Tag Archives: Territory

Written On The Body: Women, Migration and Borders

By Morag Rose, University of Sheffield

Morag Rose Geog Directions.jpg

Singapore Airport. Image credit: Flikr user Zsoolt CC-BY-NC 2.0

 

 

Much current popular discourse on immigration is often dominated by tabloid hysteria and dangerous political games. Concern about this has been voiced by many, including my former Sunday Times colleague, Liz Gerard, “The press and immigration: reporting the news or fanning the flames of hatred?” This polemic tends to dehumanise individuals and ignore the complex economic, political, social and emotional drivers behind the movement of people.  In her recent article in Area, Lucy Jackson seeks to explore the emotional impact of immigration and how it shapes real lives.

Jackson takes the body as the territory she explores, following the work of Longhurst (1994) who describes the body as the “geography closest in”. Jackson works with two different sets of women in Singapore; western expatriates and foreign domestic workers (even these commonly used words are loaded with assumptions). The two different groups of women have contrasting experiences of stigma and exclusion within Singapore and effectively live “separate but parallel lives”. However, despite their differences, the women share many commonalities and can all be described as economic migrants.

Singapore has actively encouraged temporary migrants but the participants were often discriminated against as outsiders. Their autonomy is limited by a range of social forces which range from comments in the street to being unable to open their own bank account or feeling restricted to certain areas. They create their own distinct personal territories which are both geographical and emotional. Food and clothing become very important as markers of identity, memory and community.  Both groups suffer ill-effects as a result of stigma and stereotyping, although their experiences are very different.  Borders operate and impact at many different scales and Jackson concludes “the border of the body is porous and migrant women actively practice and perform aspects of ‘border maintenance’ as a reaction to being excluded emotionally and physically from the social and cultural territory of the host society” (Jackson, 2016 p297).

Jackson’s work is attentive to individual, embodied experience and humanises the impact of social policies based on exclusion and othering. I fear this is a task that becomes ever more necessary for academics, activists and anyone concerned with civil liberties and freedom of movement.

References

60-world2 Gerard, L“The press and immigration: reporting the news or fanning the flames of hatred?” Subscribe Online

books_icon Jackson, L 2016  Experiencing Exclusion and Reacting to Stereotypes? Navigating Borders of the Migrant Body Area 2016 48.3 pp292-299 doi:10.1111/area.12146

books_icon Longhurst R 1994 The geography closest in – the body … the politics of pregnability Australian Geographical Studies 32214–223

Global social movements contest the militarisation of East Asia

By Sasha Davis, Keene State College, USA

The news out of East Asia is currently filled with stories of political rivalry, nationalist antagonisms and military stand-offs. Regional tensions run high as China extends claims in the seas around Asia, Japan considers a more assertive military stance, the USA shifts more of their military forces to the Pacific, and North Korea threatens stability with nuclear tests, missile launches and blustery rhetoric. Geographers have long studied these kinds issues – in Asia and elsewhere – and have produced many insights on the ways governments regulate spaces, deploy military power, and manoeuvre for geopolitical advantage. These understandings of political geography are useful for analysing the current situation in Asia, but it is also important to recognise that governments are not the only actors trying to shape the region.

A recent article published in the Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers examines a frequently overlooked group of political actors: social movements. Focusing on activists contesting the construction of new military bases on the island of Okinawa, the article examines how local protesters articulate with global social movements to affect local projects as well as the political landscape of the whole region. Activists in Okinawa are concerned about the potential damage a new base could bring to their community through the destruction of wildlife habitat, environmental contamination, danger from unexploded ordinance and live-fire training, increases in incidents of sexual violence by stationed troops, occupation of large tracts of lands, and continued colonial political relationships with Tokyo and Washington DC. In addition to these local concerns, however, these social movements are also attempting to affect the larger political scene in the Pacific by promoting an agenda of demilitarisation and forging links of solidarity with groups on other islands throughout the region.

Through an analysis of the direct action ‘occupation’ style protests in Okinawa – and the way these kinds of tactics are circulated among activists from places as far away as Puerto Rico, Guam, Korea and Hawaii – this research suggests that protests like the ones seen in Okinawa are not ‘isolated’ or ‘local’ at all. Instead, they are supported and coordinated in quite complex ways across space. Drawing on perspectives from philosophers like Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault, as well as insights from the burgeoning research on social movements in geography, sociology, women’s studies and anthropology – this article contends that these social movements behave across space, and try to manifest power in place, in much the same ways as governments. Even though their aims, ethical positions, and organising structures may be quite different, transnational social movements – like governments – use tactics of operating in networks across space and setting up ‘archipelagos’ of places were their ethics can hold sway. The significance of this is that social movement occupations should not be viewed as ineffective ‘small’ protests. Instead, the article encourages us to look for the hidden connections and the links of mutual aid that binds these groups together as they aim to change international politics.

About the author: Sasha Davis is Assistant Professor of Geography at Keene State College. 

books_icon Davis, S. 2016 Apparatuses of occupation: translocal social movements, states and the archipelagic spatialities of power. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. doi:10.1111/tran.12152

60-world2 McCurry J 2016 Thousands protest at US bases on Okinawa after Japanese woman’s murder The Guardian Online19 June 2016

60-world2 McCurry J 2016 Japan defence ministry seeks record budget to counter Chinese threat The Guardian Online 31 August 2016

60-world2 Reuters 2016 in Tokyo Japan warns China of deteriorating relations over Senkaku Islands The Guardian online 9 August 2016

 

High-flying research: Geographies of air transportation

Kate Whiston, University of Nottingham

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This weekend marked the fifty-eighth anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster, so what better time than to take a look at some of the work being done by human geographers into the social and cultural dimensions of air space and air transportation. February 6th 1958 was the darkest day in Manchester United F.C.’s history. Following their European Cup quarter final win in Belgrade, the ‘Busby Babes’ – so-called after their illustrious manager Matt Busby – were involved in one of the most documented plane crashes in history, in which twenty-three of the forty-four passengers were killed, including eight of the players, when their plane crashed after trying to take-off amidst a devastating snow storm in Munich. Memories of the victims are still today as poignant as ever, in an age when air transportation has been completely transformed, and has come to signify the complex networks of social, political, and economic relationships in our contemporary mobile world.

‘Aeromobilities’, as Adey (2008) calls it, started to become the subject of geographical enquiry in the twenty-first century, with geographers looking to trace the economic and political links that air transport creates between places. Adey’s (2008) paper provides a useful summary of some of the work within geography about air transportation, research which has drawn on the ‘mobile turn’, a shift towards investigating how spaces are travelled through.

‘Identity’ being a key theme in geography due to the influence of feminism, the airport and the airplane have themselves been unravelled as sites of identity creation and performance. Adey (2008) explains how both airports and airplanes have become important geographical sites for the formation and suppression of identities. For some, airports are sites of alienation and inequality, whilst for others they are happy, homely places, a stepping stone between important places in their lives. Nowhere better is this evidenced than the film ‘Terminal’, in which Tom Hanks plays an eastern immigrant whose country suffers from the collapse of its government whilst he is in the air, leaving his papers no longer valid when he lands in America. Forced to stay in the airport for weeks, he feels the brunt of the airport’s hostility and exclusive power, but starts to enjoy and embrace his time there, making many friends, as well as enemies. Today, Adey (2008) argues, borders are shifting even further, spatially and temporally, with your entry into a country being variously permitted or denied from a distance, before you have left your airport of departure. Thus, the ways in which we imagine our place in relation to the rest of the world have changed, air transportation building notions of national identity and citizenship, and variously connecting and disconnecting people and places.

Modern spaces of air travel, as spaces for international border-crossing as well as state and terrorist violence, have triggered increasing regulation of societies. As Adey (2008) states, air-travel has become one of the most closely-monitored and highly-segregated spaces in modern society. Security screening in airports today has reached very intense levels, which redefine both bodies and belongings as ‘threats’. Full-body searches and X-ray machines mean that it is not only international boundaries that are crossed at airports, but also, as Adey (2008) claims, our personal boundaries. All this is part of a new culture of ‘anticipation’, in which our vision has become so accelerated that it has overtaken time (Adey, 2008). The threat of terrorism is, today, pre-empted, an imaginative geography of disaster created before it has even happened, evoking fear and panic.

Air transportation has also had more fatal effects on societies, playing a major part in wars since the turn of the twentieth century. Aerial warfare has come a long way since the air raids of World War Two, with new unmanned aircraft causing terror and destruction to contemporary society. The aerial view – or as Adey (2008) calls it the ‘cosmic view’ – has, since the early days of landscape surveys and the invention of aerial photography, been associated with a powerful total gaze of the world, with limitless capacity for knowledge and control. This total observation is seen, for example, in Israeli-occupied Palestine, where Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are used for aerial surveillance of military and civilian targets (Adey, 2008).

The performance of gender relations within the space of the plane has also, Adey (2008) claims, captured the imaginations of geographers; cockpit and cabin gender roles being fascinating examples of gender relations. A recent paper by Lin (2015) has explored this in relation to air hostesses on a Singapore airline. Feminisation and sexualisation of air hostesses’ bodies on planes has been long been practised by most airlines. In Lin’s (2015) example in Singapore, the design of air hostesses’ uniforms was evocative yet graceful and traditional, whilst interview candidates were carefully screened for flaws or disfigurement, their body shape, beauty, and complexion being important. Even successful candidates underwent various aesthetic ‘corrections’, such as speech therapy, and were prescribed precise shades of make-up to make them appear uniformly ‘beautiful’. Lin (2015) frames the cabin – a ‘mobile atmosphere’, as she calls it – as an important social space, in which geographers have explored the multi-sensorial interactions between passengers and their environment. The plane and its crew provide a ‘service’, passengers’ bodies forming active consumers during their flight. Air hostesses create a comfortable and professional environment for passengers. These women perform a version of femininity whereby they are a friendly, affectionate, reassuring, approachable, helpful, polite, and glamorous aid to passengers’ journeys.

A lot has changed, therefore, in the fifty-eight years since the Munich Air Disaster. There is a vast range of research being done by geographers into the spaces of air travel, research which can help us better understand the social, cultural, and political experiences of airports and air transportation. The looming threat of terrorism means that geographers have a lot to contribute to understanding ways in which different nations engage with air space. However, it is a testament to the continual improvements to passenger safety being made that today geographers are talking about passenger ‘comfort’ rather threats to their ‘safety’.

 

books_icon Adey, P. (2008). “Aeromobilities: Geographies, Subjects and Vision”, Geography Compass, 2(5):1318-1336.

books_iconLin, W. (2015). “’Cabin pressure’: designing affective atmospheres in airline travel”, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 40:287-299.

60-world2http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/manchester-united/11394795/Manchester-United-Munich-Air-Disaster-anniversary-emphasises-the-magnitude-of-footballs-loss.html

60-world2http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/manchester-united-players-fans-remember-10826494

Another Islamic State? The Shifting Tactics of Boko Haram

By Stuart Elden, University of Warwick and Monash University

Military Presence in Maitama, Abuja (image credit: Stuart Elden)

Military Presence in Maitama, Abuja (image credit: Stuart Elden)

The Sunni Islamic group known as ‘Boko Haram’, active in the northeast of the country since at least 2007, came to much wider Western attention in April 2014 with the kidnapping of the school girls at Chibok in Borno state. It then somewhat slipped off the radar with events in Ukraine and the rise of the so-called ‘Islamic State’ in Syria and Iraq. The ‘Islamic State’ was formerly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, and then as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. Al-Sham is frequently translated as either the ‘Levant’ or Syria, but part of the point is to encompass a much wider geographical area, and the group has been explicit about its aim of dissolving colonial-era boundaries between states. Foremost among these is the much-hated ‘Sykes-Picot line’ between Iraq and Syria, the result of the 1915-16 agreement between the French and British about how they would divide the lands of the Ottoman Empire if they were to defeat them in the First World War. The peace of Paris, following the end of that war, did indeed set many of these divisions, though it took two treaties for this region: the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920, which never came into force because of the Turkish war of independence, and then the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. The borders of Syria, Lebanon, Mandate Palestine, Iraq and Turkey all result from these agreements.

In West Africa, the territories of states are also determined by their inheritance of colonial-era boundaries. Many boundaries run north-south, whereas Muslim-Christian divisions tend to run east-west. What this means, in Nigeria especially, is a seemingly stark division in the country. All of the northern states that have implemented Sharia legal codes voted for Muhammadu Buhari in the last presidential elections, whereas all the southern states except Osun voted for Goodluck Jonathan. When Umaru Musa Yar’Adua died in office in 2010, Jonathan, as his vice-president, succeeded him. Jonathan has since won an election in his own right, and has recently declared he will run again in 2015. To win, he wants to stabilize the situation with Boko Haram, something that seems increasingly out of reach.

Nigeria has seen political violence and challenges to its territorial integrity before, with the Biafran war of independence between 1967 and 1970, and there has been a long-running challenge to the oil industry in the Niger Delta. Boko Haram has to be seen within Nigeria’s political-geographical context, as a group challenging Christian rule, the inequitable distribution of resources within the country, with an aspiration of a stricter form of Islamic law.

But it can also be seen in a wider regional context. Africa has long been seen as a focus of a wider ‘war on terror’, though most attention was paid to the Horn of Africa. But the stationing of a drone base in Niger, the French-led intervention in Mali, and the challenge of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM), especially since the fall of Gaddafi’s regime in Libya, has brought more attention to this region. Many claims for Boko Haram’s links to AQIM or to al-Shabaab in Somalia have been made, though these are likely looser than generally suggested.

In the past few weeks Boko Haram has been back in the news, after the Nigerian government announced a ceasefire had been agreed and the release of the Chibok girls was imminent. Unfortunately this turned out not to be the case. Some days later Boko Haram’s leader, Abubaker Shekau, gave an announcement stating that no such agreement had been made, and there have been a series of bombings, kidnappings and battles with the Nigerian military. But alongside these all-too-familiar attacks, Boko Haram have also shifted tactics, seeking to take over territory rather than just launch short raids. Several towns and villages in the northeast have been taken over, including, most recently, Chibok itself. The major town of Mubi was seized and the retaken by the state. Boko Haram have also declared themselves an ‘Islamic State’ and, on some reports, a Caliphate, though by this they likely meant simply an area ruled by Islamic law. While Boko Haram has long worked as more than a military operation, earlier this month former US ambassador John Campbell has suggested they are in the process of ‘moving toward governance’ (2014). Just as Iraq, Nigeria faces a profound challenge to its territorial integrity.

About the author: Stuart Elden is Professor of Political Theory and Geography at the University of Warwick, in the Politics and International Studies department. In this role Stuart spends two months a year at the Centre for Urban Science and Progress at New York University, and at Monash University where he holds an adjunct appointment as Monash Warwick Professor in the Faculty of Arts.

books_icon Campbell, J (2014) ‘Nigeria’s Boko Haram Moving Toward Governance?’, Africa in Transition: Council for Foreign Relations, November 7

books_icon Elden, S. (2009) Terror and Territory: The Spatial Extent of Sovereignty, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

60-world2 Elden, S. (2014a) Boko Haram: An Annotated Bibliography. Progressive Geographies [open access]

books_icon Elden, S. (2014b) The Geopolitics of Boko Haram and Nigeria’s ‘War on Terror’, The Geographical Journal 180 (4), 414-25

60-world2 International Crisis Group (2014) Curbing Violence in Nigeria (II): The Boko Haram Insurgency, Africa Report 216 [open access]

60-world2 Mantzikos, Ioannis ed. (2013) Boko Haram: Anatomy of a Crisis, Bristol: e-International Relations [open access]

60-world2 Walker, Andrew (2012) “What is Boko Haram?”, United States Institute of Peace Special Report [open access]

 

The Map Precedes the Territory

Martin Mahony

The new map at the centre of a geopolitical dispute

Geographers and critical cartographers have long acknowledged that maps do not simply and unproblematically represent the territory depicted by their lines, symbols and shading. Rather, maps participate in the very construction of such territories in the first place. Historical studies have shown the production of maps to be central to the space-claiming activities of European colonial powers, and have highlighted how maps function as tools of political power and even oppression. The representational and world-constructing power of maps does not originate in their accuracy or precision, but in their positioning within webs of practices which at once reflect and produce  the cultures and societies in which maps are situated.

Some of these dynamics were powerfully illustrated by a recent diplomatic controversy around new Chinese passports. The documents feature a map of Chinese territory which included Taiwan and the entire South China Sea – large swathes of which are claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia. The map also included the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and the Aksai Chin region of Kashmir. This straightforward act of representation was at once an act of geopolitical brinkmanship – the drawing of a line is inseparable from the politics of such lines ‘on the ground’, in the form of border posts, militarized zones, contested resources and cultural identities.

The always-already political nature of this cartography was highlighted by the response of the countries who had lost territory to the Chinese map. Complaints were lodged at Chinese embassies, Vietnam refused to stamp the new passports and, most notably, the Indian embassy in Beijing began stamping the passports with their own map which made a counter-claim to the countries’ disputed lands. India and China went to war over their border in 1962, and recent naval movements by the Chinese military have prompted some observers to speculate about the potential for future territorial skirmishes in the region.

Incidents such as these point to the centrality of cartography to modern statehood. Maps are key to the nation-state’s image of itself, in terms of its territorial extent, its geopolitical relationships, and its political character and identity. Sarah Radcliffe makes just such an argument in her 2009 paper in Transactions, in which she explores the relationship between cartography and the state in Ecuador. She argues that spatial information compiled in the form of new digital cartographies has helped produce a neoliberal property system which is central to the ongoing transformation of the postcolonial state. In the Chinese and Ecuadorian cases maps are being used in very different ways, but in both cases with the aim of transforming the relationship between geographical space and political power.

books_icon

Sarah A. Radcliffe, 2009, National maps, digitalisation and neoliberal cartographies: transforming nation-state practices and symbols in postcolonial EcuadorTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers 34, 426-444

Chinese passport map causes diplomatic disputeThe Guardian, 27 November 2012globe42

Geography Compass Content Alert: Volume 6, Issue 4 (April 2012)

Cover image for Vol. 6 Issue 4The latest issue of Geography Compass is available on Wiley Online Library.

Issue Information

Issue Information (pages i–ii)
Article first published online: 15 MAR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2012.00488.x

Atmosphere & Biosphere

Mastodons and Mammoths in the Great Lakes Region, USA and Canada: New Insights into their Diets as they Neared Extinction (pages 175–188)
Catherine H. Yansa and Kristin M. Adams
Article first published online: 15 MAR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2012.00483.x

Ecological Disaster or the Limits of Observation? Reconciling Modern Declines with the Long‐Term Dynamics of Whitebark Pine Communities (pages 189–214)
Evan R. Larson and Kurt F. Kipfmueller
Article first published online: 15 MAR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2012.00481.x

Development

Rethinking Territory: Social Justice and Neoliberalism in Latin America’s Territorial Turn (pages 215–226)
Joe Bryan
Article first published online: 15 MAR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2012.00480.x

Urban

Ethnic Entrepreneurship Studies in Geography: A Review1 (pages 227–240)
Qingfang Wang
Article first published online: 15 MAR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2012.00482.x

A borderless world?

Sarah Mills

The Home Office has recently announced a new passport design, to be issued from October 2010.  In an attempt to counter identity-theft and fraud, the passport is being marketed as “speeding up travellers’ passage through border controls” and includes enhanced security features such as holograms, two photographs and hiding the security chip from view.  The Chief Executive of the Identity and Passport Service states that “Through its combination of physical and electronic security features, the UK passport remains one of the most secure and trusted documents in the world, meeting rigorous international standards.”  Its use at border and immigration controls and the continual challenge of fighting fraud means that the passport and its associated (biometric) technologies reflect broader attitudes towards migration, security, belonging and citizenship.

In their paper in Geography Compass, Alexander Diener and Joshua Hagen (2009) examine how despite predictions of a borderless world, “state borders remain one of the most basic and visible features of the international system”.  They argue that although it is clear there is growing interaction between different places and that globalisation has clearly impacted flows of migration and international trade, “borders continue to play a central role in shaping, dividing, and uniting the world’s societies, economies, and ecosystems”.  The distinct political geographies of borders, territory and identity are reflected upon by Diener and Hagen, who use historical and contemporary examples of how ‘borders matter’.  This article is a useful summary of research on border studies and the benefits for geographers and others within the social sciences.  The continued improvement and re-configuration of passports and border security reflects wider ideas about the role of borders and the importance of territory in the international system.

Read ‘New UK passport design unveiled in fight against fraud’ on BBC Online

Read Diener, A. C. and Hagen, J. (2009), Theorizing Borders in a ‘Borderless World’: Globalization, Territory and Identity. Geography Compass, 3: 1196–1216.