Accepted Paper:

Is the state an actor or not?  


Jeffrey A. Knapp (Pennsylvania State University, Altoona College)
Sarp Yanki Kalfa (Pennsylvania State University)

Paper long abstract:

Our claim: Debates about whether or not the state is an actor are as old as state theory itself, and, to wit, have a home even here in STS. Perhaps no scholar in STS is more critical of the idea of the actor-state as Patrick Carroll whose vision of the state as a plexus -- or network of networks -- has now become iconic of the STS view on the state. However, for all his support of the plexus-state idea, his rejection of the actor-state idea is not buttressed with near as much support. We conclude that answering the question "is the state an actor or not?" is better formulated if asked "when is the state an actor and when is it not?" which is a classic STS move.

Our evidence: We present a case study of the 1974 "Cyprus Dispute" as depicted in newspapers in the US, the UK, Turkey, and Greece. In our emerging analysis, we pay particular attention to headlines (i.e., titles of journalistic accounts) for hints of "state entitivity" (i.e., that the state is an actor). We explore how and when the state is and is not depicted as an actor with the backdrop being a multi-national conflict over Cyprus. We also notice that depending upon the news sources, some states seem more like actors than others.

Our conclusion: No matter how vigorously claimed, the rejection of the state-actor idea does not match our findings.

Panel D3
STS and "the state"