Are secessionists making the right arguments for independence?

Ryan Griffiths, Kari Waters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


There are roughly 70 secessionist movements around the world, and all of them advance arguments for why they deserve independence. These include restorative rights, remedial rights, primary rights, a history of conflict and functionality-based arguments. However, no one has conducted a comprehensive analysis to see how these arguments (or grievances) match reality. That is, are secessionists making the right arguments given their context? To answer this question, we utilise a data set of potential secessionist grievances to determine what normative arguments each secessionist movement ought to make given their setting. We conduct a content analysis of the normative appeals/grievances that have actually been made by specific secessionist movements since 2000. We then compare the predicted grievances against the actual grievances and summarise the patterns. The results matched our predictions where restorative rights, remedial rights and functionality-based arguments are concerned. Our analysis returned a positive and statistically significant relationship. However, we found no evidence that those making conflict-related arguments were more likely to exist in conflict settings. Interestingly, the findings for primary rights were the opposite of our expectations; it is the secessionists with the most political voice, not the least, that are the keenest to stress primary rights.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)498-511
Number of pages14
JournalNations and Nationalism
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • ethnic conflict
  • ethnic nationalism
  • secession

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Political Science and International Relations


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