‘Adventures in No Man’s Land’ – BBC coverage of Alisdair Pinkerton and Noam Leshom’s research project

BBC News has a story on Alisdair Pinkerton and Noam Leshom’s research project into historical and current examples of No Man’s Land.


What exactly is No Man’s Land? It may be the space on a battlefield between two opposing front lines, a buffer zone between two countries or a parcel of land unclaimed and ungoverned by local authorities. The notion has never been fully defined so two men are travelling across Europe to a puzzling area on the Egypt-Sudan border in order to understand it better.

The term “No Man’s Land” may conjure up images of shell-holed battlefields, mud, barbed wire and shredded tree trunks, but it goes back much further than the trenches of World War One.

“I think people fail to realise that the term ‘No Man’s Land’ has a 1,000-year history,” says Alasdair Pinkerton, an expert in human geography at the Royal Holloway University of London. [more here]

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Foucault the mayonnaise maker and card cheat…

Foucault’s nephew, Henri Paul Fruchaud, has done some valuable work editing his texts in the last few years. This interview with a local paper says a bit about his uncle’s work habits, but also gives a couple of anecdotes that are somewhat less serious. While amusing to read, this underlines for me why I am not writing a biography… Thanks to Felix De Montety for the link.

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Michel Foucault on refugees – a previously untranslated interview from 1979

‘The refugee problem is a foreshadowing of the 21st century’s great migration’

(“Nanmin mondai ha 21 seiku minzoku daiidô no zenchô da”, an interview by H.Uno, originally published on 17 August 1979, in Shûkan posuto, pp. 34-35) republished under the title “Le problème des réfugiés est un présage de la grande migration du XXIe siècle” in Michel Foucault, Dits et écrits, text 271, Volume 3. 1976-1979, Gallimard, 1994, pp. 798-800.

(Partially republished by Libération on 18 September 2015 and by Libération.fr on 17 September 2015 under the title “Michel Foucault en 1979 : «Les hommes réprimés par la dictature choisiront d’échapper à l’enfer»”  )

Translated from Japanese into French by Ryôji Nakamura, 1994 ; translated from French into English by Felix de Montety, 2015. Thanks to Stuart Elden, Steve Legg and Mike Heffernan for comments and corrections.

H. Uno: What according to you is the source of the problem of Vietnamese refugees ? 

M. Foucault: For more than a century, Vietnam has been continually occupied by military powers such as France, Japan and the United States. And now the former South Vietnam is occupied by the former North Vietnam. Of course this occupation of the South by the North is different from those which preceded it but it should not be forgotten that the power in place in South Vietnam is exercised from the North.

During this series of occupations over the course of a century, excessive conflicts have developed within the population. There have been a considerable number of collaborators, and you can put in this category merchants who traded with colonists, or regional civil servants who worked under the occupation. Because of those historical antagonisms, part of the population found themselves blamed and abandoned.

Many sense a contradiction between the previous need to support the unification of Vietnam and the current requirement to tackle the issue of refugees, which is a consequence of it.

The state must not exercise an unconditional right of life and death, over its own people or those of another country. To deny the state this right of life and death meant opposing the bombings of Vietnam by the United States and currently means helping refugees.

It seems like the problem of Cambodian refugees is not quite the same as that of Vietnamese refugees. What do you think? 

What happened in Cambodia is absolutely unprecedented in modern history: the government massacred its people on a scale never before witnessed. And the remaining population that survived was saved, of course, but finds itself under the domination of an army which has used a destructive and violent power. The situation is therefore different from that of Vietnam.

On the other hand, it is important that, in solidarity movements which are organised throughout the world for refugees from South East Asia, the differences of historical and political situations are not taken into account. This does not mean that we could remain indifferent to historical and political analyses of the refugee issue, but in an emergency what should be done is to save people in danger.

Because, at the moment, 40,000 Vietnamese are drifting off the coast of Indochina or wash ashore on islands, on the brink of death. 40,000 Cambodians have been pushed back from Thailand, in mortal danger. There are no less than 80,000 people for whom death is a daily presence. No discussion on the general balance of power between countries of the world, and no argument about the political and economic difficulties that come with aid to refugees can justify states abandoning those human beings at the gates of death.

In 1938 and 1939, Jews fled Germany and Central Europe, but because nobody received them, many died. Forty years have passed since, and can we again send 100,000 people to their deaths?

To find a global solution to the problem, states that create refugees, notably Vietnam, should change their policy. But how, according to you, can this general solution be achieved?  

In the case of Cambodia, the situation is much more tragic than in Vietnam, but there is hope of a solution in the near future. We could imagine that the formation of an acceptable government by the Cambodian people would lead to a solution. But as for Vietnam, the problem is more complex. Political power has already been established: but this power excludes part of the population, which does not want it anyway. The state has created a situation in which those people have to seek the uncertain chance of survival through an exodus by sea rather than by staying in Vietnam. Therefore it is clear that it is necessary to put pressure on Vietnam to change this situation. But what does ‘to put pressure’ mean?

In Geneva, at the UN conference on refugees, participating countries have exerted pressure on Vietnam, in the form of recommendations and advice. The Vietnamese government then made a few concessions. Rather than abandoning those who want to leave in uncertain conditions, and what’s more, at risk of their lives, the Vietnamese government proposes to build transit centres to collect potential migrants: they would stay there weeks, months or even years until they could find a host country. But this proposal sounds curiously like concentration camps.

The refugee issue has come up many times in the past, but if there is a new historical aspect in the case of Vietnam, what might that be?  

In the twentieth century, genocides and ethnic persecutions happened frequently. I think that in the near future, these phenomena will happen again in new forms. First, because over the past few years, the number of dictatorial states has increased rather than diminished. Since political expression is impossible in their country and because they do not have the force necessary to resist, people repressed by dictatorship will chose to escape from their hell.

Second, in former colonies, states were created retained colonial borders as they were, so that ethnicities, languages and religions were mixed. This phenomenon creates serious tensions. In those countries, antagonisms within the population are likely to explode and bring about massive displacement and the collapse of state apparatuses.

Third, developed economic powers that needed labour from the Third World and developing countries have imported migrants from Portugal, Algeria or Africa. But, now, countries which no longer need this workforce because of technological evolution are attempting to send those migrants back. All these problems lead to that of population migration, involving hundreds of thousands and millions of people. And population migrations necessarily become painful and tragic and are inevitably accompanied by deaths and murders. I am afraid that what is happening in Vietnam is not only an after-effect of the past, but also a foreshadowing of the future.

SE: Many thanks to Felix de Montety for making this translation and sharing with Progressive Geographies.

This post is part of the ‘Foucault Resources‘ area of this site, which also includes bibliographies, links, comparisons of texts, tools and some other short translations.

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Popular geopolitics of James Bond – ‘The World is not Enough’


Klaus Dodds shares an update on the book he is writing on James Bond with Lisa Funnell.

Originally posted on rhulgeopolitics:


Now that a new academic year is upon us again, I thought it was a good time to share (for those of you interested) my progress on advancing my interest in the popular geopolitics of James Bond.

Over the summer, a colleague Lisa Funnell (University of Oklahoma) and me have been writing a book with the working title The World is Not Enough, which brings together our interests in gender, geopolitics and film. We have a good working draft now and explore Bond’s relationship to place and space, and the manner in which he is able to improvise, manage, administer, destroy and discipline those sites and spaces he encounters. It is proving great fun to write and we hope by the end to demonstrate how the where is critical to making sense of the why and how of Bond and mission success. We also think the where plays a…

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Book Review Symposium – Shiloh Krupar’s Hot Spotter’s Report: Military Fables of Toxic Waste


Antipode host a book review discussion of Shiloh Krupar’s remarkable Hot-Spotter’s Report. You can read an interview I conducted with Shiloh about the book on the Society and Space open site here.

Originally posted on AntipodeFoundation.org:

Shiloh R. Krupar, Hot Spotter’s Report: Military Fables of Toxic Waste, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780816676385 (cloth); ISBN: 9780816676392 (paper)

Editor’s introduction – Jenna Loyd, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Shiloh Krupar’s Hot Spotter’s Report is an experiment. She pushes geography beyond the confines of social scientific inquiry and into terrains of art practice and performance where questions of research process and cultural production are much more expansive. Moreover, she draws on political rhetorics of satire, camp, and irony to diagnose and speak back to absurd realities of nuclear ecologies and governance. Her work makes important contributions to understandings of spectacle, the production of nature-human relationships, and the intimate labor and health politics of nuclear production. Not least, this project is committed to theorizing and developing practices for recognizing and opposing state technologies of erasure, forgetting, and violence.

Hot Spotter’s ReportThis book review symposium gathers essays from three distinct vantage…

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Roberto Esposito. ‘Biological Life, Political Life’, Goldsmiths, University of London, 1 Oct 2015 5pm

imageRoberto Esposito lecture, ‘Biological Life, Political Life‘ at Goldsmiths, University of London, 1 Oct 2015 5pm.

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Foucault 2/13 – recording and materials for Columbia seminar on Penal Theories and Institutions (1971-1972) with Harcourt, Balibar, Ewald and Spivak

Etienne Balibar and François Ewald discuss Foucault’s second annual lectures at the Collège de France, Penal Theories and Institutions (1971-1972)…  Please also read the introductory posts presenting the lectures along with the posts by Etienne Balibar and François Ewald, and the framing essays by Velasco and Harcourt. Readings for the seminar here… Check back later this week for additional essays on these 1972 lectures. Welcome to Foucault 2/13!

The link to the ‘live stream‘ now takes you to a recording of the discussion, held yesterday at Columbia University. Thanks to Clare O’Farrell at Foucault News for the link.

There are lots of other materials on this site, including preparatory notes from some of the participants. The video of the discussion of the first lecture course, Lectures on the Will to Know, is available here.

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Henri Lefebvre, Metaphilosophy, forthcoming in February 2016 – Verso page and available to pre-order

Henri Lefebvre, Metaphilosophy, translated by David Fernbach and edited and introduced by Stuart Elden, is forthcoming in February 2016. Verso’s page for the book is now live and it is available to pre-order.


In Metaphilosophy, Henri Lefebvre works through the implications of Marx’s revolutionary thought for philosophy. Metaphilosophy is conceived of as a transformation of philosophy, developing it into a programme of radical worldwide change. The book demonstrates Lefebvre’s debt to Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche, but it also brings a number of other figures into the conversation including Sartre, Heidegger, and Axelos. Metaphilosophy stands as key text in Lefebvre’s wide-ranging oeuvre, the foundation for his work on everyday life, the city and the production of space. It is also a key moment in contemporary thinking about philosophy’s relation to the world.

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Books received – Lefebvre, Nail, Wikileaks, RIS, Leibniz, Groupe Information Santé


A real mix of stuff – a collection edited by Lefebvre on Fourier, Thomas Nail’s The Figure of the Migrant (which I endorsed and mentioned last week); the new issue of Review of International Studies; Verso’s new book The Wikileaks Files; an offprint of an essay on Leibniz and flooding by Lloyd Strickland and Michael Church; and a text by the Groupe Information Santé, La médecine désordonnée.

GISThe last of these is for the Foucault project. The GIS was set up on the model of the Groupe d’information sur les prisons, and Foucault was involved in early work. This volume dates from 1974, and I’m not sure that it includes anything with which Foucault was directly responsible, but it’s a valuable resource nonetheless. The group was active in projects around industrial medicine, the abortion rights struggle in France, migrant health and the power of the medical profession over patients. A table of contents can be found here. I may say more in a future update on the book.


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Chamayou G 2015 “Drone Theory” reviewed by Britain Hopkins


Chamayou’s Drone Theory reviewed at the Society and Space open site.

Originally posted on Society and space:

9780241970348Grégoire Chamayou, Drone Theory, Penguin, London, 2015. 304 pages. £6.99, paperback. ISBN: 978-0-241-97034-8 (http://www.penguin.co.uk/books/drone-theory/9780241970348/).

Grégoire Chamayou’s Drone Theory seeks to understand how the drone, as lethal military technology, transforms modalities of war and the subject’s relationship to the state. The author finds that the drone’s matrix of weaponized surveillance gives rise to an increasingly autonomous state of sovereign violence from which subjective will is excluded. The monograph’s five sections, each divided into concise chapters ranging from a few to a dozen pages, neatly trace the drone through a series of revolutions in technology, psychology, ethics, law, and sovereign power. Continue reading Britain Hopkins review here

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