The Territorial Trap of the Territorial Trap

Nisha Shah‘s important paper “The Territorial Trap of the Territorial Trap: Global Transformation and the Problem of the State’s Two Territories” has recently been published in International Political Sociology (requires subscription). Here’s the abstract:

This paper argues that attempts by theories of globalization to overcome the “territorial trap” have failed. Describing how the modern state emerged with two interrelated territories—a political concept about bounded jurisdiction and public good that over time is effaced but reinforced as territory is defined as brute, physical terrain—it shows that the assumption in globalization theories that territory is the state’s physical area entrenches the normative defense of the territorial state as the framework of political order. The consequence is that overcoming the territorial trap not only requires uncovering how and why territory becomes an assumed political ideal, but also how and why this trap produces the subsequent trap of understanding territory primarily as the “physical substratum” of the sovereign state. Globalization theories’ analysis of political transformation must therefore focus not only on the “permeability” of territorial borders, but whether and how evolving notions of global space might be providing a different political theory. A preliminary discussion of efforts to uncover how an alternative global spatial principle is reassembling political authority suggests a possible means of escape and way forward.

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