The Constitution of Illicit Orders: Contested Sovereignty in Territorial Domains

Within the context of modernity and globalisation, this research project investigates the processes by which governance arises in territories subjected to illicit forms of social order that contest state sovereignty and authority. Drawing from recursive theoretical and empirical research rooted in the ‘abductive’ method of Pragmatism, the analysis has three principal objectives: First, it offers a different conceptual approach by moving away from negative categorisation of the phenomena, e.g. failed states, ungoverned spaces, limited statehood etc., towards a positive conceptualisation, i.e. illicit orders. By casting off the legal-rational, sovereign-territorial lens, the pursuant conceptual reconfiguration of territory, authority, and institutions recognises and more directly conveys the existence of local social organisation apart from the modern state via the agency of social groups acting in violation of domestic and/or international legal norms, rules, and institutions. Second, it seeks to explain the constitution of ‘illicit orders’ by offering a sociologically-cognisant analytical framework capable of elucidating the ‘micro’ processes inherent to governance in territories where state institutions remain nominal and ineffective. Based on insights from theoretically-informed empirical fieldwork in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I maintain that inter-subjective relations of authority can be produced when a given actor asserts predominance in three co-constitutive domains; namely, organised violence, socioeconomic security, and social legitimacy. Resultant authority then gives rise to the ‘structuration’ of norms, rules, and institutions, which also recursively reinforces the institutionalisation of authority – a process inherent to the constitution of social order in these circumscribed territories. Third, it provides an understanding of how inherently local ‘illicit orders’ at once form part of a diffuse mosaic of social, political, and economic structures that collectively constitute ‘global society’, while simultaneously existing in dramatic juxtaposition to the ‘international order’ of states within it.

Dr Christopher Marc Lilyblad is currently A Visiting Research Fellow at the Changing Character of War Centre at Pembroke College. His research focuses on the constitution of authority, order, and governance by violent-non-state actors in territories subjected to fragility, conflict, and violence. He returns to full-time academic life after spending nearly four years in managerial roles at the European Union Delegation in Cape Verde (2014-16), the Luxembourg Development Cooperation Agency – LuxDev (2016-2017), and Luxembourg’s national NGO platform, the Cercle de Coopération (2017-2018). In October 2017, Dr Lilyblad was elected as Councillor in his native municipality of Betzdorf, Luxembourg, which hosts the headquarters of the world’s largest satellite operator, SES, and other space industry leaders. In 2017, he earned his D.Phil. in International Development from the University of Oxford, where he attended as a Clarendon Scholar. Prior to this, Dr. Lilyblad completed his M.Sc. in Global Governance and Diplomacy at the University of Oxford and his B.A. in International Studies and Political Science at the University of Washington.