Just about to leave to go to Tasmania. I am giving a talk on The Birth of Territory on Monday, but have the weekend there first. I spent three very happy months as a visiting scholar at the University of Tasmania in early 2006, and it’s great to be going back. Once again my co-hosts are the School of Geography & Environmental Studies and the School of Philosophy. While I was there in 2006 I did a lot of thinking and reading about territory. I went out there without a particular agenda, and was clear that I was not aiming to write, but rather to try to work out what sort of project I had and how I was going to do it. I left with a huge file of notes.
Although I’d been working on territory on and off for some time before, it was really only there that I started to get a sense of what kind of book this might turn out to be. While there I did a lot of reading on the Medieval period, and what had originally been intended to be a single chapter began to grow beyond that. In the current book manuscript there are four or five chapters – depending on dates – that look at the Middle Ages. That’s about half the book. It was in Tasmania that I had what I think was one of the most important break-throughs in the project, which was when I realised the importance of notions of temporal power.
On my return from Tasmania, I wrote the application for the Leverhulme major research fellowship. I think one of the reasons behind the success of that application was that, by then, I had a really clear idea of the problem I was trying to deal with. I think I was able to articulate that fairly well, and also make a convincing argument for the scale of this project and why I needed time to complete it. Much has changed since, inevitably, but the articulation of the problem and its broad scope remains.
So there is a nice symmetry to going back to Tasmania on the day I wrote the final report for Leverhulme, and to give what I suspect will be one of the last talks on this book. Or, at least, one of the last talks while the book is still ‘live’. Almost inevitably I will talk about the book while it is in press, and perhaps even after publication, but there is a definite shift between giving a talk on something where you could still change things and when you can’t.