Scholars Collaborate to Discuss Territorial Sovereignty

By Leda Kopach

Between the fight over the South China Sea, Putin’s push into Ukraine and, of course, Brexit, the subject of territorial sovereignty has sparked much interest and debate in the last year. In September, an interdisciplinary workshop on “Sovereignty in Contested Spaces” was held at Princeton to tackle this timely topic. The workshop was planned by former participants of the Fung Global Fellows Program, which was established in 2013 to bring early-career international scholars each year to campus to research, write and collaborate on a common topic, ultimately creating a worldwide network of scholars. This conference was a big step forward in fulfilling that mission.

“Creating networks of scholars around the globe is precisely what the Fung program is about,” says Mark Beissinger, who was instrumental in the formation of the program and is the acting director of PIIRS, which administers the Fung program. “Providing opportunities for fellows to reconnect with Princeton and with each other is critical to the maintenance of the networks that the program seeks to foster.”

My year as a Fung Global Fellow was the most productive of my academic life.

Adam Clulow, Fung Global Fellow, 2013-14

The workshop was spearheaded by Adam Clulow of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and Helder De Schutter of the Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven, Belgium, both from the 2013-14 cohort, and Seva Gunitsky of the University of Toronto, who participated in the program in 2014-15. They invited an interdisciplinary group of scholars from Princeton and other institutions to examine historical and contemporary challenges to territorial sovereignty. Anna Stilz, an associate professor of politics at Princeton, served as the faculty host and presented a paper on “The Just Distribution of Territory,” part of a book project.

“The question of sovereignty is not only incredibly pressing in the world today — from Ukraine to Brexit and beyond — but also that conceptual challenges and interpretations pertaining to both historical and recent events have also made it intellectually very exciting,” says Michael Gordin, the inaugural director of the Fung Global Fellows Program and the Rosengarten Professor of Modern and Contemporary History, who also chaired a workshop session.

For the former Fung Fellows, the workshop offered an opportunity to continue work that began on Princeton’s campus.

“My year as a Fung Global Fellow was the most productive of my academic life,” Clulow says. “The most exciting part of the experience was the opportunity to move completely beyond standard disciplinary boxes by engaging with the other fellows and Princeton faculty. The connections made during this time and the ideas that were sparked by a group of world-class scholars in other disciplines transformed my scholarship.”

“The goal when Dr. Fung and the administration first assembled the program was to place Princeton as a central node in the development of the world’s best emerging scholars across the social sciences and humanities — those researchers from around the globe who were doing cutting-edge work on important questions that transcend individual disciplines,” Gordin adds. “The conference demonstrated that not only has the Fung Global Fellows Program been an intensive success during each individual year, but that the mission of the program is being fulfilled extensively as well.”

Learn more about the Fung Global Fellows Program at