Book Project

Pathways to Self-Rule: Occupation, Resistance, and State-Building in Palestine and Timor-Leste

National self-determination movements are defined by their demand for new state institutions. Often drawing on popular feelings of exclusion, discrimination, and real experiences with violence and repression, they pledge that a new state will better serve the community that they claim to represent. Yet, contemporary versions of these movements face a thorny challenge: they must form in a populated territory that is already controlled by an existing state. Using a mixed-method approach, this project develops a two-part theory of self-rule and state capacity development among nationalist movements in such settings.

First, I argue that incumbent state’s goals in a contested region will shape the amount of self-rule (or autonomy) a competing nationalist movement is able to achieve. I assess this argument through a qualitative comparison of the West Bank in the Palestinian Territories and Timor-Leste, and through a typological analysis of a sample of cases from the UCDP/PRIO Armed Conflict Dataset (N = 81). I find support for the proposition that incumbent states which seek to annex contested territory inclusive of the existing population are unlikely to grant any governing autonomy to nationalist movements that oppose their rule. By contrast, incumbent states which seek to annex contested territory exclusive of the existing population are more likely to permit partial autonomy for competing nationalist movements.

The second part of the theory suggests that a national movement’s experiences during conflict with the incumbent state can shape its development of fiscal capacity, one of the core capacities associated with statehood. In the West Bank, I draw on elite interviews; geo-referenced data on variation in Palestinian policing autonomy; an original, panel dataset on municipal revenues in 107 West Bank towns; and local election data to demonstrate that the association between coercive capacity and fiscal capacity is not unconditionally positive, and greater Palestinian control over policing only translates into revenue growth in those areas where opposition to the ruling party, and arguably to the Palestinian Authority (PA) itself, is strongest. These findings demonstrate that not all state-like capacities necessarily grow together among contemporary national movements seeking statehood. My findings in Timor-Leste do not demonstrate similar distortions. Using data from a nationally representative survey (N = 1,243) conducted in collaboration with The Asia Foundation in 2016, and building on results from my own pilot test, I find that lower state coercive presence appears to be associated with less expressed dependence on government and lower tax morale. This research suggests that Timor-Leste, a country that experienced no autonomy during the Indonesian occupation, may exhibit a more straightforward, positive correlation between coercive and fiscal capacity development than was observed in the West Bank, which has experienced an extended period of partial, but restricted, autonomy from Israel.