Handbook on Intervention and Statebuilding
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Handbook on Intervention and Statebuilding

Edited by Nicolas Lemay-Hébert

This innovative Handbook offers a new perspective on the cutting-edge conceptual advances that have shaped – and continue to shape – the field of intervention and statebuilding.
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Chapter 6: The ambiguity of statebuilding

Florian P. Kühn


Interventions and statebuilding are highly ambiguous endeavours. This chapter introduces ambiguity analysis which opens up new perspectives of non-competitive representations of intervention and statebuilding practice. It allows giving credit to the multiple truths at work in politics revolving around statehood, violence, legal governance, and notions of progress. Progress and rationality, it is argued, have lowered tolerance for ambiguity in politics and social life just as much as in academic enquiry. Systematically researching ambiguity, however, is not arguing for sloppy conceptualisation. Pointing out characteristics of ambiguities in interventions and statebuilding, new avenues for research can be explored; the chapter demonstrates how the state, but also military and bureaucratic interventions contribute to conflict dynamics in their move to disambiguate social life.

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