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Space, scale, and global politics: Towards a critical approach to space in international relations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 July 2021

Daniel Lambach*
Affiliation:
Research Centre Normative Orders, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, Germany
*
*Corresponding author. Email: lambach@normativeorders.net

Abstract

Space matters for global politics but the treatment thereof in International Relations (IR) has been uneven. There is broad interest in spatial aspects across many research communities but only a nascent theoretical discussion and little cross-field communication. This article argues for a fuller engagement of IR scholars with sociospatial concepts and proposes a spatial approach to global politics based on four essential dimensions: a spatial ontology, the constructedness of space, a scalar perspective, and the interaction of materiality and ideas. As one possible way of integrating these aspects into a more specific concept, the article elaborates a framework of spatial practices and uses the example of Arctic Security research to illustrate the upsides of such a spatial approach for IR research.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the British International Studies Association

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References

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29 See Stuart Elden, The Birth of Territory (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2013) for an example from Geography.

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47 Morgan Brigg and Nicole George, ‘Emplacing the spatial turn in peace and conflict studies’, Cooperation and Conflict, 55 (2020), pp. 409–20; John Heathershaw and Daniel Lambach, ‘Introduction: Post-conflict spaces and approaches to statebuilding’, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 2 (2008), pp. 269–83.

48 Séverine Autessere, Peaceland: Conflict Resolution and the Everyday Politics of International Intervention (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014). Honourable mentions from other fields include: Lövbrand and Stripple's argument that global climate governance territorialises the carbon cycle, see Eva Lövbrand and Johannes Stripple, ‘The climate as political space: On the territorialisation of the global carbon cycle’, Review of International Studies, 32 (2006), pp. 217–35; Herrera's notion of state deterritorialisation in cyberspace governance, see Geoffrey Herrera, ‘Cyberspace and sovereignty: Thoughts on physical space and digital space’, in Miriam Dunn Cavelty, Victor Mauer, and Sai F. Krishna-Hensel (eds), Power and Security in the Information Age: Investigating the Role of the State in Cyberspace (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007), pp. 67–93; or Salter's work on mobility and circulation across boundaries; see Mark B. Salter, ‘To make move and let stop: Mobility and the assemblage of circulation’, Mobilities, 8 (2013), pp. 7–19. Finally, recent attempts to ‘globalise’ IR or bring in voices from the Global South integrate spatial criteria into the very act of theory-building; see Ingo Peters and Wiebke Wemheuer-Vogelaar (eds), Globalizing International Relations: Scholarship Amidst Divides and Diversity (London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016); and Amitav Acharya, ‘Global International Relations (IR) and regional worlds: A new agenda for international studies’, International Studies Quarterly, 58 (2014), pp. 647–59.

49 Akhil Gupta and James Ferguson, ‘Beyond “culture”: Space, identity, and the politics of difference’, Cultural Anthropology, 7 (1992), pp. 6–23; Roma Sendyka, ‘Sites that haunt’, East European Politics and Societies, 30 (2016), pp. 687–702.

50 Soja, Postmodern Geographies, p. 120.

51 Gazit, ‘A Simmelian approach to space in world politics’, p. 221.

52 Ibid., p. 231.

53 Ibid., p. 244.

54 Ibid., p. 233.

55 David Harvey, Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography (Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press, 2001).

56 Bob Jessop, Neil Brenner, and Martin Jones, ‘Theorizing sociospatial relations’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 26 (2008), pp. 389–401.

57 See also Lapid, ‘Where should we begin’.

58 Jessop, Brenner, and Jones, ‘Theorizing sociospatial relations’, p. 391.

59 Ibid., p. 394; see Martin Jones and Bob Jessop, ‘Thinking state/space incompossibly’, Antipode, 42 (2010), pp. 1119–49, for a further exploration of this point.

60 Mountz, ‘Political geography III: Bodies’; Robyn Longhurst, ‘Situating bodies’, in Lise Nelson and Joni Seager (eds), Companion to Feminist Geography (Williston, ND: Wiley, 2005), pp. 337–49.

61 Alison Mountz, ‘Political geography II: Islands and archipelagos’, Progress in Human Geography, 39 (2014), pp. 636–46.

62 Salter, ‘To make move and let stop’.

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67 Doreen Massey, For Space (London, UK: Sage, 2005), p. 10.

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82 Jessop, Brenner, and Jones, ‘Theorizing sociospatial relations’, p. 390.

83 Marston, ‘The social construction of scale’.

84 Rosenboim, ‘State, power and global order’, p. 230.

85 Bigo, ‘International Political Sociology’, pp. 24–5.

86 Neil Brenner, ‘Beyond state-centrism? Space, territoriality, and geographical scale in globalization studies’, Theory and Society, 28:1 (1999), pp. 39–78; Saskia Sassen, Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006).

87 Keating, Rescaling the European State.

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89 Stuart Elden, ‘Missing the point: Globalization, deterritorialization and the space of the world’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 30 (2005), pp. 8–19.

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91 Gabriel Popescu, ‘Deterritorialization and reterritorialization’, in Barney Warf (ed.), Encyclopedia of Geography (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2010), pp. 722–4 (p. 724).

92 Low, Spatializing Culture, pp. 9, 10.

93 Gearóid Ó Tuathail, Critical Geopolitics: The Politics of Writing Global Space (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), p. 68; John Agnew, Geopolitics: Re-visioning World Politics (London, UK: Routledge, 1998), p. 2.

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96 Gearóid Ó Tuathail, The Near Abroad: Putin, the West and the Contest over Ukraine and the Caucasus (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2016).

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98 Ó Tuathail, Critical Geopolitics.

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101 Stuart Elden, ‘Legal terrain: The political materiality of territory’, London Review of International Law, 5 (2017), pp. 199–224.

102 Simon Dalby, ‘Rethinking geopolitics: Climate security in the Anthropocene’, Global Policy, 5:1 (2014), pp. 1–9 (p. 7).

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106 Andrew Barry and Evelina Gambino, ‘Pipeline geopolitics: Subaquatic materials and the tactical point’, Geopolitics (2019), pp. 1–34; Daniel Lambach, ‘The territorialization of cyberspace’, International Studies Review, 22:3 (2020), pp. 482–506.

107 Margit Mayer, ‘To what end do we theorize sociospatial relations?’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 26 (2008), pp. 414–19 (p. 416).

108 Walker, Inside/Outside, p. 168. See also Longhurst, ‘Situating bodies’.

109 Emanuel Adler and Vincent Pouliot, ‘International practices’, International Theory, 3 (2011), pp. 1–36 (p. 4).

110 Adler and Pouliot, ‘International practices’, pp. 6–7.

111 Michele Acuto and Simon Curtis (eds), Reassembling International Theory: Assemblage Thinking and International Relations (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

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113 Marijn Hoijtink and Matthias Leese (eds), Technology and Agency in International Relations (London, UK: Routledge, 2019).

114 Löw, The Sociology of Space.

115 Andrea M. Brighenti, ‘On territorology: Towards a general science of territory’, Theory, Culture and Society, 27 (2010), pp. 52–72.

116 Jeff Malpas, ‘Putting space in place: Philosophical topography and relational geography’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 30 (2012), pp. 226–42 (pp. 233–4).

117 Hans Vollaard, ‘The logic of political territoriality’, Geopolitics, 14 (2009), pp. 687–706; John McHugo, ‘How to Prove Title to Territory: A Brief, Practical Introduction to the Law and Evidence’, Boundary & Territory Briefing (Durham, UK: International Boundaries Research Unit, 1998); Lefebvre, The Production of Space.

118 Massey, Space, Place and Gender, p. 3.

119 Jessop, Brenner, and Jones, ‘Theorizing sociospatial relations’.

120 See, for example, Lambach, ‘Territorialization of cyberspace’.

121 Jones and Jessop, ‘Thinking state/space incompossibly’.

122 See Johanne M. Bruun and Ingrid A. Medby, ‘Theorising the thaw: Geopolitics in a changing arctic’, Geography Compass, 8 (2014), pp. 915–29.

123 Oran Young, Arctic Politics: Conflict and Cooperation in the Circumpolar North (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1992), pp. 1–30.

124 Margaret Blunden, ‘Geopolitics and the Northern Sea Route’, International Affairs, 88 (2012), pp. 115–29; Michael Byers, ‘Crises and international cooperation: An Arctic case study’, International Relations, 31 (2017), pp. 375–402; Sebastian Knecht and Kathrin Keil, ‘Arctic geopolitics revisited: Spatialising governance in the circumpolar North’, The Polar Journal, 3 (2013), pp. 178–203.

125 Scott R. Stephenson, ‘Confronting borders in the Arctic’, Journal of Borderlands Studies, 33 (2018), pp. 183–90 (p. 184).

126 Ingrid A. Medby, ‘Language-games, geography, and making sense of the Arctic’, Geoforum, 107 (2019), pp. 124–33 (p. 127).

127 Jason Dittmer, Sami Moisio, Alan Ingram, and Klaus Dodds, ‘Have you heard the one about the disappearing ice? Recasting Arctic geopolitics’, Political Geography, 30 (2011), pp. 202–14.

128 Rolf Tamnes and Kristine Offerdal, ‘Introduction’, in Rolf Tamnes and Kristine Offerdal (eds), Geopolitics and Security in the Arctic: Regional Dynamic in a Global World (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2014), pp. 1–11; see also Klaus Dodds, ‘“Real interest”? Understanding the 2018 Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean’, Global Policy, 10 (2019), pp. 542–53.

129 Oran Young, ‘Arctic governance: Bringing the high latitudes in from the cold’, International Environmental Affairs, 9 (1997), pp. 54–68 (p. 54).

130 Albert and Vasilache, ‘Governmentality of the Arctic’.

131 Corine Wood-Donnelly, Performing Arctic Sovereignty: Policy & Visual Representations (London, UK: Routledge, 2018).

132 Scott R. Stephenson and John A. Agnew, ‘The work of networks: Embedding firms, transport, and the state in the Russian Arctic oil and gas sector’, Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 48 (2016), pp. 558–76; Daniel Lambach, ‘Cooperation in the cold: The Arctic Search and Rescue Agreement', in Joachim F. Weber (ed.), Handbook on Geopolitics and Security in the Arctic: The High North Between Cooperation and Confrontation (Cham: Springer Nature, 2020), pp. 273–89.

133 Lambach, ‘Cooperation in the cold’.

134 Klaus Dodds and Chih Y. Woon, ‘Triumphant geopolitics? Making space of and for Arctic geopolitics in the Arctic Ocean’, in Nikolas Sellheim, Yulia V. Zaika, and Ilan Kelman (eds), Arctic Triumph: Northern Innovation and Persistence (Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2019), pp. 163–80.

135 Wilfrid Greaves, ‘Arctic (in)security and Indigenous peoples: Comparing Inuit in Canada and Sámi in Norway’, Security Dialogue, 47 (2016), pp. 461–80.

136 Jessica M. Shadian, ‘Navigating political borders old and new: The territoriality of Indigenous Inuit governance’, Journal of Borderlands Studies, 33 (2018), pp. 273–88.

137 Stephen P. Leonard, ‘The need to “belong”: Social connectedness and spatial attachment in Polar Eskimo settlements’, Polar Record, 50 (2014), pp. 138–46; Mia M. Bennett, Wilfrid Greaves, Rudolf Riedlsperger, and Alberic Botella, ‘Articulating the Arctic: Contrasting state and Inuit maps of the Canadian north’, Polar Record, 52 (2016), pp. 630–44.

138 Kirsten Hastrup, ‘The nomadic landscape: People in a changing Arctic environment’, Geografisk Tidsskrift-Danish Journal of Geography, 109 (2009), pp. 181–9; see also Bennett et al., ‘Articulating the Arctic’; Leonard, ‘The need to “belong”’.

139 Rauna Kuokkanen and Victoria Sweet, ‘Indigenous Security theory: Intersectional analysis from the bottom up’, in Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv, Marc Lanteigne, and Horatio Sam-Aggrey (eds), Routledge Handbook of Arctic Security (London, UK: Routledge, 2020), pp. 80–90 (p. 80).

140 Byers, ‘Crises and international cooperation’.

141 Robert W. Murray, ‘Arctic politics in the emerging multipolar system: Challenges and consequences’, The Polar Journal, 2 (2012), pp. 7–20; Heather Nicol, ‘Rescaling borders of investment: The Arctic Council and the economic development policies’, Journal of Borderlands Studies, 33 (2018), pp. 225–38.

142 Pauline Pic and Frédéric Lasserre, ‘What is “Arctic” about “Arctic security”?’, in Lassi Heininen, Heather Exner-Pirot, and Justin Barnes (eds), Arctic Yearbook 2019: Redefining Arctic Security (Akureyri: Northern Research Forum, 2019), pp. 405–20; see also Young, Oran R., ‘Is it time for a reset in Arctic governance?’, Sustainability, 11 (2019)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

143 Stephenson, ‘Confronting borders in the Arctic’, p. 185.

144 Greaves, ‘Arctic (in)security and Indigenous peoples’; Farish, Matthew, ‘Frontier engineering: From the globe to the body in the Cold War Arctic’, The Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe canadien, 50 (2006), pp. 177–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

145 Cameron, Emilie S., ‘Securing indigenous politics: A critique of the vulnerability and adaptation approach to the human dimensions of climate change in the Canadian Arctic’, Global Environmental Change, 22 (2012), pp. 103–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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151 Farish, ‘Frontier engineering’, p. 190.

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