Jan Pospisil is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Political Settlement Research Programme (PSRP) at the Global Justice Academy. He is a senior researcher at the Austrian Institute for International Affairs (oiip, currently on leave for the PSRP work), and a teaching fellow at the Institute for Political Sciences of the University of Vienna.
Current Research Interests
Jan's main areas of interest are political settlements, state fragility, peacebuilding and resilience in the wider context of security policy and international relations. He has extensive fieldwork experience, with a particular focus on South Sudan and Sudan, Uganda, Colombia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka.
Dr phil, University of Vienna, 2007
Mag phil, University of Vienna, 2001
Books and Reports
Jan Pospisil, UN Review Processes: Politics and international state - and peacebuilding, (Political Settlements Research Programme, 2016)
Jan Pospisil, '‘Unsharing’ sovereignty: G7+ and the politics of international statebuilding', (2017), International affairs, Vol 93, pp 1417–1434
Abstract: In order to work, international peace- and statebuilding has had to reshape the traditional notion of state sovereignty and legitimize increasingly interventionist endeavours in terms of an attenuated ‘shared’ sovereignty. Over the last decade, however, governments in recipient states have pushed back, demanding a more active role in negotiating with their OECD counterparts. The g7+ group, an international organization of now 20 self-proclaimed fragile states, has evolved as a key actor from the global South dealing with international peace- and statebuilding. The group's approach to multilateral negotiations on development goals, and its creative use of donor concepts and approaches such as resilience, ownerships and measuring development progress, challenge the customary peace- and statebuilding practices. This challenge demonstrates that political elites in fragile states have started to self-confidentially occupy the arenas of statebuilding and development. This article argues that in so-doing the g7+ group establishes a post-liberal sovereignty claim that is based on two pillars: resilient nationhood, and selectivity in the application of global liberal principles. Since it relies on the development policy principle of national ownership, such post-liberal sovereignty is difficult to counter for actors subscribed to liberal norms. Effectively, sovereignty is ‘unshared’ again.
Jan Pospisil, Alina Rocha Menocal, 'Why political settlements matter: Navigating inclusion in processes of institutional transformation', (2017), Journal of International Development, Vol 29, pp 551-558
Abstract: Political settlements are now at the centre of international development efforts to promote more peaceful and inclusive states and societies. This special issue brings together a collection of theoretical and empirical contributions that engage critically with the political settlement concept and the question of how to navigate inclusion, with a focus on underlying politics, power and institutional dynamics, and how these influence trajectories of change. Three insights, in particular, emerge from the analysis in this issue. Firstly, the relationship between inclusion, stability, violence and resilience is complex and non-linear. Secondly, peace processes on their own are not sufficient to alter political settlements and tend to yield formalised political unsettlement instead. Lastly, processes of institutional transformation often involve trade-offs and dilemmas. Therefore, efforts to engage with political settlements need to adopt a long-term framework that overcomes idealist models of change. Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Christine Bell, Jan Pospisil, 'Navigating inclusion in transitions from conflict: The formalised political unsettlement', (2017), Journal of International Development, Vol 29, pp 576-593
Abstract: The project of ensuring that political settlements are inclusive is key to attempts to navigate transitions from conflict over the last quarter of a century or so. Examining such transitions, we point to the emergence of the ‘formalised political unsettlement’ as a persistent outcome. The formalised political unsettlement translates the disagreement at the heart of the conflict into a set of political and legal institutions for continuing negotiation. As the conditions of its emergence are unlikely to change and the formalised political unsettlement may be here to stay, we point to the opportunities for navigating between elite inclusion and broader societal inclusion that it offers.
Jan Pospisil, Barbara Gruber, 'Resilience and the transformation of sovereign security: A look at policy challenges and interests', (2016), Resilience: International Policies, Practices and Discourses, Vol 4, pp 202-216
Abstract: Resilience is on the rise in security policies, at the international as well as at the national level. Current academic research often links resilience with either the neoliberal retreat of the state and the respective attempt of ‘governing from a distance’, or with an almost totalitarian grasp of ‘resilient subjects’, or both. Against the background of the application of resilience in UK security policy, this article argues that resilience does neither of these. Instead, it unfolds as a rather mundane endeavour focused on micro-practices of civil emergency response at the local level. In doing so, resilience enables the repackaging of ‘unbound security’, which was doomed to fail in delivering its promise. It is, however, neither offering another promise nor symbolising a retreat from state responsibility, but engages in a defensive micro-management of potential catastrophe. Resilience hence does not replace security as a practice of the state deriving from its sovereignty, but links up with it to create a nexus between the doable and the undoable, the resilience-security-nexus.
Jan Pospisil, Florian Kuehn, 'The Resilient State: New Regulatory Modes in International Approaches to Statebuilding?', (2016), Third World Quarterly, Vol 37, pp 1-16
Abstract: ‘Resilience’ has quickly risen to prominence in international security and development circles. In recent years, it has found its way into political discourse on statebuilding and state fragility, triggering a vast but often conceptually indistinct examination of the subject. Given its meaning in policy publications and guidelines, ‘resilience’ tends to eschew a static conceptualization of statehood, turning instead to a more dynamic, complex and process-oriented rendering of state-society relations. This illustrates a conceptual shift from ‘failed states’ to ‘fragile states and situations’. It also transforms the ‘failed state’ as a mere threat perception – with ‘stability’ as its logical other – into ‘fragility’ as a particular form of social and political risk. This paper analyses the concepts in 43 policy papers focusing on the nexus of ‘resilience’ and ‘fragility’ in international statebuilding and assesses potential consequences. What does ‘resilience’ – as the opposite vision to ‘fragility’ – in fact mean? What is the practice derived from this chimerical state of states?
Barbara Gruber, Jan Pospisil, '‘Ser Eleno’: Insurgent identity formation in the ELN', (2015), Small Wars & Insurgencies, Vol 26, pp 226-247
Abstract: In conflict studies, identity has been posited as an explanatory factor of the resilience of insurgencies. This article focuses on the identity formation of the National Liberation Army (ELN), a leftist insurgency group in Colombia. As a Marxist–Leninist organisation, the ELN aims to overcome capitalism. In their perception, this is possible via the transformation of the individual into a ‘collective personality’. Along the dimensions of ‘content’ and ‘contestation’, we will demonstrate the mechanisms they impose for such identity formation. Identity, as we will argue, is a main factor in explaining why people participate in this insurgency and thereby enhance its resilience.
Jan Pospisil, Sophie Besancenot, 'EU Donor Policies in Situations of Fragility: Promoting ‘Resilience’?', (2014), European Journal of Development Research, Vol 26, pp 614-628
Abstract: In recent policy papers on developmental statebuilding, for example in the European Report on Development in 2009, the concept of ‘resilience’ has been introduced as an alternative to ‘fragility’ and ‘fragile states’. This concept even offers the possibility of forging a ‘common European approach’. Although a considerable number of donor agencies (and, in particular, the European Commission since 2012) have adopted the concept and are applying it in some of their guidelines and strategies, the state of implementation in concrete interventions is unclear at present. Taking the development cooperation of the European Union and its member states in South Sudan as an example, this article assesses the current status of resilience in statebuilding efforts to be ambivalent: although there is little explicit reference to the concept in current country strategies and concrete programming, some components of resilience inform interventions.
Jan Pospisil, 'Resilienz: Die neukonfiguration von sicherheitspolitik im zeitalter von risiko', (2013), Austrian Journal of Political Science, Vol 42, pp 25-42
Abstract: The term “resilience” has evolved to a key concept of security policy in recent years. This development is closely interrelated with the change in the perception of what actually is “security”. The long search for clearly definable threats has been replaced by the management of relatively indefinite risk positions. Based on a qualitative analysis of security policy documents, this article illustrates the state of the art in the conceptual development of the term “resilience”. Cumulatively, these documents allow us to segment the term around the constitutive elements of coping, adaptability and redundancy. Together, these form the basis of a resilience-based strategy of risk management.
Jan Pospisil, 'Resilience und fragilität: Ein konzeptioneller wandel im entwicklungspolitischen verständnis von sicherheit?', (2011), Peripherie, Vol 31, pp 236-252
Jan Pospisil, Stefan Khittel, 'Beyond transitional justice? ', (2011), Journal für Entwicklungspolitik, Vol XXVII, pp 4-20
Jan Pospisil, 'Komplikation statt Komplexität Die EU als globaler Peacebuilding-Akteur' in Gudrun Biffl, Dorothea Stepan (ed.) Europa und Demokratien im Wandel (Edition Donau-Universität Krems 2016) 83-102
Abstract: Die friedenspolitischen Bemühungen der Europäischen Union sehen sich zunehmenden Herausforderungen ausgesetzt: in einem großen Teil der Nachbarschaftsregionen sind bewaffnete Konflikte im Gange. Der oft zitierte Zusammenhang zwischen Integration und Frieden, für den die EU sogar den Friedensnobelpreis erhalten hat, zeigt nur mehr eingeschränkte Wirksamkeit. Im Gegensatz zu zahlreichen Stellungnahmen, die dafür technische Mängel, Uneinigkeit oder fehlenden politischen Willen verantwortlich machen, sieht dieser Beitrag die Ursache des Problems in der Fehlannahme eines neo-funktionalistisch funktionierenden Friedens begründet. Ein Frieden durch Integration funktioniert demnach nur in historischen Ausnahmesituationen, und ist keineswegs eine Gesetzmäßigkeit internationaler Politik. Die EU ist daher gefordert, sich auf ein politisches Engagement in komplexen Konfliktsituationen einzulassen.
Jan Pospisil, '“Political Settlements” for “Increased Resilience” The changing International discourse on peace processes' in Cengiz Günay, Jan Pospisil (ed.) Add-On 12 (Facultas 2013) 83-93
Jan Pospisil, 'Pathways to post-liberal peace: Perspectives on the ‘common good’ in peace and statebuilding' 2017
Abstract: Against the background of a conceptual history of approaches to the ‘common good’ in peace- and statebuilding, this working paper explores potential pathways for relational engagement in transitions from violent conflict. While it is academically widely undisputed that liberal interventionism has reached an impasse, the political space that opens up beyond that remains widely unexplored. Suggestions range from adapting and prolonging the liberal enterprise to a re-orientation towards the local, or the focus on effects in the sense of vintage conflict management. The resulting question, however, is how to overcome the misleading distinction between liberalism and relativism, and to marry the calls for pragmatism and a more political engagement. The notion of relational engagement may offer a potential pathway.