Alec Murphy on ‘Territory’s Continuing Allure’

Also in the Annals of the AAG (requires subscription) Alec Murphy has an interesting piece about questions of territory today.

The role of the territorial state has changed in recent decades in the wake of the communications revolution; the explosion of transnational social, political, and economic formations; accelerated mobility across international boundaries; and the inability of states to address pressing socioeconomic and environmental issues. Yet in the rush to document and assess the networks, flows, and relational spaces that are part of this shift, it is important not to overlook the continuing hold of modernist territorial ideas on the geographical imagination. Geographical writings on territoriality, spatial socialization, state-driven knowledge production, and regimes of territorial legitimation provide tools for understanding the power and inertia of modernist territorial ideas, which continue to influence patterns of identity and state practice in wide-ranging and significant ways. Contemporary interpretations of the doctrine of self-determination and its application in the Western Sahara case demonstrate that modernist ideas about territory continue to have far-reaching political and social consequences. It follows that any balanced assessment of the contemporary political–geographic order should not ignore the ways in which the continuing allure of territory articulates with the material and functional shifts that are challenging traditional political–territorial arrangements.
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