Entangled Peoplehood (Dissertation)

The notion of people first gained currency as a legitimation device for competing ruling authorities, but this legitimation function of people eventually calls for a more substantial concept of peoplehood and raises various questions about the possibility and legitimacy of peoplehood. In the discussion of these questions, while theorists do not necessarily assume that the boundaries of people map on to the boundaries of territorial sovereign states, their misalignment has not received sufficient attention.

The first part of my dissertation attends to that misalignment through the concept of entangled peoplehood. All peoples are geographically entangled with other peoples, albeit by varying degrees. I argue that we can gain more conceptual clarity about this entanglement by looking at the situation and practices of peoples who are entangled to a highly significant degree, peoples such as Palestinians, Jewish, Kurds, Tibetans, and Hong Kongers. Having established the concept of entangled peoplehood, I would use this as the ground to argue that the idea of peoplehood cannot answer questions about its possibility and legitimacy as long as it aspires to play the legitimation function currently given to it. This is a problem not only for the notion of peoplehood but also for ideas that it is used to legitimate, such as state, sovereignty, and territory.

The second part of my dissertation attempts to reconstruct a conception of peoplehood that can account for the entanglement of peoplehood and answer questions of its possibility and legitimacy satisfactorily. This could be done by giving the conception of peoplehood a more limited scope as to what it can legitimate. I concretize what that scope is and draw out the implications of my conception of peoplehood through asking two questions. What are the duties one has towards one's compatriots? What is the relationship between a people and the land they are on?

Should Deliberative Democrats Eschew Modernist Social Science? (with Nabil Ansari & Mark Bevir). Political Studies. July 2022.

Article available here.

The empirical turn in the study of deliberative democracy raises a problem: deliberative democracy's conceptual premises are in tension with those of the social scientific approaches often used to study it. If deliberation is to function as a source of political legitimacy, we must treat citizens as intentional agents capable of reasoning. In contrast, modernist social science characteristically employs forms of explanation that bypass intentionality. Deliberative democrats thus risk theoretical inconsistency when they attempt to study deliberation using the techniques of modernist social science. The danger is that when deliberative democrats rely on modernist social science, they at least implicitly reinforce a fallacious belief in expertise at the expense of a more dialogic and democratic ethos. The concepts and the practical aims of deliberative democracy seem, therefore, to require a more interpretive social science.

doi: 10.1177/00323217221107288

What is a Deliberative System? A Tale of Two Ontologies (with Mark Bevir). European Journal of Political Theory. August 2021.

Article available here.

Deliberative systems theorists have not explained what a deliberative system is. There are two problems here for deliberative systems theory: an empirical problem of boundaries (how to delineate the content of a deliberative system) and a normative problem of evaluation (how to evaluate the deliberation within a deliberative system). We argue that an adequate response to these problems requires a clear ontology. The existing literature suggests two coherent but mutually exclusive ontologies. A functionalist ontology postulates self-sustaining deliberative systems with their own functional goals and logics independent of human intentionality. In contrast, an interpretive ontology conceives of deliberative systems as the products of the beliefs and actions of the actors in the relevant practices – deliberative systems derive from human intentionality. We conclude by showing how these conflicting ontologies lead to different empirical and normative agendas.

doi: 10.1177/14748851211034106

A Pragmatist Conception of Border Practices (Working Paper)


Interpretivism and Social Practices (with Mark Bevir). (Working Paper)


A Political Theory of Diaspora (with Anna Closas). (Working Paper)