Cross-scalar Politics of Legitimation

Type: Virtual Paper
Theme: Ethnonationalism and Exclusion Around the World
Sponsor Groups: Development Geographies Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM (PDT)
Room: Virtual 45
Organizers: Daniel Esser
Chairs: Daniel Esser


This virtual paper session comprises a diverse set of scholarly contributions, each grappling empirically with competing claims for legitimacy amid “spatialized power” (Sassen 2001). Historically as much as in the present era of resurgent ethnonationalism, material manifestations and narrative rationalizations of authority have been at the heart of social organization and spatial control. Associated political struggles have unfolded sub-nationally and nationally but also regionally and—increasingly—at the global scale. The session juxtaposes research on such processes of cross-scalar legitimation.

Presentations highlight actions and justifications by those vested in the status quo as well as those challenging it. These battles are not only fought with words; several of the papers discuss scenarios that are either acutely or latently violent. The first presentation analyzes first-person narratives of former military officers in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War and finds mostly disparate and self-interested agendas. The second presentation examines ethnonationalist symbols on both sides of the United Nations Buffer Zone on the divided island of Cyprus with a view to understanding how they consolidate geographical fixity (Brenner 1998) and thus reify spatial control. The third presentation investigates standoffs between European Union member states and non-governmental search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea and argues that rescue boats represent mobile sites of resistance against the perceived singularity of state authority. Finally, the fourth presentation traces the stunted integration of internally displaced rural farmers in Medellín, Colombia into the urban fabric and posits that displaced peasants have morphed from “tolerated citizens” to “failed citizens” (Anderson 2013).

Situated in South Asia, the Mediterranean and South America, the geographical sites and sociolegal terrains of the different projects prompt us to discover translocational similarities and appreciate distinctions. Moreover, they allow us to shed a constructively critical light on existing theories of legitimacy in the context of conflicting territorialities (Mack 1986) and their accompanying rhetoric.


Anderson, Bridget (2013) Us and Them? The Dangerous Politics of Immigration Controls. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Brenner, Neil (1998) “Between Fixity and Motion: Accumulation, Territorial Organization and the Historical Geography of Spatial Scale.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 16(4), pp. 459-481.
Sack, Robert David (1986) Human Territoriality: Its Theory and History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sassen, Saskia (2001) “The City: Between Topographic Representation and Spatialized Power Projects.” Art Journal 60(2), pp. 12-20.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Kyle Evered*, Michigan State University, Soma Chaudhuri, Michigan State University, Siddharth Chandra, Michigan State University, Competing narratives of the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War and associated genocide: a geopolitical analysis of leading officers’ accounts 15 9:35 AM
Presenter John Oswald*, Eastern Michigan University, Projecting Ethnonational Identity Across a Contested Land: Analyzing the Symbolic Landscape of Divided Cyprus. 15 9:50 AM
Presenter Claudia Maria Lopez*, California State University, Long Beach, A Typology of Belonging: Displacement, Resettlement, and Urban Citizenship in the Medellín “Miracle.” 15 10:05 AM
Discussant Daniel Esser American University 15 10:20 AM

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