State valuation in space versus place : The (de)legitimization of violence conducted in the "War on Terror"

Authors: Rebekah K. Pullen*, McMaster University
Topics: Political Geography, United States
Keywords: space and place, military, nation-state, values, geographies of violence
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Studio 8, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The "image" of the modern, Westphalian state is undergoing a retrenchment of ideals of state power, borders, and biopolitical methods of global governance. Operationally defining space as linked with territory, it is like a "container;" place is space that is infused with meaning, particularly by those residing within. Values attributable to a place are more respected than those that exist supra-space, and a re-emphasizing of state-as-place strongly situates 'us' and 'other' as distinct and divided by boundaries of values as well as geography. Within the context of the "war on terror" the United States (US) is, by rhetoric and other means, the defining actor of the conflict. Through the legal arrangement of opportunities for citizenship in exchange for non-citizens' military service, the US legitimizes the violence enacted on behalf of not only its laws, but of those values fundamentally universal, yet re-interpreted as distinctly American and values-of-place. Conversely, the US actively delegitmizes Islamic extremists fighting for supra-space values, meant to be universal and not attributable to a particular place but to all space: a universal Islam. As Westphalian states maintain the vestiges of traditional sovereignty, values that cannot be assigned to the map are considered inherently non-legitimate, and therefore non-legitimate reasons to fight. This makes systemically acceptable the removing entirely the legal personhood of these actors, such as through the application of the term "enemy combatant" and subsequent extraordinary rendition. The US renders their bodies non-legitimate through extra-legal means in the context of global citizenship, border sovereignty and belonging.

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