Indivisible Territory and the Politics of Legitimacy

Jerusalem and Northern Ireland

Indivisible Territory and the Politics of Legitimacy

In Jerusalem and Northern Ireland, territorial disputes have often seemed indivisible, unable to be solved through negotiation, and prone to violence and war. This book challenges the conventional wisdom that these conflicts were the inevitable result of clashing identities, religions, and attachments to the land. On the contrary, it was radical political rhetoric, and not ancient hatreds, that rendered these territories indivisible. Stacie Goddard traces the roots of territorial indivisibility to politicians’ strategies for legitimating their claims to territory. When bargaining over territory, politicians utilize rhetoric to appeal to their domestic audiences and undercut the claims of their opponents. However, this strategy has unintended consequences; by resonating with some coalitions and appearing unacceptable to others, politicians’ rhetoric can lock them into positions in which they are unable to recognize the legitimacy of their opponent’s demands. As a result, politicians come to negotiations with incompatible claims, constructing territory as indivisible.


“Stacie Goddard’s book makes a sophisticated contribution to the literature on legitimacy in international politics and takes an especially significant step forward in bridging rationalist and constructivist approaches to international conflict and cooperation. Goddard deftly uses network theory to develop hypotheses about the effects of legitimation rhetoric on bargaining, and she provides a pathbreaking articulation of the causal mechanisms at work in the process by which certain territories come to be seen as indivisible.”
– Mlada Bukovansky, Smith College

“Decision-makers, negotiators, and students of Middle East politics should take heed as Goddard pulls away the religious veil obscuring the Jerusalem dispute. Her compelling and meticulously researched analysis shows that this conflict, like the violence over Northern Ireland, is not God-made but very much man-made.”
– Ron E. Hassner, University of California, Berkeley, Author of War on Sacred Grounds

'I find Goddard's theory about the construction of indivisible territory very convincing. Its major strength lies in bridging the gap between rational choice and constructivist theories by managing to deal with values and identity while taking into account the element of agency … I think it gives an important contribution to the debate about ethnic conflicts and their solutions. Nations and Nationalism