State collapse and politicized identity: Somalia and Sudan

Justin L Smith, Florida International University


Scholarship on how to rebuild failed or collapsed states provides scant theoretical guidance in the search for specific warning signs or mechanisms of collapsing states. This thesis argues that state collapse is a societal response to an identity crisis politicized by the state apparatus in response to a legitimation crisis. As regime legitimacy deteriorates, identity politics are deployed to build support for the regime, but typically at the cost of increasing other forces of internal conflict. Absent a mediating force to suppress internal conflict, the state collapses once the regime has been removed. Somalia and Sudan proceeded through this trajectory during their civil wars, though with different outcomes. Somalia fragmented into clan and subclan groups that continued their inimical relationship perpetuating the war following Siyad Barre's coup. Sudan maintained two core identity groups separated by the implementation of sharia that survived each state legitimation crisis, though the state's physical solidity endured.

Subject Area

International law

Recommended Citation

Smith, Justin L, "State collapse and politicized identity: Somalia and Sudan" (2007). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI1451690.