlier ones on the identical subject, particularly when coping with present affairs. A number of the analyses of topical issues sound like media commentary at its greatest.

Certainly, in addition to being a type of introductory audio-visual textbook on statehood and secession, the channel works as a useful companion to assist one make sense of a shocking quantity of the worldwide information. As an example, simply taking a look at occasions from September-October 2020, a video within the channel talks by means of the historic background, within the context of decolonisation, of the ‘sad union’ on the origin of the secessionist rebellion that’s now reportedly within the making in Western Togoland – the place the 1956 standing plebiscite that resulted in integration within the quickly unbiased Ghana didn’t settle all grievances. One other video addresses the talk as as to whether a secessionist dispute involving a de facto state could also be legally resolved by navy means – by an assault from the guardian state to retake and forcibly reintegrate the break-away territory – as apparently sought by the latest Azerbaijani offensive over Nagorno-Karabakh. In line with Ker-Lindsay, the reply is blended when it comes to worldwide regulation, given the strain between the established proper of states to territorial integrity on the whole and the UN Safety Council resolutions calling for a peaceable settlement of this battle particularly. And the small print is much more related within the sphere of legitimacy, the place the worldwide group’s double requirements relating to using power coexist with a rising scrutiny of struggle crimes and grave human rights violations.

Lastly, a 3rd video sheds gentle on the latest US-sponsored Kosovo-Serbia agreement, together with the unusual triangle created by the incorporation of Israel as an sudden visitor within the “remaining bullet level.” Ker-Lindsay contends that the strictly bilateral deal isn’t the “main breakthrough” introduced and provides little worth to the EU-led financial normalisation course of already below approach. Its solely novelty lies in Serbia and Kosovo’s dedication to pause their worldwide recognition/derecognition battle for one yr. But, the Trump administration’s actual goal would have been to foster Israeli pursuits by securing mutual recognition between Israel and Kosovo in addition to the (re)location of each the Kosovan and the Serbian embassies in Israel to town of Jerusalem.

As these examples present, Ker-Lindsay’s affords many instructive solutions. If there’s any draw back to this, it’s that some excellent query marks appear to be pushed to the background. That is, unsurprisingly, in step with the positivist approach that dominates the statehood and state recognition literature in IR. Whereas by its very nature this area can’t be however state-centric – and for Ker-Lindsay, states certainly stay the “fundamental building block of the international system” – essential IR scholarship and statehood are nonetheless unusual bedfellows. Within the case of this channel, with out altering the creator’s personal epistemological place, some core notions may very well be additional problematised, if solely to replicate the truth that the extreme politics surrounding them isn’t a mere matter of conceptual or factual misunderstandings. A working example is “the meaning of self-determination,” which is known as if this was a settled concern, as if the restrictive authorized interpretation of such proper  (vs. the precept of state territorial integrity) and the prioritisation of so-called inner self-determination “inside established states” which have prevailed following decolonisation, had been now not contentious and open to debate.

In reality, acknowledging the muddle could be the most correct method. That is clear from the dialogue of the liminal political creatures present in a “strange limbo”  which might be de facto states. In line with Ker-Lindsay, the time period de facto states is “extremely subjective” and the topic is “marred in confusion and disagreement.” “Simply as there are deep divisions over terminology,” he explains, “there are additionally elementary variations over which territories should be understood as de facto states and which shouldn’t.” Equally, whereas the purpose of departure within the video on state recognition is akin to the conventional, dualistic legal view of this concept, the following examination of its observe results in highlighting the “shocking variety of methods” during which such recognition could be signalled bilaterally and multilaterally, together with important gray areas and “room for confusion.”

In different phrases, relating to the worldwide politics of statehood and state recognition, one doesn’t must go full-on post-positivist to confess that a few of our elementary parameters have all the time been considerably shaky. On the similar time, the trouble to unsettle assumptions and take into account problems with positionality doesn’t exempt us from getting the info proper, striving for accuracy and readability, as Ker-Lindsay does so masterfully.

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