Unstable horizons: Reimagining, rewriting, and terraforming earthly volumes (I)

Type: Virtual Paper
Theme:
Sponsor Groups: Political Geography Specialty Group, Polar Geography Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group
Organizers: Mia Bennett, Klaus Dodds
Chairs: Mia Bennett

Call for Submissions

As ‘the gap between the cartographic imagination and the lived realities of modern political space’ (Billé 2017; see also 2020) has expanded over time, so has the physical space for political interventions. Europeans’ realization of the existence of the Americas and its millions of Indigenous Peoples, for instance, profoundly challenged European thought, leading to the establishment of the modern system of international law (Anghie 1996) while uprooting existing Indigenous systems and spaces of governance (Belmessous 2012).

Now, with the entire planet largely mapped, staked, and claimed, the state and other governance actors seek to ‘secure the volume’ or make sense of a ‘volume’ that appears slippery and even beyond the limits of human appreciation (Elden 2013). Areas imagined as ‘three-dimensional’ like the deep sea, outer space, and cyberspace are attracting new geopolitical interventions. Yet even once new environmental objects become ‘self-evident’ (Chu 2015), they remain subject to processes of social (re)construction, too, from sea level rise (Sammler 2019) to permafrost (Chu 2015, 2021), the ocean (Steinberg 2001), and outer space (Klinger 2019).

At the same time, in something of a cartographic reversal, societies have gained the ability to make manifest what were once figments of imagination by virtue of technological advances. The continued development of engineering and geology – two ‘extractive’ disciplines that sustained frontier capitalism and settler colonialism in previous eras (Dunne 1997; Yusoff 2018) – has allowed places like the Netherlands and Hong Kong to expand their respective volumes through processes like land reclamation, exercising a ‘politics of capacity’ (Peters and Turner 2018). Such terraforming technologies support the construction of ports and airports, enabling access to more volumetric domains while also promoting the ‘rewriting’ of national identities (Jamieson 2017) and the reproduction of national populations given the implicitly biopolitical significance of new land (Povinelli 2016; Rice et al. 2016).

With the orthodox logics of ‘map making’ standing on shaky ground, geographers should interrogate what materials, practices, and discourses are mobilized in the imagining and constructing of volumes and what they might do to the making of more volumetric futures.

Papers may address any of the following (non-exhaustive) topics:

• Making and unmaking geographical imaginations and volumetric sovereignties
• Social and geopolitical constructions of environmental objects (ice, air, water, etc.)
• Intersections of the geopolitical, geological, biopolitical, and cartographical
• Terraforming and new technologies of ‘writing’ the landscape
• Maps, counter maps, and their scope for realizing other ‘horizons of possibility’ (Pandian 2019)

To participate, please send paper titles and abstracts (250 words maximum) to Mia Bennett (mbennett@hku.hk) and Klaus Dodds (k.dodds@rhul.ac.uk). We will notify authors of paper acceptance on a rolling basis starting on 19 October and organize the session as an either in-person or virtual session accordingly (though most likely as a virtual session).

Participants in this session will have an opportunity to submit their paper to a planned special issue in Territory, Politics, Governance.

References

Anghie, A. 1996. Francisco de Vitoria and the Colonial Origins of International Law. Social and Legal Studies 5 (3):321–336.
Belmessous, S. 2012. Native Claims: Indigenous Law Against Empire, 1500-1920. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Chu, P.-Y. 2015. Mapping permafrost country: Creating an environmental object in the Soviet Union, 1920s-1940s. Environmental History 20 (3):396–421.
———. 2021. The Life of Permafrost: A History of Frozen Earth in Russian and Soviet Science. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Dunne, T. 1997. Colonial encounters in international relations: Reading Wight, writing Australia. Australian Journal of International Affairs 51 (3):309–323.
Elden, S. 2013. Secure the volume: Vertical geopolitics and the depth of power. Political Geography 34:35–51.
Jamieson, W. 2017. There’s sand in my infinity pool: Land reclamation and the rewriting of Singapore. GeoHumanities 3 (2):396–413.
Klinger, J. M. 2019. Environmental geopolitics and outer space. Geopolitics 0 (0):1–38.
Pandian, A. 2019. A Possible Anthropology: Methods for Uneasy Times. Chapel Hill, NC: Duke University Press.
Peters, K., and J. Turner. 2018. Unlock the volume: Towards a politics of capacity. Antipode 50 (4):1037–1056.
Povinelli, E. 2016. Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Rice, S., J. A. Tyner, M. Munro-Stasiuk, S. Kimroy, and S. Sirik. 2016. Making land to make life: island-building in the South China Sea and the biopolitics of geophysical transformation. Geographical Journal 182 (4):444–448.
Sammler, K. G. 2019. The rising politics of sea level: demarcating territory in a vertically relative world. Territory, Politics, Governance 0 (0):1–17.
Steinberg, P. E. 2001. The Social Construction of the Ocean. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Yusoff, K. 2018. A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.


Description

As ‘the gap between the cartographic imagination and the lived realities of modern political space’ (Billé 2017; see also 2020) has expanded over time, so has the physical space for political interventions. Europeans’ realization of the existence of the Americas and its millions of Indigenous Peoples, for instance, profoundly challenged European thought, leading to the establishment of the modern system of international law (Anghie 1996) while uprooting existing Indigenous systems and spaces of governance (Belmessous 2012).

Now, with the entire planet largely mapped, staked, and claimed, the state and other governance actors seek to ‘secure the volume’ or make sense of a ‘volume’ that appears slippery and even beyond the limits of human appreciation (Elden 2013). Areas imagined as ‘three-dimensional’ like the deep sea, outer space, and cyberspace are attracting new geopolitical interventions. Yet even once new environmental objects become ‘self-evident’ (Chu 2015), they remain subject to processes of social (re)construction, too, from sea level rise (Sammler 2019) to permafrost (Chu 2015, 2021), the ocean (Steinberg 2001), and outer space (Klinger 2019).

At the same time, in something of a cartographic reversal, societies have gained the ability to make manifest what were once figments of imagination by virtue of technological advances. The continued development of engineering and geology – two ‘extractive’ disciplines that sustained frontier capitalism and settler colonialism in previous eras (Dunne 1997; Yusoff 2018) – has allowed places like the Netherlands and Hong Kong to expand their respective volumes through processes like land reclamation, exercising a ‘politics of capacity’ (Peters and Turner 2018). Such terraforming technologies support the construction of ports and airports, enabling access to more volumetric domains while also promoting the ‘rewriting’ of national identities (Jamieson 2017) and the reproduction of national populations given the implicitly biopolitical significance of new land (Povinelli 2016; Rice et al. 2016).

With the orthodox logics of ‘map making’ standing on shaky ground, geographers should interrogate what materials, practices, and discourses are mobilized in the imagining and constructing of volumes and what they might do to the making of more volumetric futures.

Papers may address any of the following (non-exhaustive) topics:

• Making and unmaking geographical imaginations and volumetric sovereignties
• Social and geopolitical constructions of environmental objects (ice, air, water, etc.)
• Intersections of the geopolitical, geological, biopolitical, and cartographical
• Terraforming and new technologies of ‘writing’ the landscape
• Maps, counter maps, and their scope for realizing other ‘horizons of possibility’ (Pandian 2019)

To participate, please send paper titles and abstracts (250 words maximum) to Mia Bennett (mbennett@hku.hk) and Klaus Dodds (k.dodds@rhul.ac.uk). We will notify authors of paper acceptance on a rolling basis starting on 19 October and organize the session as an either in-person or virtual session accordingly (though most likely as a virtual session).

Participants in this session will have an opportunity to submit their paper to a planned special issue in Territory, Politics, Governance.

References

Anghie, A. 1996. Francisco de Vitoria and the Colonial Origins of International Law. Social and Legal Studies 5 (3):321–336.
Belmessous, S. 2012. Native Claims: Indigenous Law Against Empire, 1500-1920. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Chu, P.-Y. 2015. Mapping permafrost country: Creating an environmental object in the Soviet Union, 1920s-1940s. Environmental History 20 (3):396–421.
———. 2021. The Life of Permafrost: A History of Frozen Earth in Russian and Soviet Science. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Dunne, T. 1997. Colonial encounters in international relations: Reading Wight, writing Australia. Australian Journal of International Affairs 51 (3):309–323.
Elden, S. 2013. Secure the volume: Vertical geopolitics and the depth of power. Political Geography 34:35–51.
Jamieson, W. 2017. There’s sand in my infinity pool: Land reclamation and the rewriting of Singapore. GeoHumanities 3 (2):396–413.
Klinger, J. M. 2019. Environmental geopolitics and outer space. Geopolitics 0 (0):1–38.
Pandian, A. 2019. A Possible Anthropology: Methods for Uneasy Times. Chapel Hill, NC: Duke University Press.
Peters, K., and J. Turner. 2018. Unlock the volume: Towards a politics of capacity. Antipode 50 (4):1037–1056.
Povinelli, E. 2016. Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Rice, S., J. A. Tyner, M. Munro-Stasiuk, S. Kimroy, and S. Sirik. 2016. Making land to make life: island-building in the South China Sea and the biopolitics of geophysical transformation. Geographical Journal 182 (4):444–448.
Sammler, K. G. 2019. The rising politics of sea level: demarcating territory in a vertically relative world. Territory, Politics, Governance 0 (0):1–17.
Steinberg, P. E. 2001. The Social Construction of the Ocean. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Yusoff, K. 2018. A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.


Agenda

Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Melanie Ford Lemus*, Rice University, What is a Barranco? On definitional irregularities in Guatemala City 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Paloma Puente-Lozano*, University Carlos III of Madrid (Spain), Alexia Herring, University Carlos III of Madrid, Title: Reshaping outer space’s geopolitical imaginations. 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Chao Yao*, , Jun WANG, City University of Hong Kong, Archipelago: territory, technology, and power network——Special Zones in Cambodia in the context of BRI 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Galen Murton*, James Madison University, The Power of Blank Spaces in Building a New Nepal 15 12:00 AM
Discussant Gustavo Oliveira University of California - Irvine 15 12:00 AM

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