ABSTRACT: Secessionism opens up a myriad of interesting debates related to the very ontology of borders and states and the nature of the international system. The main aim of this study is to shed light on the under-scrutinised phenomenon of separatism by problematising and theorising on it. To this end, I attempt to explain the socio-economic and political conditions and environments that favour the development of separatism, elucidating the argument with historical and contemporary examples of secessionism. The relationships between secessionism and the principles of territorial integrity, self-determination and legitimacy are also explored. The third of these principles is of particular significance since it holds that not all cases of secession enjoy the same degree of legitimacy. I show that the debate on the legitimacy of secessions is rich, passionate and very often controversial, with contributors ranging from legal scholars, who adhere uncritically to the principle of territorial integrity, to those who recognise an entitlement to secede based on ascriptive and even associative rights. The final part of this work is dedicated to assessing the impact of separatism on the American continent. In theory, this region is the least affected by secessionist challenges. Nevertheless, I argue that despite their weak reverberations in quantitative terms, such phenomena still play a very significant role, and there is plenty of potential for the generating of conflicts of a secessionist nature in the foreseeable future.
Keywords: secession, self-determination, state, encompassing groups, legitimacy, the Americas