The Birth of Territory – draft blurb

The Birth of Territory is inching its way towards publication. The proofs are due within a month, and the index needs to be compiled. I’ve just sent in the ‘author questionnaire’, which marketing will use as a basis for their work. One of the elements is to draft something that they will edit for publicity and the book’s jacket. Here’s what I sent them – may be interesting to see how they edit and manipulate this.

Territory is one of the central political concepts of the modern world, and indeed functions as the primary way the world is divided and controlled politically. And yet, territory has not received the critical attention afforded to other crucial concepts such as sovereignty, rights, and justice. While territory continues to matter today politically, and territorial disputes and arrangements are studied in detail, the concept of territory itself is often neglected. What are states administering, and what do self-determination movements want? Where did the idea of exclusive ownership of a portion of the earth’s surface come from, and what kinds of complexities are hidden behind that seemingly straight-forward definition?

The Birth of Territory provides a detailed account of the emergence of territory within Western political thought. It examines the complicated relation between the history of a word, a concept and a practice. It is a broad historical study, ranging from Ancient Greece to the seventeenth century, with a particularly detailed analysis of Medieval Europe. With each of those periods, the study interrogates a range of historical, political and literary texts and practices in terms of the relation between power and place. Out of these different ways of ordering the idea of territory emerged. Historical in its execution, philosophical in its interrogation of texts, and political and geographical in its significance, The Birth of Territory shows how Greek, Roman, medieval and early modern thought together produced the modern concept and practice of territory. In doing so it sheds new light on the way the world came to be ordered, how the earth’s surface is divided, controlled and administered.

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