Nicole Laliberte, Kate Driscoll Derickson, and Lorraine Dowler
Geography and international studies are both deeply rooted in masculinist, imperialist, and patriarchal ways of viewing the world. However, over the past 20 years, the increase in the number of women within these fields has planted the seeds for the introduction of feminist intervention. Feminist geography is primarily concerned with the real experiences of individuals and groups in their own localities. It can be viewed as the study of "situated knowledges derived from the lives and experiences of women in different social and geographic locations." Feminist geographers consistently seek out techniques which are in line with their feminist philosophies. Although much of the work will be categorized as qualitative, such as ethnographic fieldwork, feminist geographers recognize the need for feminist approaches in quantitative analysis, and techniques alone do not render the project feminist. Rather, feminists in geography argue that all types of data collection must recognize the power relationship between the researcher and the researched. Feminist geography also operates at the local scale and crosses to the global. This is illustrated by geographers who not only study the daily lives of women in a refugee camp but also construct theoretical arguments focused on global forces such as climate change or war in relation to the international migration of women.
Migration has always been a feature of human affairs, though in recent decades it has become a major phenomenon. In fact, the growing diversity of the European population as well as the inevitable changing of borders within the European Union (EU) reveal that Europe has become an immigration continent. These developments have, however, prompted concerns over the EU’s external borders and control of immigration, as well as the need for further inquiry by international relations scholarship. Although the regulation of immigration has received a European dimension only recently, the EU has taken steps to cooperate on the issue of immigration. The changing nature of immigration had, after all, led to a perception among European electorates that immigration was not only a demographic or an economic issue but had other dimensions. It could have multiple impacts on their societies, including welfare, social services and social cohesion. Furthermore, until recently, theories of international migration have paid little attention to the nation-state as an agent influencing the flow of migration. When the nation-state has been mentioned, attention has focused primarily on immigrant-receiving countries. Little has been written about the regulation of emigration in countries of origin. As a result, the role of the state in limiting or promoting migration is poorly understood. Though there is a growing body of scholarship attempting to address these gaps in understanding the EU’s case for immigration, there are still further avenues of research many have yet to pursue.
Classical geopolitics is fundamentally concerned with the role that location and resources play in the exercise of political power over territory. The term "geopolitics" was first coined in the late 1890s by the Swedish writer Rudolf Kjellén to signify an interest in the intersection between politics and geography. For Kjellén, geopolitics was “the science which conceives of the state as a geographical organism or as a phenomenon in space.” Subsequently, it has been assumed to signal a rather hard-nosed or realist approach to international politics, which posits certain law-like statements about the importance of the “facts” of physical geography, such as the distribution of landmass, the extent of the oceans, and the importance of particular strategically located regions, in determining patterns of global political power. A series of core ideas and principles inform the body of work of the earliest classical geopolitical proponents. First, the earliest writers were committed nationalists and imperialists. Second, the intellectual influence of social Darwinism was widespread and was important in shaping understandings about the state and the nature of the global political arena. Third, the global map for these authors was fundamentally divided between the imperial great powers and the colonized world, now referred to as the Global South. Finally, these authors were convinced that they were offering a “god's eye view” of the world to fellow citizens and policy makers, uncorrupted by ideology or prejudice.
Critical geopolitics is concerned with the geographical assumptions and designations that underlie the making of world politics. The goal of critical geopolitics is to elucidate and explain how political actors spatialize international politics and represent it as a “world” characterized by particular types of places. Eschewing the traditional question of how geography does or can influence politics, critical geopolitics foregrounds “the politics of the geographical specification of politics.” By questioning the assumptions that underpin geopolitical claims, critical geopolitics has evolved from its roots in the poststructuralist, feminist, and postcolonial critique of traditional geopolitics into a major subfield of mainstream human geography. This essay shows that much of critical geopolitics problematizes the statist conceptions of power in social sciences, a conceptualization that John Agnew has called the “territorial trap.” Along with political geography more generally, critical geopolitics argues that spatiality is not confined to territoriality. The discursive construction of social reality is shaped by specific political agents, including intellectuals of statecraft. In addition to the scholarship that draws empirically on the rhetorical strategies of intellectuals of statecraft, there is also a rich body of work on popular geopolitics, and more specifically on resistance geopolitics or anti-geopolitics. Another emerging field of inquiry within critical geopolitics is feminist geopolitics, which shifts the focus from the operations of elite agents to the constructions of political subjects in everyday political practice. Clearly, the heterogeneity of critical geopolitics is central to its vibrancy and success.
The history of development studies as a field of academic inquiry can be traced most directly back to the Cold War era when public funding for “development studies” went hand in hand with international development as a state project, particularly in the United States. Economists, sociologists, and planners began to take the development of the “Third World” as an object of analysis, partially in response to new funding opportunities and a discursive context legitimating it as a field of study. By the 1960s, geographers began to take (so-called) “Third World” modernization and development as an object of research. Geographers’ engagement with development as intervention, and eventually the exploration of uneven global development as part of the “ebb and flow of capitalism,” can be divided into three waves. The first wave, visible in the early 1960s, took the quantitative spatial models dominant at the time in geography, such as those concerning urbanization patterns, transportation linkages, regional development, and population movement, and began to apply them to “Third World” contexts. This second wave, linked to the turn toward Marxist theory by a new generation of geographers in the 1960s, explored the uneven geography of wealth and power produced by capitalism and launched a powerful critique of development intervention as imperialism. The third wave of debates emerged in the late 1980s–early 1990s and is associated with poststructural and postcolonial critiques gaining traction at the time in geography and related disciplines.
Emily Gilbert and Connie Yang
Moving away from the conventional geopolitical analyses of territory, states, and nations, geographical research is now focused on the ways that political identities are constituted in and through spaces and places at various sites and scales. Many geographers attend to how power gets articulated, who gets marginalized, and what this means for social justice. Poststructuralist theory problematized the fundamental premise that the literal subject is resolutely individual, autonomous, transparent, and all knowing. Feminist and critical race scholars have also insisted that the self is socially embedded and intersubjective, but also that research needs to be embodied. There are four prominent and inherently political themes of analysis in contemporary geographical research that resonate with contemporary events: nation states and nationalism; mobility and global identities; citizenship and the public sphere; and war and security. Geographers have critically examined the production and reproduction of national identity, especially salient with the rise of authoritarianism. Geographers have also focused on the contemporary transnationalization of political identity as the mobility of people across borders becomes more intensive and extensive because of globalization. Consequently, globalization and global mobility have raised important questions around citizenship and belonging. Rethinking war and the political, as well as security, has also become a pressing task of geographers. Meanwhile, there has been a growing attention to the political identities of academics themselves that resonates with a concern about forms of knowledge production. This concern exists alongside a critique of the corporatization of the university. Questions are being raised about whether academics can use their status as scholars to push forward public debate and policy making.
World-systems theory is a multidisciplinary, macro-scale approach to world history and social change which emphasizes the world-system as the primary (but not exclusive) unit of social analysis. “World-system” refers to the inter-regional and transnational division of labor, which divides the world into core countries, semi-periphery countries, and the periphery countries. Though intrinsically geographical, world-systems perspectives did not receive geographers’ attention until the 1980s, mostly in economic and political geography. Nevertheless, geographers have made important contributions in shaping world-systems perspectives through theoretical development and critique, particularly in the understanding of urban processes, states, and geopolitics. The world-systems theory can be considered as a sub-discipline of the study of political geography. Although sharing many of the theories, methods, and interests as human geography, political geography has a particular interest in territory, the state, power, and boundaries (including borders), across a range of scales from the body to the planet. Political geography has extended the scope of traditional political science approaches by acknowledging that the exercise of power is not restricted to states and bureaucracies, but is part of everyday life. This has resulted in the concerns of political geography increasingly overlapping with those of other sub-disciplines such as economic geography, and, particularly, with those of social and cultural geography in relation to the study of the politics of place.
Carl T. Dahlman
Extreme political violence, i.e., genocide, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes, can be examined within three explanatory frameworks important to geographical thought: nature and society; spatial identities; and geopolitics. Extreme violence is often closely associated with humanity’s failure to overcome human nature. These are fundamentally geographical concerns in the sense that they relate to geography’s central interest in humans and their environment. Scholarly works abound with Hobbesian images, often presenting primitive violence as a pervasive social condition in the absence of an effective ruler. The literature on state failure presumes the same contradiction between nature and the social-political order, but in reverse: without a conventional sovereign, social conflict emerges over basic resources. These theories suggest that the causes of extreme political violence can be identified at the intersection of nature and society, where human behavior cannot be extricated from its biological and environmental condition. Identity is understood primarily as cultural difference. Identities are an important element in any explanation of extreme political violence given that it stems from conflict between sociopolitical groups that are defined by some degree of cultural difference. Classical geopolitical analysis of extreme political violence has retained environmental and biological factors as ultimate causes. They assume that scarcity of resources and population growth drive culture, territorialism, and conflict. In contrast, contemporary and critical approaches focus on the language and action of politics, such as statecraft, diplomacy, and popular mobilization.
The discipline of geography is built around four key concepts—environment, place, space, and scale—that form a matrix for exploring and appreciating many aspects of contemporary society. The environment is the ultimate source of human sustenance; people have created places to realize that potential; and a spatial structure—nodes, routes, surfaces and bounded territories—has been erected within which human interactions are organised.
The relationships between human societies and their environments—now very much changed from their pre-human “natural” state—involve competition for and conflicts over resources, of increasing intensity. Resolution of all but the smallest scale of those conflicts requires a body that is independent of the actors involved and can ensure that agreements are reached and then implemented. Such a body is the state, a territorially bounded apparatus that, through the operation of territoriality strategies, can ensure conflict resolution among its citizenry and thereby resolve environmental problems.
Many of those problems—the most severe being global climate change resulting from anthropomorphically induced global warming—are not contained, and cannot be contained, within an individual state’s territory, however. Tackling them requires inter-state co-operation, at a global scale, but the absence of a super-national body with the power to require actions by individual states is a major constraint to problem resolution.
Herman van der Wusten and Virginie Mamadouh
The fields of geography and diplomacy have traditionally been closely intertwined. Diplomacy is conventionally the conduct of statecraft in the nonviolent manifestations of external relations by a specific institution. These nonviolent manifestations can be variously merged with the use of armed force. The political order of the system of states—statecraft emanates from its separate entities—is deeply permeated by geography, notably by the application of territorial control. The art of diplomacy is inextricably linked to spatial perceptions, aims at place-based assets, and plays out in a given geographical context.
As the system of states has evolved by incremental increase, functional cooperation, fragmentations and mergers, and internal centralization and decentralization of separate states, the diplomatic institution has had to adapt. As more and more non-state parties commit themselves to transboundary relations or find themselves so implicated, diplomatic practice becomes more widely required, the core of the diplomatic institution still settled in the apparatus of states.
This article is consecutively concerned with different aspects of the overlap of geography and diplomacy. In the introduction the ways in which academic geographers have over time shed light on this common ground is briefly reviewed. The next section provides an inventory of the mappings of the diplomatic web to get a sense of its general cartography, followed by descriptions of the diplomatic niche, the places where diplomacy is practiced. In the diplomatic worldview and the geographic frame, the geographic notions that are relevant to the diplomatic institution are followed according to reasoning and travel practice. Finally, shifts in the practice, contents, and functions of diplomacy are dealt with over time, based on the major geographical forces that affect the system of states in and beyond which diplomacy operates.
Philippe Le Billon
“Resource wars” refer to the linkages between armed conflict and access to natural resources.Geographically, these wars are frequently represented through world maps of “strategic resources,” combining the physical scarcity and non-substitutability of resources with their uneven spatial distribution and relative geopolitical location to pinpoint “hot-spots.” Yet perspectives on the links between war and resources are much broader than the continuation of resource policies through the use of military force. Similarly, the geographical dimensions of, and geographical perspectives on, these links are more diverse than maps of “strategic” materials. Classical geopolitical perspectives have most frequently linked the concept of resource war to interstate conflicts over the supply of strategic resources, giving way to a narrow and militaristic notion of “resource security.” To explain potential relations between resources and wars, political economy perspectives have articulated three main arguments about resources: an institutional weakening effect increasing vulnerability to conflict, a motivational effect increasing the risk of armed conflict, and an opportunity effect associated with resources financing belligerents. The other set of perspectives originates from political science and development economics studies, and is based on the assumption that the significance of resources in wars is largely rooted in questions of resource scarcity, abundance, or dependence.
Raymond J. Dezzani and Christopher Chase-Dunn
World cities are a product of the globalization of economic activity that has characterized post-World War II capitalism, and exhibit characteristics previously found in primate cities but with influence extending far beyond the range of the metropolitan state. They are the culmination of postwar urbanization mechanisms coupled with the rise of transnational corporations that have served to concentrate unprecedented population and economic power/potential. The potential for both human development advantage and disadvantage is historically unprecedented in these new and highly interconnected urban amalgams. In general, human settlement systems are usually understood to include the systemic (regularized) ways in which settlements (hamlets, villages, towns, cities) are linked with one another by trade and other kinds of human interaction. Geographers, historians, and economists have developed models of urban structure and patterning incorporating population location/movement and the location of economic activity to be able to rationally explain and predict urban growth and allocate resources so as to implement equitable distributions. The resulting models served to illustrate the importance of the interactions between specific geographic location, population concentrations, and economic activity. But given the development of world cities, there is the relationship between the size of settlements and political power in intergroup relations to consider. The spatial aspect of population density is, after all, one of the most fundamental variables for understanding the constraints and possibilities of human social organization.
Steven V. Miller, Jaroslav Tir, and John A. Vasquez
Traditional, structural theories of international relations may have eschewed the importance of geography and territory to understanding international conflict, but the past 50 years of quantitative scholarship have returned geography and territory to the fore of the discipline. The importance of geography and territory to the study of international conflict first emerged in the discipline of political geography and the early foundations of peace science. Subsequent empirical analyses demonstrated a robust connection between geography, particularly disputed territory, and all phases of inter-state conflict. Explanations for this robust relationship emerged concurrent to the empirical findings. The theoretical arguments are eclectic and focus on territoriality as human instinct, the tangible and intangible value of territory, and whether conflict over territory conforms well to implications from the bargaining framework. Though traditionally the domain of inter-state conflict scholars, civil conflict scholarship has greatly informed this research program on geography, territory, and conflict by expanding and enriching its theoretical arguments and empirical implications. The future of territorial conflict scholarship should focus on reconciling different theoretical arguments about the emergence of peace after World War II, wrestling with the future of territorial conflict as more territorial disputes are settled, providing richer data on territorial claims, and exploring the implications of global climate change for future conflict over scarce and changing waterways and maritime/river boundaries.
The problem of international migration is that global cooperation is somewhat rare. If international cooperation is to develop, then it will depend on states; but effective cooperation would also impose real constraints on states. Moreover, as states and their borders give meaning to international migration, it follows that the development, consolidation, and transformation of the state system is a key factor determining the possibilities for the global and regional governance of migration to develop. Existing forms of regional integration and their migration provisions as well as regional consultation processes (RCPs) can serve as a mechanism for intraregional communication, the sharing of knowledge, and for the dissemination of policy ideas and practices. The EU has already been discussed as the world’s most highly developed form of regional integration. It is the only international organization with the power and capacity to make and implement laws through its own institutional system that must be implemented by member states. The EU moreover has a highly developed system of internal free movement for nationals of its own states and has developed a border-free travel area for participating states. These developments constitute the hallmark of a highly developed intra-EU migration framework linked to the creation of the “single market.”
Roxanne Lynn Doty
The connections between the local and the global raise a range of issues that have been addressed in social and political theory in the past but continue to provoke important discussion. Many of the constructs that have traditionally been foundational to the academic discipline of international relations, including territory and sovereignty, are inherently intertwined with how we think of the local and the global. The local–global connections revolve around three broad and overlapping themes: the critical scrutiny of older concepts and the emergence of new ones as well as alternative vocabularies; an appreciation of the necessity of an interdisciplinary perspective; and attention to the significance of the relationship between theory and practice. Many of the more recent scholarly work on the local–global continue to tackle the effects of global capitalism in locations constructed as local as well as the role of these locations in facilitating global capitalist relations. Critical geographers and cultural studies scholars have made important contributions to our understandings of the global–local nexus by focusing on the formation of social movements and localized practices of resistance as well as transversal struggles that call into question conventional spatial logics. Another important area of research that has made both conceptual and empirical contributions has produced the “global cities” literature. Students of international studies need to continue to focus on what have been referred to as “everyday” or “local” practices that have often been considered unimportant when it comes to the “big” issues of international studies.
Brad K. Blitz
Evidence shows that international flows of highly skilled workers are increasing, both between advanced states and between advanced and developing regions. The movement of skilled people around the globe is driven by a variety of political forces, including governments’ continued efforts to address domestic labor shortages and restock through preferential immigration policies and international recruitment drives. For social scientists, the unprecedented movement of highly skilled labor across the globe calls into question earlier approaches to the study of migration. Where international highly skilled workers were treated in the classical sociological literature on migration as a small population that reflected both the potential for human capital transfers between states and, more controversially, a corresponding “brain drain” from source countries, the realities of transnational migration now complicate this picture. The expansion of the European Union and other forms of regional cooperation have given rise to important trade liberalizing agreements, producing a truly global migration market and the policy context for much contemporary research. More studies are needed to tackle issues relevant to the study of skilled migration, such as estimates of skilled migrants, longitudinal studies of circular migration, and analyses of the differentiation of migrants by occupational group and country of origin, along with the relative access that such groups enjoy in the receiving state.
Alexander B. Murphy
The concept of sovereignty developed along with the modern state system. Its institutionalization greatly influenced interactions among political-territorial entities and largely coopted the modern geographical imagination. An international system based on sovereign principles has never been realized, of course, and accelerating globalization, increased mobility, and a revolution in the technology of communication are challenging sovereignty’s functional and perceptual significance in unprecedented ways. Nonetheless, sovereignty’s de jure and conceptual impact remain strong, as evident in everything from nationalism’s continuing hold on the human imagination to the way that projects ostensibly set up to transcend the norms of the modern state system (e.g., European unification) remain closely bound to sovereign territorial ideas and understandings.
Nassef Manabilang Adiong
Muslim views on the polity represent the paradigmatic understandings of how Muslims relate citizenry, authority, territoriality, and sovereignty to the overarching influence of the Western nation-state system. For instance, the meaning of citizenry in the modern state system was adopted by several Muslim societies during the decolonization period. Faith or submission to the will of God was the main criterion to become part of the group (usually referred to as the ummah). However, orientalists regarded ummah as a synonym for tribe, while Arab linguists insisted on a religious connotation. Authority, on the other hand, is ultimately enshrined in the personhood of the Prophet who is the spiritual leader, executor, legislator, and judicial interpreter of God’s message. Since in reality the Prophet is no longer existing, leadership is bestowed on the subsequent followers, and sometimes the ummah may possess leadership status through a social contract between the ruler and the ruled. The manifestation of operationalized authority needs a political space, domain, or place, which is attainable via the notion of territoriality. This is loosely conceptualized as an ummah that has geographical aspects, cultural traits, and a lingua franca. In the 8th century, jurists divided Muslim territoriality into two analytical terms, the abode of Islam (dar al-Islam) and the abode of war/the enemy (dar al-Harb), while the Shia version of abodes rests in the Qur’anic dichotomy of “oppressed–oppressor.” The last concept pertains to sovereignty (hakimiyyah), commonly understood as “the will of God” and advanced by Islamists in the 20th century. In medieval times, it was understood as the promotion of public welfare envisaged in Shari’ah, while in modern times, Islamic modernists argued that Islamists wrongfully understood sovereignty and that the root word used in the Qur’an meant “to govern.” Nowadays, the assertion that symbolizes God’s sovereignty can be found in some modern Muslim states.
Geography has been a formal academic discipline in the United States since the early twentieth century. During the first six or so decades of this period, geographic education was dominated by the legacies of environmental determinism and orientalism. These concepts were representative of a Eurocentric worldview that showed contempt for non-Western cultures and economies, treating “natives” of non-Western cultures as backward, ignorant, and lazy. Presentation of material about non-Western areas of the world in geography textbooks and publications has been characterized by assumptions of Western cultural superiority. The late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries saw geographic education undergo considerable transition, as geographers pay more and more attention to perspectives like dependency theory and world system theory. Renewed interest in geographic education coincided with the revival of geography as an intellectual pursuit and recognition of the importance of place in the world economy and in international relations, along with the explosive growth of information made possible by television, the internet, and other technologies. More importantly, the orientalist biases that have historically characterized geographic education in the United States and other Western countries have gradually disappeared. It has been argued that improved geographic education will help overcome geographic illiteracy and promote public awareness of international relations, but such awareness must be intertwined with the changing role of educational institutions in managing information, and to recognition of the changing relationships between education and information.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies. Please check back later for the full article.
The central characteristic distinguishing international borders in the 21st century from those of earlier historical eras is their linearity: their appearance as a series of one-dimensional points connected by straight lines. International relations (IR) often takes for granted the global-historical process that brought this about, but because cross-border relations are the main substance of inquiry in IR, many theories and areas of study in the field contain some perspective on that process, at least implicitly. These perspectives can be divided into historical accounts of the origins of linear borders on one hand and discussions concerning their implications on the other.
Explanations of linear borders often refer to the emergence of the nation-state in Europe, viewing modern borders in either a realist or a rationalist vein: as hardened battle lines of intense geopolitical competition, or as a rational state institution minimizing uncertainty and transaction costs. Constructivists have also drawn attention to social epistemes and cartographic practices making it possible to imagine polities as bounded by precisely demarcated lines before boundaries were actually created as such. Beyond these perspectives one might also examine the growth of a professional surveying practice around private property as well as the construction of linear boundaries as civilized, both of which were closely associated with colonialism and imperialism.
As for the consequences of modern borders, debate has proceeded in several directions. One argument posits that the introduction and perseverance of colonial borders in the Global South has contributed to “state failure,” an argument that has been criticized for its assumption that more natural borders are somehow possible. Another argument, which can be traced back to 19th-century geography, is that precise, fixed boundaries promote peace in international relations. Finally, it could also be argued that linear boundaries contribute to the privileging of certain kinds of geographical expertise over others and make it possible to imagine territory as a structure that is fundamentally the same across the world, regardless of context.