Formations of Sovereignty at the Frontier of the Modern State

in Conflict and Society

This article discusses the recent revision of the notion of sovereignty that emphasizes de facto rather than de jure sovereignty, understanding sovereignty as an effect of performative claims to sovereignty. As an implication of this approach, we come to see political landscapes as formed by multiple, overlapping, coexisting, and sometimes competing claims to sovereignty operating within and across boundaries. The article suggests using “formations of sovereignty” as a way of understanding these political landscapes and the way they change over time in specific areas. Empirically, the article analyzes different formations of sovereignty in a Guatemalan municipality at the border with Mexico, from before the civil war of the early 1980s to the present.