Rethinking Regionalism and the Politics of Regionalisation: the Performance of ECOWAS's Agency by Nigeria and the European Union

Elisa Lopez Lucia

Journal of International Relations and Development. Sep 2016, p. 1-26. Available online [Link]


This article seeks to explain ECOWAS’s increasing agency in West African security. In doing so, it contributes to regionalism studies debates on how to study regionalism and conceptualise regional space. The article calls for a shift in regionalism studies from concentrating on the factors of regionalisation to paying more attention to the actors ‘making’ the region. Regionalism studies have found it difficult to explain ECOWAS’s agency because of their tendency to extrapolate regionalisation dynamics from ideational and material factors. In this article, the region-building approach and the concept of performativity are used as conceptual tools to examine the ways in which ECOWAS’s agency is performed at the intersection of actors’ discourses and practices, for which purpose and with what effect. By examining the politics of regionalisation, i.e. the way in which actors promote their regional project according to their identities, interests and representations, this article shows how Nigeria and the European Union (EU) perform ECOWAS’s agency. It is argued that ECOWAS’s agency is constituted, perpetuated and contested through the interactions between the EU and Nigeria that converge and struggle to perform ECOWAS’s agency according to their own interests and project for the region.

This project receives funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 722826.