Enclosure and Abandonment: Contemporary Territorial Practices in Subterranean and Orbital Spaces

Authors: Julie Klinger*, University of Delaware
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Political Geography, Natural Resources
Keywords: Outer Space, Subterrenean, Extraction, Minerals, Power, Territory
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 31
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper examines the institutional production of territory in subterranean and orbital sites, thinking through both as (non)contiguous spaces through which the power to enclose, pulverize, extract, and abandon is expressed in dynamic arrangements between state power, “non-state” entities, and discursive practice. The subterranean and the orbital are sites of struggle that are simultaneously remote, embodied, material, and ideological. Therefore engaging the subterranean and the orbital as sites of political struggle presents several epistemological and practical predicaments. Epistemological predicaments include the challenges involved in conceptualizing the spaces above and below terra firma as ontologically linked to one another. The tools to address this predicament are at hand: namely, several decades of (non)state practices that link both, and robust bodies of theory apprehending the sociospatial relations of one or the other. Practical predicaments stem from the epistemological ones, centering on the challenge of identifying hyperlocal sites through which power relations are conceived and enacted upon these immense (extra)global spaces. Using the elements of lanthanum, platinum, and gold as examples, this paper presents a framework for conceptualizing the mechanisms and tools of state spatiality, in its flexible forms, in places beyond national territory.

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