, Volume 64, Issue 4, pp 275–285

Issue indivisibility and territorial claims*


DOI: 10.1007/s10708-005-5803-3

Cite this article as:
Hensel, P.R. & Mitchell, S.M. GeoJournal (2005) 64: 275. doi:10.1007/s10708-005-5803-3


Early research on contentious issues in world politics suggested that there is an important distinction between largely tangible and largely intangible issues. Tangible issues are thought to be easier to resolve, while intangible issues can fester for long periods of time through fruitless negotiations and repeated armed conflict. Research on territorial issues has suggested that many territorial claims are driven by both tangible and intangible concerns, though, which complicates the analysis of issue tangibility. The authors argue that territorial issues with greater intangible salience (e.g. historical possessions, important homelands, sacred sites, identity ties) should be harder to resolve peacefully and should produce more frequent and severe militarized conflict. Empirical analyses of 191 territorial claims in the Americas and Western Europe (1816–2001) provide mixed support for these expectations. Territorial claims with high intangible salience are significantly more likely to experience militarized disputes and wars. Surprisingly, though, states are much more likely to strike peaceful agreements with their adversaries over territories that are valued for intangible reasons.


indivisible intangible issues militarized conflict salience territory 

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA

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