Journal of Autonomy and Security Studies

Volume 3 – Issue 2

December 2019


Autonomy – a concept for our time?

It is not far-fetched to assume that readers of this Journal reflect systematically on the concept of ”autonomy” and its relation to unfolding political developments in the world. The critical question is of course to what extent – if any – that the central idea of autonomy is useful in mitigating, managing and/or settling issues and conflicts that cause human suffering if unresolved. The starting point of any analysis along this line is, of course, that the state system – particularly in its more simplistic versions – is not able to deal with the multifaceted aspects of peoples’ identity, traditions, and political history. The granting of ”autonomy” by a majority or a central state is in that context an expression of either self-interest or sensitivity, or maybe both. Such an assumption is a typical approach that autonomy studies take.
But ”autonomy” can also be studied from another perspective. It is also a concept for self-reflection. Any territory or group granted a degree of autonomy has to decide, and to come to terms with, what it de facto means in the specific situation. The question is then what can be done when being autonomous under a set of given circumstances? This is the inner side of autonomy, and that is a perspective that in principle cannot be replaced, or obtained, by someone from outside, and in particular not from the autonomy-granting power. Autonomies have to think for themselves about what they want and what it is possible to do.
Both perspectives – the internal and the external – are necessary for an autonomy to be effective and executed as intended. This is the challenge in analysis of, as well as in the political practice of, autonomy. If applied, ”autonomy” is probably one of the most flexible expressions available of a structural mechanism that can guide the organization of states and communities in a way that reflects respect and dignity for individuals and groups.
As this issue of the Journal of Autonomy and Security Studies illustrates, political parties are important platforms for both internal reflection and external action. Along with other texts on autonomy implementation issues, we hope this issue demonstrates the many-faceted and therefore politically useful character of the autonomy concept.

Kjell-Åke Nordquist


Exploring the Role of Regional Parties in the Nordic Autonomies:
Why Entrenched Self-Government Matters


Maria Ackrén and Jan Sundberg

In this article we combine two traditions within political science: regional party research and self- government research. The reason behind this rationale is to show that mobilization of the electorate is solely in the hands of regional parties in the three autonomous islands under investigation: the Faroe Islands, Greenland and the Åland Islands. We use most similar systems design as an approach to look at how the different party systems have evolved over time. The degree of entrenched self-rule has been different over time but is now on a similar level. The background variables that have been held constant in this context are the population size and the degree of a distinct culture and language, which emanates from a homogenous population on the islands. A distinct party system can evolve exclusively around a national parliament and an entrenched regional assembly. In our study regional parties are members of both. Self-government has a severe impact on the birth of regional parties, and their incumbents serve in the first instance as agents for the regional government in national parliaments. In this study we have chosen to look at the impact of entrenched self-government on regional parties and regional party systems. Self-government facilitates birth of new parties, and when the devolved government is well consolidated it gives fuel to the emergence of a distinct full-scale party system.


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Publication and Collaboration
Patterns in Autonomy Research – A Bibliometric Analysis


Felix Schulte

Research on territorial autonomy has gained new impetus in recent years. This research note presents a first comprehensive bibliometric analysis of autonomy studies. It introduces the Territorial Autonomy Literature Datasets (TALD), surveys of over 800 peer-reviewed and non peer-reviewed articles published between 1945 and 2018. The study reveals significant imbalances in gender and origin of authors, methodological approaches and studied cases. While the data shows some trend towards greater diversity and team collaboration, we observe that autonomy research is still dominated by male and Western-based scholars, and by single-authored small-n studies on sub-national regions in Europe and post-Soviet Eurasia. Thematically, the analysis shows that researchers almost exclusively study autonomous regions in the context of conflict regulation and minority accommodation.



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Consensus Impossible? South Tyrol’s
Autonomy Convention and the issue of Self-determination


Marc Röggla

South Tyrol is an autonomous, predominantly German-speaking province in Italy with one of the most successful autonomy arrangements in Europe. The basis of autonomy and the main legal document is the Autonomy Statute of 1972. The autonomy of South Tyrol evolved during the last decades and the need for revision and adaptation became more striking.

Therefore, the Provincial Council (Südtiroler Landtag) in 2016 initiated a participatory democratic process to draft a proposal for the revision of the 1972 Autonomy Statute. One of the most controversial topics debated in the so-called ‘Autonomy Convention’ has been the right to self-determination.

This paper gives an introduction to South Tyrol’s Autonomy model and proceeds with a description of the participatory process. This initial part is followed by a section analyzing the debates of self-determination in South Tyrol in general, and within the Autonomy Convention in particular. The final part argues that the debates in the Autonomy Convention show certain contrasts between the language groups living in South Tyrol. Nevertheless, the debates did not influence public life, nor the outcomes of the elections of the Provincial Council 2018.



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Oil on Water:
Some Personal Musings on Hong Kong’s Summer of Protests


Jennifer Eagleton

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Call for Papers

The editors welcome submissions of manuscripts that focus on, or relate to, the topics and intersections of security, autonomy arrangements, and minority issues. Apart from reviewed articles, JASS also welcomes other kinds of contributions, such as essays,  book reviews, conference papers and research notes. Articles and research notes should preferably not exceed 12 000 words (excluding references) and be written in British or American English. For other contributions, such as book reviews, conference reports, project notes, the maximum length is 4 000 words. The layout of the text should be in single-column format and kept as simple as possible. Manuscripts to be considered for Issue I/2020 should be submitted by 30th of March 2020.

Further details on the submission process can be found at:

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Journal of Autonomy and Security Studies - ISSN 2489-4265

Ålands fredsinstitut
The Åland Islands Peace Institute
Hamngatan 4
AX-22101 Mariehamn, Åland, Finland


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