Recognition and status in International Relations

Course content

Processes of recognition and status seeking play a crucial role in shaping international politics and receive increasing attention within the discipline of International Relations (IR). International recognition takes place most visibly when an existing government announces that another political entity has become a sovereign state. However, processes of recognition also unfold as practices and social dynamics between sovereign states, and can help explain actors’ identities, the change and continuity of international social structures, and policy decisions by international actors, such as states, diplomats, politicians and institutions.


This course aims at providing a comprehensive discussion and understanding of the concept of recognition in International Relations. Students attending the course will get a broad introduction to recognition in international politics. The course introduces key theoretical approaches to the concept of recognition in International Relations, and it examines different approaches to recognition and misrecognition to understand how such processes influence international politics and policy outcomes. The course will also have a focus on the concept of recognition in relation to concepts of power, prestige and status in international politics.

Case studies will be used to exemplify different forms of recognition/misrecognition.  


Tentative themes within the course:


  • Introduction to the concept of recognition
  • Theoretical approaches to recognition in IR
  • Recognition in relation to status, prestige and power
  • Great powers and small states – different approaches to recognition
  • An international order of recognition and ‘pariah states’
  • Recognition in international organizations, such as NATO, UN, EU
  • Recognition unfolding in diplomatic practices  
  • Post-colonial era: a question of recognition?
  • Examples of case studies: the Kingdom of Denmark: the relationship between Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands; Scandinavian countries: the special relationship to the US; Russia and the war in Ukraine.  


At the end of the course, the students will have strengthened their ability to:


  • Apply theories of recognition to cases of international politics
  • Critically reflect on why recognition is important to study within IR
  • Discuss how processes of recognition can influence political outcomes
  • Analyze the legal, social and institutional aspects of recognition

MSc in Political Science

MSc in Social Science

MSc in Security Risk Management

Bachelor in Political Science


Notice: It is only possible to enroll for one course having a 3-day compulsory written take-home assignment exam due to coincident exam periods.



Learning outcome


  • Demonstrate knowledge of the main theoretical understandings of recognition within International Relations.
  • Compare and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of arguments belonging to various approaches to the concept of recognition
  • Analyze and discuss theoretical approaches within the research field of processes of recognition
  • Present analytical perspectives within the field of international recognition and compare to other relevant concepts within IR


  • Critical thinking across various theoretical approaches on the concept of recognition
  • Develop and defend a coherent argument
  • Writing and presenting in a convincing and clear manner
  • Analyzing empirical cases 

The course will employ a mix of lectures, group work in class, student presentations, close readings, case-based teaching, and possibly a guest lecture.

This list is subject to change. A detailed list of required readings will be provided well ahead of the start of the course.

  • Adler-Nissen, Rebecca, og Alexei Tsinovoi. “International Misrecognition: The Politics of Humour and National Identity in Israel’s Public Diplomacy”. European Journal of International Relations 25, nr. 1 (marts 2019): 3–29.
  • Adler-Nissen, Rebecca, og Ayse Zarakol. “Struggles for Recognition: The Liberal International Order and the Merger of Its Discontents”. International Organization 75, nr. 2 (2021): 611–34.
  • Bouris, Dimitris, og Irene Fernández-Molina. “Contested States, Hybrid Diplomatic Practices, and the Everyday Quest for Recognition”. International Political Sociology 12, nr. 3 (1. september 2018): 306–24.
  • Duncombe, Constance. “Representation, Recognition and Foreign Policy in the Iran–US Relationship”. European Journal of International Relations 22, nr. 3 (september 2016): 622–45.
  • Duque, Marina G. “Recognizing International Status: A Relational Approach”. International Studies Quarterly 62, nr. 3 (1. september 2018): 577–92.
  • Epstein, Charlotte. “The Productive Force of the Negative and the Desire for Recognition: Lessons from Hegel and Lacan”. Review of International Studies 44, nr. 05 (december 2018): 805–28.
  • Freedman, Joshua. “Status Insecurity and Temporality in World Politics”. European Journal of International Relations 22, nr. 4 (december 2016): 797–822.
  • Greenhill, Brian. “Recognition and Collective Identity Formation in International Politics”. European Journal of International Relations 14, nr. 2 (juni 2008): 343–68.
  • Greve, Patricia. “Ontological Security, the Struggle for Recognition, and the Maintenance of Security Communities”. Journal of International Relations and Development 21, nr. 4 (september 2018): 858–82.
  • Holm, Minda, og Ole Jacob Sending. “States before Relations: On Misrecognition and the Bifurcated Regime of Sovereignty”. Review of International Studies 44, nr. 05 (december 2018): 829–47.
  • Grzybowski, Janis. “The Paradox of State Identification: De Facto States, Recognition, and the (Re-)Production of the International”.
  • International Theory 11, nr. 3 (november 2019): 241–63.
  • Götz, Elias. “Status Matters in World Politics - Review Essay”. International Studies Review 23, nr. 1 (4. marts 2021): 228–47.
  • Hirvonen, Edited Onni, og Heikki J. Koskinen, red. The Theory and Practice of Recognition, 2023.
  • MacDonald, Paul K., og Joseph M. Parent. “The Status of Status in World Politics”. World Politics 73, nr. 2 (april 2021): 358–91.
  • Paul, T.V., Deborah Welch Larson, og William C. Wohlforth, red. Status in World Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 28 sider.
  • Ringmar, Erik. “The Recognition Game: Soviet Russia Against the West”. Cooperation and Conflict 37, nr. 2 (juni 2002): 115–36.
  • Strömbom, Lisa. “Thick Recognition: Advancing Theory on Identity Change in Intractable Conflicts”. European Journal of International Relations 20, nr. 1 (marts 2014): 168–91.
  • Zarakol, Ayşe. “Sovereign Equality as Misrecognition”. Review of International Studies 44, nr. 05 (december 2018): 848–62.
  • Wolf, Reinhard. “Respect and Disrespect in International Politics: The Significance of Status Recognition”. International Theory 3, nr. 1 (18. februar 2011): 105–42.
  • Aalberts, Tanja. “Misrecognition in Legal Practice: The Aporia of the Family of Nations”. Review of International Studies 44, nr. 05 (december 2018): 863–81.
  • Daase, Christopher, Fehl, Caroline, Geis, Anna & Kolliarakis, Georgios. 2015. Recognition in International Relations. New York: Palgrave Studies in International Relations.
  • Show them the flag: status ambitions and recognition in small state coalition warfare Rasmus Brun Pedersen & Yf Reykers.
  • Bandwagon for Status: Changing Patterns in the Nordic States Status-seeking Strategies? Rasmus Brun Pedersen. 24 sider
  • King in the North: evaluating the status recognition and performance of the Scandinavian countries. Røren, Pål; Wivel,Anders.

Broad knowledge of International Relations (IR) is an asset.

Continuous feedback during the course
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination
Type of assessment details
Three-day compulsory written take-home assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 semester

Department of Political Science, Study Council
Contracting department
  • Department of Political Science
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator
  • Lise Wiederholt Christensen   (16-76737d6f386d727c737d7e6f787d6f784a73707d38757f386e75)
Saved on the 31-10-2022

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