What is a country? While certain basic criteria—borders, a government, and recognition from other countries—seem obvious, journalist Joshua Keating’s book explores exceptions to these rules, including self-proclaimed countries such as Abkhazia, Kurdistan, and Somaliland, a Mohawk reservation straddling the U.S.-Canada border, and an island nation whose very existence is threatened by climate change. Through stories about these would-be countries’ efforts at self-determination, as well as their respective challenges, Keating shows that there is no universal legal authority determining what a country is. He argues that although our current world map appears fairly static, economic, cultural, and environmental forces in the places he describes may spark change. Keating ably ties history to incisive and sympathetic observations drawn from his travels and personal interviews with residents, political leaders, and scholars in each of these “invisible countries.”
Joshua Keating is a foreign policy analyst, staff writer, and editor at Slate. Previously he was an editor at Foreign Policy.