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Radical experimentation: Yugoslavia, the non-aligned movement and the archive of international law

Koltaj, Mateja (2023) Radical experimentation: Yugoslavia, the non-aligned movement and the archive of international law. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.100635) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:100635)

Language: English

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The Cold War has conventionally been viewed through the lenses of the Great powers; a coercive standstill, with most nation-states placed on the margins of that bi-polar legal, economic, political and cultural international arrangement. Recent scholarship has shown, however, that peripheral sovereignties functioned during this period as a tool for state-based resistance and as sites for the creation of alternative visions of the international legal order. My thesis builds on this scholarship on the plural histories of the international legal order, in particular regarding how domestic policies can serve as prisms to examine alternative international pasts and futures. To this end, the thesis explores, in particular, the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) as an example of radical experimentalism through the experience of Yugoslavia. As such, the thesis engages with the international and national faces of NAM, the critical geopolitical project that was comprised of a heterogeneous group of nation-states aspiring to create an alternative model of global organisation through peaceful coexistence and solidarity.

At the core of my examination is the dialectical relationship between 'nonalignment' - NAM's organisational concept and Yugoslavia's foreign policy central pillar - and Yugoslavia's domestic policy of 'self-management'. Building on the existing historiography of Yugoslav foreign policy, I argue that Yugoslavia's use of soft power and its promotion of self-management abroad in the form of nonalignment affected in a profound way the international legal and political order during the Cold War era. Self-management's vision of a direct democracy through decentralisation was showcased abroad as a way of affirming national sovereignty and as means for international cooperation irrespective of political, legal or socio-economic differences of any state. My analysis shows, however, the limits of this model of state-based resistance by problematising how the principle and right of self-determination was a contested and fragile concept in the post-imperial world order. I argue that, while the Cold War was a space-moment that permitted forms of national and international experimentation, it generated simultaneously a geopolitical context that stifled radical change. Self-management at the national level and nonalignment at the international level proved unsuccessful in advancing, in the long run, a new version of global governance. Regardless of their openness and promoting of solidarity at home, and despite the initial success of advancing diversity globally, their vision of self-determination as a legal concept for independence and the generation of an egalitarian world order proved contingent on the two power-blocs' specific understanding of it and a vehicle for advancing their own interests, and as such undermined the horizons of self-management and non-alignment within Yugoslavia and abroad. NAM's shortcomings and achievements invite us, however, to reassess the value and significance of local-global interactions in the creation of alternative modalities of governance.

My analysis is based also on archival work conducted in the Archives of Yugoslavia in Belgrade, Serbia. Engaging with this archive as a place of struggle, I argue that it is a site to engage critically with global orders and hierarchies underpinned by international law. My findings demonstrate, in particular, the dual function of the archive: it functions as a register of both domestic and international (hi)stories, and the container of radical forms of experimentation of world formation. The archive, then, as a register of national and international struggles, helps us to approach NAM as an intrinsic part of the Yugoslav domestic story of emancipation and as the outcome of Yugoslavia's attempt to transform the world. The way the archive is constructed and organised performs, as a result, the critical work of my thesis; it makes my critical reading possible. By bringing the national and the international together, the archive becomes a source of an alternative analysis of history as it recognises an emancipatory potential to peripheral actors, in particular to break the supposed coherence, linearity and simplicity of the global order. The archive is a space for reaction, resistance and redefinition of fixed, imposed or controlled representations of the domestic and the international order. Such approach disrupts assumed understandings of the local and the international, and of self-management and nonalignment, and invites us to problematise a proclivity to historical closures in the study of international law.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Eslava, Luis
Thesis advisor: Kendall, Sara
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.100635
Subjects: K Law > KZ Law of Nations
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > Kent Law School
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 03 Apr 2023 11:02 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Apr 2023 11:59 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Koltaj, Mateja.

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