Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, INTERNATIONAL STUDIES ( (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2019. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 22 April 2019

Summary and Keywords

Political geography and institutionalized sovereignty have been mutually constituted for hundreds of years. Until the last few decades, scholars had not paid much attention to the relationship between sovereignty and geography. Sovereignty was considered a relatively straightforward territorial doctrine that arose from the Peace of Westphalia, conceptualized as a foundational principle of the modern state system. However, the breakup of the Cold War order in Europe and the growing reach and jurisdictional competence of the European Union have opened up questions about the stability of the world political map and about the nature and role of the modern state. Furthermore, changing theoretical orientations have encouraged another look at the geographical dimensions of institutionalized sovereignty. Political scientists and international relations theorists have taken the lead in the effort to rethink the historical and contemporary character of sovereignty as a political-legal institution, while geographers have assumed the primary role in exploring how the interplay between institutions and sovereignty reflects and shapes the political organization of space. The literature on the geographical dimensions of sovereignty is rather disparate, but four themes can be identified: the territorial foundations of sovereignty; the extraterritorial challenges to sovereignty unfolding in the contemporary world; the continuing functional and normative impacts of Westphalian sovereignty; and the advantages and disadvantages of sovereignty for individual groups and entities. A promising premise for advancing understanding of the geography-sovereignty-institution nexus is to focus on the dynamic interaction between long-standing institutionalized principles and evolving arrangements/practices.

Keywords: political geography, sovereignty, modern state, institutionalized sovereignty, international relations, institutions, territory, geography

Access to the complete content on Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription. If you are a student or academic complete our librarian recommendation form to recommend the Oxford Research Encyclopedias to your librarians for an institutional free trial.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.