Wolfgang Minatti

I am a PhD Researcher at the Department of Political and Social Sciences at the European University Institute in Florence and a visiting scholar at the Cluster of Excellence SCRIPTS at the Freie Universität Berlin.

With a background in Political Science and International Relations, I work on legitimacy and governance in international politics with a particular focus on violent non-state actors and governance in civil wars.

My PhD project investigates the legitimation of armed actors during civil war, focusing on the Colombian conflict. For the project, I am advised by Professor Jeffrey Checkel.

Before joining the European University Institute in 2019, I obtained a Bachelors’ degree at the University Innsbruck (Austria) and a Masters’ degree at Leiden University (The Netherlands). I was a visiting scholar at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota (Colombia) where I conducted several months of fieldwork.


Researching Legitimacy, Governance and Civil War

In my research, I explore the role of legitimacy in governance relations, all the way from international politics to civil war. I am particularly interested in studying how governance relations become legitimised and seen as “rightful” by people subordinated to them. For example, I have investigated how the Western military coalition sought to legitimise themselves via the local population in Afghanistan, and compared their legitimation efforts to that of the Taliban insurgency. I argued that the Western legitimation strategy was ultimately at odds with a majority of Afghanistan’s rural population.

In my dissertation, I ask: how do governing armed actors within civil war become legitimised on a local level? Current theorisations of legitimacy in International Relations face difficulties in grasping processes of legitimation in contexts of complex governance systems as they treat legitimacy as a unidirectional and static process which neglects how legitimacy is always embedded in relationships. Proposing an alternative approach, I develop a relational theory of legitimation that allows to map the micro-dynamics of legitimacy and elaborates on the processes that lead to the legitimation of certain actors in the eyes of a population.

I empirically illustrate this theory by investigating the legitimation of the FARC rebel group within the Colombian conflict, using a qualitative methodology. I have conducted extensive fieldwork in Colombia, where I interviewed inhabitants of two communities within the Sumapaz region about their experiences with the various governance providers to study the congruence between the communities’ normative expectations and those propagated by the Colombian state and the FARC insurgency.


How can we theorise and operationalise legitimation in contexts of complex governance such as international politics or civil war?

Civil War

What is the role of ideation in civil war? What are the ethics of fieldwork in contexts of political violence?


How do armed actors govern in civil war? How is governance co-constructed between civilians and governance providers?


Peer-Reviewed Articles

Working Papers

Revise and Resubmit
Legitimate Governance in International Politics: Towards a Relational Theory of Legitimation
Work in Progress
Whither Willkommenskultur? National Identity Change following the Arrival of Refugees in Germany in 2015/16
with Selma Kropp (European University Institute)
Work in Progress
"We’ve been made vulnerable": Towards a Situational Understanding of Vulnerability in Fieldwork
with Guillaume Gass (L’École des hautes études en sciences sociales)
Work in Progress
Of Assistants and Researchers: Vulnerability during Fieldwork on the Colombian Conflict
with Laura Ramírez Rodríguez (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)
Work in Progress
Legitimacy in Practice: The Meaning of Legitimacy for UN Peacebuilders

Non-Academic Writings


June 2022
Social Phenomena of Rebel Groups

MA-Level Seminar
Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany

April 2021
Conducting Qualitative Fieldwork: Interviews and Participant Observation

PhD-Level Seminar
European University Institute, Italy
Co-organised with Prof. Caitlin Procter and Mariusz Bogacki

Wolfgang Minatti

PhD Researcher
Department of Political and Social Sciences
European University Institute
Email: wolfgang.minatti@eui.eu

Copyright 2020 by Wolfgang Minatti
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