What do you mean by Territory?

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territory, territoriality and territorialisationThe ExploringGeopolitics website offers a wealth of perspectives on geopolitics in the form of over 200 contributions by 125 scholars from 28 different countries. They talk about their geopolitical research and their most important findings. Many of them are geographers, but the website also offers views from other disciplines such as sociology, political science and history. It forms an excellent begin of any geopolitical research project since it contains ideas about timely issues from all three sub-disciplines, i.e. (Neo-)Classical, Critical and French Geopolitics. To explore the website’s potential usefulness for your research, I briefly discuss two of the interviews on ExploringGeopolitics. They are about a key component of geopolitics: space.

Storey_book_territory, territoriality and territorialisationThe role of space is often underestimated or simplified in geopolitical research, which often focuses on power differences between countries/groups instead. One of my favourite introductions to space is “Territories: The Claiming of Space” by Dr David Storey. The book explains concepts that play a key role in notions of statehood -and therefore in any discussion about international relations- in an accessible way. Think of terms such as national identity, sovereignty and territory. In an interview with ExploringGeopolitics about the book, Dr Storey manages to clearly distinguish between three concepts that could easily create confusion when used in one sentence: territory, territoriality and territorialisation.

“[T]erritory can be taken to refer to a geographically bounded space claimed or occupied by a person or group of persons or by an institution.”

“Territoriality refers to the claiming of space by individuals or groups.”

“Territorialisation can be seen as the process through which space is divided into formally or informally bounded entities.”

Elden_book_territory, territoriality and territorialisationLike I said, these definitions form at most a good starting point for geopolitical research and should not be taken for granted. In fact, the right definition of territory, territoriality and territorialisation should depend on your research objectives, target audience and other context-related aspects. It is further important to realise that -as Professor Stuart Elden argued in his book “Terror and Territory: The Spatial Extent of Sovereignty”- territory is a dynamic concept that could be seen from many different perspectives. In an interview with ExploringGeopolitics, Professor Elden formulated this as follows:

“[T]erritory is continually being reconfigured; spatial relations are continually in the process of remaking. [It] is a much more complicated term than is usually assumed.”

Territory, Territoriality and Territorialisation

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