Friederike Luise Kelle, Ph.D.

WZB Berlin Social Science Center

Country: Germany

Research Interests

Conflict Processes & War

Comparative Political Institutions

Political Violence

Political Participation

Religion & Politics

Representation and Electoral Systems

Separatism, Secession, Autonomy

Referendums, Elections, Voting




Journal Articles:

(2017) To Claim or Not to Claim? How Territorial Value Shapes Demands for Self-Determination, Comparative Political Studies

The literature on nationalism and civil war provides compelling evidence that territory is highly identity-relevant and strongly associated with conflict. However, it remains unclear which territorial characteristics determine this process, and how groups demanding self-determination differ from their counterparts not seeking greater rights. I argue that groups claim self-rule if they assign symbolic relevance to their land in contrast to material or strategic value, due to the positive effect of symbolic attachments on group cohesion. I present new data on the value of territory and self-determination demands, and propose a new and comprehensive measure of symbolic territory. The findings reveal that variation in symbolic value shows a considerably stronger association with self-determination demands than material and strategic territory. This highlights new research avenues investigating the role of territorial value in subnational conflicts, as well as the systematic differences in conflict behavior between groups demanding self-rule and non-disputants.

(2017) Selbstbestimmung und Gewalt: Zur Rolle von Territorium in subnationalen Selbstbestimmungskonflikten, Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft

Substaatliche Konflikte über Selbstbestimmung sind in den vergangenen Jahren zunehmend in den Fokus der Konfliktforschung gerückt. Dieser Literaturbericht stellt den Forschungsstand zum Thema Selbstbestimmungsforderungen vor und beleuchtet die territorialen Ursachen für das Auftreten dieser Konflikte. Basierend auf der Literatur zu internationalen territorialen Konflikten unterscheide ich zwischen symbolischem, strategischem und materiellem territorialen Wert und zeige, dass diese Aspekte einen wesentlichen Beitrag für die Erklärung des Auftretens von Selbstbestimmungsforderungen und der Wahl der Konfliktstrategie leisten. Darüber hinaus identifiziere ich Herausforderungen für die Literatur. Insbesondere plädiere ich für eine differenziertere Betrachtung der konventionellen und nichtkonventionellen Strategieoptionen in substaatlichen Selbstbestimmungskonflikten sowie eine konsistente Differenzierung zwischen Gewalt und nicht-Gewalt. Außerdem rege ich eine gemeinsame Analyse territorialer und struktureller Rahmenbedingungen an.

Media Appearances:

Blog Posts:

(2018) Orders Beyond Borders

Rationality in the Time of Rebellion: How Conflict Research Helps Make Sense of the Situation in Catalonia In her contribution, Friederike Luise Kelle builds on findings from conflict research to understand why the behavior of the conflict parties in the current dispute in Catalonia is much more rational than they are usually perceived. Friederike shows that the Spanish central government’s decision to escalate the democratic process judicially and through the use of force, the references to the legitimacy of their action in the face of widespread systemic corruption, and their rejection of EU mediation are perfectly rational strategies. The same holds for Catalan leaders: The narrative of repression in a democratic country in the heart of the EU, fractionalization, and the lack of support for the election of Jordi Turull by the Popular Unity Candidacy (Candidaturad’Unitat Popular, CUP) are representative of common patterns in (self-determination) conflicts. Underlining the risk of the conflict becoming effectively indivisible, Friederike recommends that both sides engage in argumentative, legal, and tactical de-escalation, embrace the concept of actual concessions, and navigate towards a federal solution. In summary, she asserts that the conflict literature is well-equipped to make sense of the sometimes seemingly irrational behavior in this conflict.


(2017) Südkurier

Interview on Catalonia and the economic and political conditions of potential independence.