There are many things on which to reflect from yesterday’s events in the USA. One side of my extended family is in Ohio, Michigan and Alabama, so this is personally as well as generally political. But I was supposed to be spending today working on a grant proposal, which brings my own research back to more contemporary geopolitical concerns. Yesterday’s events make it particularly difficult.
I’ve said before that the 2004 US election was the real spur to my writing on topics that eventually became the book Terror and Territory: The Spatial Extent of Sovereignty – not so much the election of Bush, but his re-election, where the ‘war on terror’ became legitimised by a popular vote. Since that book came out in 2009, I’ve only turned to contemporary political and geopolitical events on occasion – most of my work has been historical or conceptual. In contrast, my teaching has often been engaged with contemporary events – I teach an MA course at Warwick called ‘Burning Issues: Geopolitics Today’, and at Durham taught on ‘Territory and Geopolitics’. Some of the PhD students I supervise are working on very contemporary issues. I’ve spoken about Boko Haram, Ebola, Islamic State and so on at conferences, but not published very much on this, with the exception of one piece on Boko Haram and a couple of short pieces on the EU referendum.
Today I’m torn between a retreat back into the archive, into more work on Foucault and a continuation of themes from my work on Shakespeare; or a reengagement much more explicitly with contemporary politics. As well as the continuation of work on the early Foucault, I’ve been debating whether there might be more to be done with the theme of political ceremony. Of course, as with my work on territory, even the historical relates to the present moment. The other main project, which will at least be a paper or two, is on terrain, the materiality of territory, with conceptual as well as political overtones. I’ve been struggling recently with trying to work out how I can possibly do both or all these different things, both in terms of time and focus.
Of course, the situation is much more serious than my own research trajectory. But the election of Donald Trump has put my personal tension in very stark focus. Now that Trump has been elected, as with the vote to leave the EU, I dearly hope that the worst fears are not realised. But I sense that the themes of geopolitics, global disorder, territorial struggles and so on are going to be crucial topics for the foreseeable future.