This article uses the contested independence of Kosovo as an opportunity to re-examine the theoretical imagery behind the concept of self-determination, and then confront those findings with the more recent approaches to polity formation from other theoretical genres: normative theories of secession, on the one hand, and the global governance approach to self-determination, on the other. What emerges from the encounter between these bodies of thought is not a new interpretation, or a theory of self-determination and its relationship to uti possidetis, but rather a plea for an approach to polity formation which is simultaneously critical and prudential. That is, an approach which would accept the role of external actors as inevitable, but goes further and unmasks them as complicit in labelling certain projects as ‘civic’ and ‘multicultural’ on the one hand and ‘ethno-nationalist’ on the other. Equally, the proposed approach reveals the ever-present aspiration to unanimity as a concealed ideal of polity formation, shared by both the ‘civic’ and the ‘ethnic’ variants of self-determination. Finally, this approach to polity formation sketches the contours of an alternative, thin vision of a political community – one not wearing the badge of peoplehood – one glued together not by normative imperatives of participation and solidarity, but rather by the acknowledgement of geopolitical fiat.

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Keywords Hobbes, Kosovo, pouvoir constituant, Rousseau, secession, self-determination, unanimity
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Journal Leiden Journal of International Law
Oklopcic, Z. (2009). Populus Interruptus: Self-Determination, the Independence of Kosovo, and the Vocabulary of Peoplehood. Leiden Journal of International Law, 22(4), 677–702. doi:10.1017/S0922156509990161