The Conceptual and Geopolitical Legacy of WWI’s “New World Order”

Authors: Sara Hughes*, University of Southern California
Topics: Political Geography, Regional Geography, Geographic Thought
Keywords: The Inquiry, Paris Peace Conference, geopolitics, borders, nationalism, self-determination, new world order
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Hampton Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Just over 100 years ago, in September 1917, Woodrow Wilson established the Inquiry, a study group tasked with preparing materials for the peace negotiations following World War I. The group included “Wilson’s geographer,” Isaiah Bowman, and traveled to Paris to present its recommendations concerning the ideal borders for various countries as well as other issues deemed necessary to achieve a lasting peace free of tensions. In this talk, I examine the fast-changing nature of the contemporary world and the conceptual and geopolitical legacy of the “new world order,” built around the ideal of national self-determination, that was established at the Paris Peace Conference. Specifically, I will be exploring the possibility that the nation-state system and ideal of self-determination may have failed as an idea. Focused on my own research in Israel/Palestine and the broader Middle East, in addition to my interest in the enduring significance of political borders and bordering practices, I argue that the “new world order” established at the end of WWI continues to shape the lived realities of, in particular, stateless groups and migrants/refugees in an era where walls and barriers to movement are once again experiencing a resurgence.

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