A few weeks ago, Geography Compass published Pooya Ghoddousi and Sam Page on “Using ethnography and assemblage theory in political geography” in the political geography section of the journal. Pooya and Sam provide brief history of ethnography in political geography, its latent intersections with assemblage thinking, and the potential committing to working at those intersections. The abstract for their article can be found below.
While the focus on the ‘everyday’ in qualitative human geography has greatly increased the need for, and relevance of, ethnographic methods, Megoran argued that this is particularly true for political geography as it has the potential to challenge its focus on elite discourse, allowing researchers to bring forward multiple voices to investigate the becoming of political events. More recently, assemblage theory has gained traction in political geography, not only because of its capability to include the role of the material and the affective, but also revealing the links between micro‐ and macro‐politics by showing how agency emerges out of complex relations. In the first part of this paper, we present an overview of the recent uses of ethnography in political geography that have not embraced assemblage. Second, we explore the theoretical conceptualisations of, and opportunities provided by, an assemblage approach. Third, we go through the use of assemblage ethnographies in political geography, with a particular focus on Pooya’s experience of research with Iranians in London. In this, he embraced a variety of ethnographic approaches, including ‘auto‐ethnography’, ‘netnographies’, ‘participant sensation’, in combination with observations, participatory workshops and activism. Showing the role of ethnography as a qualitative tool for political geographers to interrogate discursive social constructions, we argue that it holds even more promise for analysing and intervening in the emergent politics of socio‐material‐affective assemblages.
A few weeks ago, Geography Compass published Edward Holland’s “The anti-geopolitical cinematic eye: Documentary film and critical geopolitics” in the political geography section of the journal. Ted’s review article critical-geopolitical thinking on how documentary film configures the world of political engagement. The abstract for his article can be found below.
This article considers documentary film as a format for critique and alternative viewings of the geopolitical. To do so, it reviews work in film studies on documentary film, emphasizing the theorization of the documentary ethos and the role of filmmakers in determining how documentaries depict reality. Identifying three points of consonance between documentary films and critical geopolitics, it reviews the geopolitical nature of many topical choices, the importance of authorial intent and creation, and the viewing of documentaries as texts whose interpretation is determined by their creators and viewers. The conclusion advocates for documentary film as a basis for a return to the consideration of format in critical geopolitics.
We have recently published Nicole Nguyen in the political geography section of Geography Compass, on “On geopolitics and education: Interventions, possibilities, and future directions.” Nicole’s review article advances a feminist-geopolitical perspective on the intersection of education and geopolitics as discourse. The abstract for Nicole’s article can be found below.
In this article, I survey the rapidly developing literature on the symbiotic relationship between the education sector and geopolitics. Scholars across disciplines increasingly have studied how schools are implicated in and affected by broader geopolitical goals, particularly related to territorial security and national defense. Given the range of disciplinary interventions from international relations to education studies, discussions on the school‐geopolitics nexus often have been isolated and placed in relationship to other disciplinary conversations, forestalling rich cross‐disciplinary engagements to advance theorizations on the relationship between education and geopolitics. This review article, therefore, places studies on schools and geopolitics in conversation with each other and plots future directions for this emerging subfield. In doing so, I call on geographers to further engage the multi‐scalar analytics of feminist geopolitics, which can generate a more nuanced understanding of the school‐geopolitics nexus by more fully accounting for how geopolitical processes are differentially experienced, negotiated, and contested and for how the education sector itself maintains its own internal logics and contradictions irreducible to the external forces exerted on it.
We have recently published Chris Lizotte in the political geography section of Geography Compass, on “The mainstreaming of ‘vulgar territory’ and popular visions of hyper‐bordered and feminized territory.” Chris’ timely review article identifies and outlines an approach to understanding popular-geographical articulations of territory in ethno-nationalist movements and regimes. The abstract for Chris’ article can be found below.
I lay out a case for recognizing “vulgar territory,” a fusing of superficial categories of spatial sovereignty with identarian rhetorics of belonging. I argue that vulgar territory is composed of two primary elements: first, a simplistic conception of sovereignty as being entirely contiguous with state borders. Second, affective elements of spatial belonging, particularly hope and fear. These two basic elements combine in various ways depending on the particular meanings, images, and emotions that are assembled in particular geohistorical contexts. I show this with a rough typology of “vulgates” of hyper‐bordered and feminized territory by examining recent examples from around the world.
My co-authored article on an artwork that problematizes the enduring significance of concentration camps for Japanese-descended people throughout the Americas is recently published in Cultural Geographies. The article — Questioning the exceptionality of the exception: Annabel Castro’s ‘Outside in: exile at home’ (2018) in Cuernavaca — can be found here and here. Here’s the abstract:
Annabel Castro’s art installation ‘Outside in: exile at home’ (2018) problematizes indefinite detention at the Hacienda de Temixco, in Morelos, Mexico, a facility which functioned as a concentration camp for Japanese immigrants and their descendants between 1942 and 1945. The Hacienda de Temixco, like other sites for indefinite detention of Japanese-descended people in the Americas, was contingent upon making detainees’ lives intelligible for security action as the embodiment of a ‘crisis’. This essay interprets Castro’s artwork and its premiere in Cuernavaca as a creative-geographical way to engage visitors around relationships between past and contemporary distinction-making processes by which particular groups of people are refigured as threats to national security. To interpret the artwork as a creative practice of geography, we (1) briefly describe the artwork’s historical context and (2) analyze its composition and exhibition in Cuernavaca at a time when activists in Mexico and the United States were articulating a sense of solidarity that exceeds exclusionary constructions of threatened national bodies.
This article emerged from my participation in a 2018 panel in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico, around the opening of the artwork, Outside in: Exile at home (photo above of my remote participation; photo below from the installation itself). The artist, Annabel Castro, is a co-author on this article and therein details her process and choices.
The other co-author, Sergio Hernández, is a historian at the INAH in Mexico City and has written extensively on Japanese immigration in the Americas. A recent essay of his revisits 20th century concentration camps in relation to systemic racism that inheres in the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.
We have recently published Geoff Boyce in the political geography section of Geography Compass, on ‘Immigration, Policing, and the Politics of Time.‘ Geoff’s review article argues for examining the centrality of time to spatialized modes of control in immigration policing. The article would have been a timely contribution even before the outbreak of COVID-19 in the Americas, but it can now be read in light of the ‘deadly consequences’ of maintaining a ‘business as usual’ approach to immigrant detention at the US-Mexico border (link here to the Youth Circulations blog).
The abstract for Geoff’s article can be found below.
This article argues for time and temporality as a critical dimension in the dialectical articulation of im/migration struggles. To make this case, the article draws on an emerging body of interdisciplinary scholarship on the temporal dimensions of im/migration and of im/migration policing. It then uses this framework to explore a host of anti‐im/migrant initiatives currently unfolding in North America under the geopolitical leadership of Donald J. Trump. Contextualizing these initiatives within a longer genealogy of im/migration and im/migration policing across the continent, the article affirms scholarly characterizations of im/migrants’ desires and aspirations as a “creative force” that “structurally exceed” border controls (The contested politics of mobility: Borderzones and irregularity); but it also argues a need for greater scholarly attention to how the violence associated with im/migration policing generates nonlinear im/migration dynamics and recursive pressures on nation‐state borders and their police apparatus over the long durée. The article concludes by considering the theoretical, political, and empirical stakes of a conceptual shift in emphasis from space to time in the study of im/migration and im/migration policing, and then offers several concrete suggestions for further inquiry.
We have recently published Stepha Velednitsky, Sara Hughes, and Rhys Machold in the political geography section of Geography Compass, on ‘Political geographical perspectives on settler colonialism.’ The review article provides a comprehensive survey of tendencies, past and present, at the intersection of political geography and settler colonial studies, and, more generally, of political-geographical engagement with the settler colonialism analytic. The abstract is below.
Given the centrality of land, territory, and sovereignty to settler colonial formations, it is unsurprising that geographers and other scholars working on such topics are increasingly finding settler colonial studies fruitful in their research agendas. However, work on settler polities in political geography has historically been marked by the present absence of this framework, which has been consequential in terms of circumscribing the kinds of political analysis that geographers can offer. It also limits the nature, depth, and scope of radical critique of violent domination by skirting certain questions about the core drivers of dispossession and responsibility for them. This article examines political geographical engagement (or lack thereof) across each of four themes: population management/governance, territory/sovereignty, consciousness, and narrative, paying particular attention to works which challenge the present absence of settler colonial theory in political geography. We argue that analyzing settler colonial formations as such is essential to conceptualizing their workings and linkages or disjunctures with other forms of empire. Yet this focus also has broader political stakes related to geography’s complicity with racialized state power, violence, and empire, as well as and efforts to decolonize the discipline.
The January 2020 issue of the Journal of Latin American Geography (JLAG) came on the heels of the successful meeting of its parent organization the Conference of Latin American Geography (CLAG) in Antigua, Guatemala, where we were celebrating 50 years of CLAG. The articles in this issue of JLAG extended discussions that occurred at the CLAG conference and that will inform ongoing transformations of the organization and its journal. Some highlights, for me:
This most recent issue includes an introductory essay by Michael Steinberg about 50 years of CLAG, in which he reflects on the communitarian sensibility that characterizes the organization. He also hints at intellectual developments evident in the journal and in the research agendas of CLAG members that promise to productively trouble the object of “Latin Americanist geography.”
As evidence of this, this issue of the journal includes an essay by Joel Correia on the consequences of the organization’s investment in the North/Latin America binary, and the opportunities for engaged, critical scholarship that may emerge from dismantling that separation.
Also significant is Nikolai Alvarado’s essay promoting urban research by CLAGistas, as members of an organization that has apparently (by Alvarado’s survey of the journal since 1972) embraced a Sauerian anti-urban bias in its vision of Latin America. This essay was the inspiration for organizing a panel at the upcoming meeting of the American Association of Geographers, at which we will extend a discussion of promising directions in Latin American urban geography.
Finally, this issue of JLAG includes an essay by John C. Finn, Martha Bell, Jörn Seemann, Gabriela Valdivia, and Eric Carter (translated into Spanish and Portuguese) in which they introduce a new section of the journal, “JLAG in translation.” The authors contextualize their innovation in an epistemological struggle that is structured and constrained in part by the global political economy of academic publishing.
The conference will take place in September 13 to 15, 2020, at the University of Wyoming, in Laramie.
More information is available in the flier, below:
Journal of Cultural Geography is providing free access to my co-authored article with Guillaume Proulx, previously described in this post from last year. The map, above, is part of the article. This work comes from our ongoing collaboration on settler colonial landscapes in North America, from which I will present a paper at the upcoming American Association of Geographers meeting in Denver.