My paper ‘How should we do the history of territory?’ is now online - forthcoming in the inaugural issue of the RSA journal Territory, Politics, Governance. The journal requires subscription, so if you can’t easily get hold of it, please let me know. The paper is a reflection on The Birth of Territory, and explores some methodological issues, but it is mainly a critique of Foucault’s discussion of territory in Security, Territory, Population.
This article approaches the question of territory, and its relation to politics and governance, from a historical perspective. The approach here is to interrogate the claims made by Foucault concerning territory in his work on governmentality. Foucault sees territory as crucial to the Middle Ages through to Machiavelli, but as displaced as the object of government by the emerging concept of population. In distinction, this piece argues that territory is not crucial to medieval determinations of rule, but actually emerges around the same time as Foucault’s notion of population, making use of similar techniques of rule. The historical examples relate to the broader book The Birth of Territory. While what he says about territory directly is misleading, Foucault is, however, extremely helpful in thinking about these questions more generally, especially in terms of his historical approach. Thinking more deeply about the history of the emergence of the concept and practice of territory is helpful in understanding contemporary concerns, transformations and disputes.