The Long Wars I: Mapping Liberal Empire through the War on Drugs and the War on Terror

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Black Geographies Specialty Group, Urban Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: 8211, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Organizers: Brittany Meché, Emma Crane
Chairs: Emma Crane


Thirty years separate the official declarations of the United States’ War on Drugs (1971) and War on Terror (2001). Yet in the contemporary moment, the multiple entanglements of these two regimes produce and map new configurations of power across the globe. We invite interdisciplinary papers contemplating the relational—yet often diffuse—spatial imaginaries and practices of these imbricated projects for a proposed panel at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers.

We approach the War on Drugs/Terror as revealing the contours of liberal empire (Asad 2007; Byrd 2011; Singh 2017) while working through modalities of power informed by assumptions about bodily difference (Gilmore 1999; 2002; Mamdani 2004; Reiss 2014)—race, sexuality, ability. In myriad ways, both the War on Drugs and the War on Terror are suggestive of a humanitarian impulse coupled with resurgent forms of militarized development (Duffield 2014; Greenburg 2013; Puar 2017) which draw greater proximity between aid workers and police; scientists and soldiers; physicians and mercenaries.

The War on Drugs/Terror index multiple scales, from the planetary (Masco 2014; Nixon 2011; Van Munster & Aradau 2011) to the intimate (Ahuja 2016; Cooper 2006). Acknowledging and moving beyond the paradigmatic geographies of these projects—the War on Drugs in the urban centers of the U.S. or the rural coca fields of the Andes and the War on Terror in a geopolitical configuration called the Middle East—we invite papers that expand and extend our understandings of these programs. Writing against spectacular representations of war, we are attentive to mundane spaces of violence—quiet suburbs, the offices of humanitarian bureaucracies—and the quotidian practices of world-making within them (Bou Akar & Cárdenas 2017; Daniels, Kaplan & Loyer 2013; Lutz 2002).

We seek to intervene in ongoing conversations within the fields of Geography, American Studies, and Anthropology about forms of circulation and knowledge production that connect the ‘domestic’ and ‘foreign’ geographies of liberal empire.

Panel Themes:
• Tactics and techniques of the War on Drugs/Terror;
• Biopolitical and rehabilitative regimes of security and/as public health;
• The raced and gendered contours of militarism and policing;
• Drug ecologies and unsettling environments;
• Human and non-human natures of the War on Drugs/Terror;
• Spatial practices and aftermaths of counterinsurgency;
• Displacement, migration, and transnational labor;
• Licit and illicit economies of the War on Drugs/Terror

Works Cited

Ahuja, Neel. 2016. Bioinsecurities: Disease Interventions, Empire, and the Government of Species. Durham: Duke University Press.
Asad, Talal. 2007. On Suicide Bombing. New York: Columbia University Press.
Bou Akar, Hiba and Roosbelinda Cárdenas. 2017. "Writing about Violence." Middle East Report 284(1): 285.
Byrd, Jodi. 2011. The Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Cooper, Melinda. 2006. “Pre-empting Emergence: The Biological Turn in the War on Terror. Theory, Culture & Society, 23(4): 113-135.
Daniels, Ezra, Caren Kaplan, & Eric Loyer. 2013. “Precision Targets: GPS and the Militarization of Everyday Life.” Canadian Journal of Communication, 38(3): 397-420.
Duffield, Mark. 2014. Global Governance and the New Wars: The Merging of Development and Security. London: Zed Books.
Gilmore, Ruth Wilson. 1999. “Globalisation and US Prison Growth: From Military Keynesianism to Post-Keynesian Militarism. Race & Class, 40(2-3): 171-188.
—2002. “Fatal Couplings of Power and Difference: Notes on Racism and Geography.” The Professional Geographer 54 (1): 15–24.
Graham, Stephen. 2010. Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism. London/New York: Verso.
Greenburg, Jennifer. 2016. ‘The One Who Bears the Scars Remembers’: Haiti and the Historical Geography of US Militarized Development. Journal of Historical Geography, 51(1): 52-63.
Lutz, Catherine. 2002. Homefront: A Military City and the American Twentieth Century. Boston: Beacon Press.
Mamdani, Mahmood. 2004. Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror. New York: Doubleday.
Masco, Joseph. 2014. The Theater of Operations: National Security Affect from the Cold War to the War on Terror. Durham: Duke University Press.
Nixon, Rob. 2011. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Boston: Harvard University Press.
Puar, Jasbir. 2017. The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability. Durham: Duke University Press.
Reiss, Suzanna. 2014. We Sell Drugs: The Alchemy of US Empire. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Singh, Nikhil P. 2017. Race and America's Long War. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Van Munster, Rens, and Claudia Aradau. 2011. Politics of Catastrophe: Genealogies of the Unknown. London: Routledge.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Brittany Meché*, University of California - Berkeley, Reviving the Drug War in the West African Sahel: Transnational Drug Pedagogy and Security Sector Reform 15 3:05 PM
Presenter Jackson Smith*, New York University, From Rizzo’s Philadelphia to the Drug War: Police Raids, Deviant Property, and Racial Segregation 20 3:20 PM
Discussant Jordan Camp Barnard College 20 3:40 PM
Introduction Emma Crane New York University 5 4:00 PM
Presenter Francis Masse*, University of Sheffield, Mapping new configurations and geographies of military, security and policing power with the “war” on poaching 20 4:05 PM
Presenter Kali Rubaii*, Rice University, Theorizing the Funnel 20 4:25 PM

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