Outcome of the project – Københavns Universitet

Outcome of the project

Bora BoraGreenland

The immediate results of the research project have been published in 2011-2014. Most importantly an edited volume on the 'Overseas Countries and Territories' of the EU member states (published by Routledge in the New International Relation series) and a special issue of 'Cooperation & Conflict' on the cases of the Nordic microstates with each their special relation to the EU. Moreover a series of free standing empirical and theoretical articles plus a monograph unfolding the Greenlandic case are published or planned. Finally, a series of lectures is planned to report the project at the University of Greenland and the University of Copenhagen as well as seminars in London, Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels.


  • Adler-Nissen, Rebecca & Ulrik Pram Gad (2013) European Integration and Postcolonial Sovereignty Games: the EU Overseas Countries and Territories. New International Relation series. London: Routledge.

This anthology addresses the apparently contradictory movements of fragmentation and integration taking place in the triangular relation between the supranational EU and the 'overseas countries and territories' constitutionally linked to EU member states. Theoretically, it explores sovereignty as discursive and as practical games. By focusing on these arguably odd entities, we tell a different story about how sovereignty works in international relations. Studying these games allows us to understand how a group of political entities with an ambiguous status in relation to sovereignty may play important roles exactly because of their ambiguous status. The introductory chapter engages with IR debates on how best to conceptualize the units and relations of world politics, gives a theoretical account of how the triangular relation may be understood as interacting, extreme sovereignty games. 

Three theoretical chapters deal with sovereignty as experienced in the EU, by postcolonial states and by microstates and state-like-entities. Eight empirical chapters present each their case study of one of the OCTs linked to the UK, France, the Netherlands and Denmark.

The book is now out in paperback. To receive a 20% discount, enter the code "GDC72" when pre-ordering at the book website.

Read Joren Verschaeve from Ghent University's review of the book in Journal of Common Market Studies here. He writes: “This book successfully brings together research on European integration and postcolonial theory. It sheds a unique, comprehensive and original light on the triangular relationship between the OCTs, their administering powers and the EU, which will certainly appeal to scholars and students of International Relations, EU Studies, Postcolonial Studies and Development Studies.”

Read Paul Sutton's review of the book in Island Studies here.

Read Peter Clegg's review of the book in 'The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs' here.

Read Hanne Petersen's review of the book in Tidsskriftet Politik here [in Danish].

  • Gad, Ulrik Pram & Rebecca Adler-Nissen (2014) 'Postimperial sovereignty games in the Nordic region', special issue of Cooperation and Conflict, 49(1): 3-32.

IR scholars neglect the imperial legacies of the Nordic states. This special issue brings together postcolonial theory and European integration theory in an analysis of the self-governing territories and former colonies in Norden. The introductory essay provides a critical review of existing accounts of Norden in IR theory – and seek inspiration in postcolonial studies for a less lopsided account. The  framework – which addresses how an increasingly integrated Europe and its member states relate to former colonies and vice versa – focuses on situations where traditional understandings of sovereignty are challenged. More specifically, the framework employs the concept of 'postimperial sovereignty games' to address postimperial relations and the way in which they are embedded in regional integration projects. Four articles apply the framework each in a case study of Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands and the Aaland Islands. An epilogue lays out post-imperialism as a research agenda.

The special issue is available here.

  • Gad, Ulrik Pram (2012) 'Postkoloniale suverænitetsspil: Grønland i Marginen af Europa', Grønlandsk Kultur- og Samfundsforskning 2010-12

The relation between Greenland and the EU can only be understood as a negotiation of the post-colonial development from past Danish colonialism to future Greenlandic independence. The way in which Greenland had to follow Denmark into the EEC in 1973 was pivotal for the Greenlandic demands for home rule which succeeded in 1979. In 1985 Greenland became the first territory ever to leave the EEC, opting for a status as an 'overseas country or territory'. At present, Greenland is preparing for a future envisioned as one of climate change, intensive raw material extraction, new transportation corridors and new claims to sovereignty over the Arctic. Greenland uses this imagined future as a way to enhance its subjectivity not the least when dealing with the EU. The Greenlandic self-image as being on the way to sovereignty – and the tensions involved – structure the triangular relation between the EU, Greenland and Denmark. The visions of sovereign equality might create greater expectations than Greenland will immediately to be able to live up to. But as the realization of the expectations seems to be conditioned on the expectations being build up, Greenlandic nationalism might be able to drag itself up by the boot straps.

  • Gad, Ulrik Pram, Ida Hannibal, Kristine Holst and Rebecca Adler-Nissen (2011) 'EUs oversøiske lande og territorier: Postkoloniale suverænitetsspil og Grønlands arktiske muligheder' [The Overseas Countries and Territories of the EU: Postcolonial Sovereignty Games and the Arctic Possibilities of Greenland], Politik, 14 (1), special issue on The Arctic: Sovereignties, Governance and Geopolitics.

How do former colonies such as Greenland get a voice in international relations? The European Union (EU) is currently revising its relations to the member states' overseas countries and territories (OCTs). EU seeks to reform its relations to the OCTs so that it builds on a 'mutually benefitting' and 'postmodern' cooperation. Drawing on a rhetorical approach to the notion of 'sovereignty games', the article demonstrates that Greenland's response to the reform proposal differs from that of the other OCTs. Greenland articulates the future relation as one between equals, where both parties give and take. In contrast, the other OCTs remain within a postcolonial discourse of unilateral aid. Geostrategic considerations coupled with unused resources and possibilities in the Arctic are central to Greenland's 'Westphalian' and confident response to the EU.

  • Hannibal, Ida & Kirstine Holst (2010) Europas permanente paradoks? EUs oversøiske lande og territoriers suverænitetsspil i Bruxelles [Europe’s Permanent Paradox? Sovereignty Games in Brussels by the EU’s Overseas Countries and Territories], MA-thesis, Dep. of Political Science, University of Copenhagen.

This final thesis in Danish investigates what happens on the 'Brussels scene' as regards to the relation between the 'overseas countries and territories' (OCTs) and the EU. It uncovers how the OCTs have achieved a peculiar, but favorable 'in-betweeness' in relation to the EU. Asking whether this puzzling favorable position could be the result of agency on the part of the OCTs, the thesis investigates whether the OCTs, who are blind spots in political science and escape easy categorization as international actors, can gain influence on the EU’s OCT policy. It argues that instead of opting for full independence and sovereignty, these OCTs have used their ‘in-betweeness’ strategically and achieved considerable political results in Brussels by forming close alliances with their former colonizers. Read the thesis here.

  • Adler-Nissen, Rebecca and Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen (2008) Sovereignty Games: Instrumentalizing State Sovereignty in Europe and Beyond. Palgrave Macmillan.

This anthology offers an in-depth examination of the strategic use of State sovereignty in contemporary European and international affairs and the consequences of this for authority relations in Europe and beyond.It suggests a new approach to the study of State sovereignty, proposing to understand the use of sovereignty as games where States are becoming more instrumental in their claims to sovereignty and skilled in adapting it to the challenges that they face.

  • Gad, Ulrik Pram (forthcoming): Greenland, the EU and decolonization: A post-Danish nation state in the making. Monographs on Greenland (Man & Society), Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum.

Greenlandic identity discourse presents a country on its way to sovereignty. While for a couple of centuries, the central Other of Greenland has been Denmark, the slow-motion decolonization process has gradually opened up the relation to other Others. Currently, this process is accelerated by imaginations of a future in which climate change opens up the Arctic for commerce and conflict. The aim of the book is to analyse, how the self-image as being on the way to sovereignty – and the tensions involved – structure the relation between Greenland and one important Other, the EU.

The first part of the book sets the stage by analysing the conditions for a continued 'Community of the Realm' between Greenland and Denmark in detail. The analysis finds that what allows the national identity discourses of Greenland and Denmark - both idealizing national homogeneity - to co-exist in the form of the 'Community of the Realm' is the idea that Greenland still needs external assistance in its development towards independence.

In continuation, a chapter analyses how the bilateral relation between Denmark and Greenland has gradually been opened up to involve other Others - or, in other words: How Greenlandic national identity is gradually becoming post-colonial even if sovereignty is still postponed to the future. The chapter concludes by pointing out how the EU has held a special role in the diversification of Greenland's dependency relations.

The second part of the book analyses the triangular relation between Greenland, Denmark, and the EU. The concept of sovereignty plays a central role in the triangle - but not as a conclusion to discussions (which one could expect from the either/or character of the concept). Rather, sovereignty serves as the starting point for rhetorical and practical games The analysis finds that a series of specific games are played out in Nuuk, Copenhagen and Brussels to minimize the apparent role of Denmark for the Greenlandic relations to the EU.

  • Vlcek, William (2013) 'Crafting human rights in a constitution: Gay rights in the Cayman Islands and the limits to global norm diffusion', Global Constitutionalism, 2(3): 345-372.

This paper considers the introduction of a bill of rights to a territory’s constitution as an example of the transnational transfer of norms. Using the case of the Cayman Islands Constitution promulgated in 2009 this analysis looks specifically at the creation of its bill of rights in light of local debate following the legalisation of homosexuality forced by the United Kingdom in 2000. The unique constitutional structure framing the political relationship between the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories is outlined as explanation for the nature of the Cayman constitution, as well as the historical trajectory leading to it. This trajectory informs the context for the local debate over homosexuality and substantial local resistance to the transfer of an emerging European norm recognizing same-sex marriage to a Caribbean island firm in its Christian heritage. This case interrogates the transference and reproduction of ‘global human rights norms’ in the construction of constitutions in postcolonial societies anticipated by proponents of ‘norm diffusion’ and highlights the contested acceptance offered exogenous norms by the postcolonial society. Access the article here.

  • Bergmann, Eiríkur (2014) Iceland and the International Financial Crisis: Boom, Bust and Recovery. New York: Palgrave Macmillan (International Political Economy Series).

In the years leading up to the Crash of 2008, Iceland had been triumphed in world business media as an economic miracle. Its new breed of Viking Capitalism had become rock stars of the global finance driven economy, even while it was testing the foundations of Europe's financial system. Eirikur Bergmann applies Postcolonial analysis to explain the paradigmatic case of Iceland's fantastical boom, bust and rapid recovery after the Crash. His critical approach to the claims of the financialization advocates relates the questions of the national economy and globalisation to current trends in Europe and the World.

  • Related to the project on postcolonial sovereignty games, Rebecca Adler-Nissen contributes to the project “Manning the State: The Danish Empire, Its Norwegian Civil Servants and the Making of the 1814 Constitution” directed by Iver B. Neumann and Halvard Leira. The project aims at studying the change from empire to suzerainty to open to social scientific research Norwegian 18th century history; the place of Norway in the Danish composite state and Norwegian foreign policy making in the 19th century. The project is funded by the Norwegian Research Council, NRC. As part of this project, Rebecca Adler-Nissen has published:

Adler-Nissen, Rebecca (2014) ’Det københavnske perspektiv: imperiale kontrollstrategier og lojale mellommenn i det danske imperiet’, Internasjonal Politik, 72(3): 309–335.

Denne artikkelen søker å forstå hvordan København fungerte som den politiske kjernen i det danske imperiet fra eneveldet i 1660 til tapet av Norge i 1814, og dermed bidra til debatten om hvordan imperier henger sammen. Artikkelen fokuserer på de imperiale mellommenn som ble utrolig lojale mot kjernen. Denne lojaliteten ble sikret ikke gjennom sirkulasjon av tjenestemenn på tvers av de ulike delene av imperiet, men gjennom asymmetrisk kontrahering, ulike strategier for kontroll, binding og bytting av lokale eliter. Profesjonalisering av korpset av mellommenn innebar mye kontinuitet fra den gamle landeiende og adelige eliten, og sørget for at korrupsjon, forræderi eller bevegelser for lokalt selvstyre kunne bli oppdaget og sanksjonert fort. Det var ikke noe uunngåelig i det danske imperiets fall og omdannelsen av den imperiale resten til en nasjonal småstat. Tvert imot utgjorde imperiet den dominerende referanserammen for nesten alle former for protest mot makten helt frem til Napoleonskrigene.