CfP: Political Geologies: Earth Sciences and Subterranean Territorialization (AAG 2018)

CfP: Political Geologies: Earth Sciences and Subterranean Territorialization – Association of American Geographers meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana; April 10-14, 2018

Organizers: Andrea Marston (UC Berkeley); Matt Himley (Illinois State University)

Sponsors: Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group; Political Geography Specialty Group

Session Description:

Recent publications have called for geographers to attend to the “verticality” and “volume” of space, including the air, oceans, and subsoil (Weizman 2007, Elden 2013, Adey 2015, Grundy-Warr et al. 2015, Steinberg and Peters 2015). Much of this work has explored volumetric space from a geopolitical perspective, emphasizing the optical techniques used to render space visible, governable, and in some cases marketable. Although perhaps inattentive to the lived experiences of three-dimensional space (Harris 2014), as a corpus this work directs attention to the scientific and technological practices through which volumetric space is known, secured, and exploited, and thus the role of these practices in the making of territory (Bridge 2013).

In this session, we build on this work with a focus on the technosciences of subterranean territorialization, aiming to encompass the political/governmental, economic/commercial, and social/meaningful aspects of territorial production. While attempting to understand earth’s “deep history” and “inner structure,” geological exploration has long been linked to the production of colonial and capitalist spaces (Stafford 1990, Frederiksen 2013). Capitalist expansion relies on metals and fossil fuels buried in the subsoil, and the production of subterranean resources has gone hand in hand with the inventorying of colonial natures and colonized peoples. These interlinked processes have produced “geological landscapes” and cultivated geological senses of regional and national belonging (Braun 2000, Shen 2014). In conjunction with archeology and paleontology, geology provides earthy depth to national historical narratives, while subsoil engineering transforms such “natural inheritance” into promises of future progress. On (and in) the ground, “geologic subjects” (Yusoff 2013) continue to produce and consume the products of the subsoil, through their daily actions rendering these subterranean resources the literal bedrock of capitalist modernity.

We invite papers that explore the sciences and technologies of subterranean territorialization as they relate to questions of governance, exploitation, and belonging. Potential topics include but are not limited to:

• Politics of subterranean knowledge production
• Earth sciences and imperial expansion
• Relationship between colonial ordering of people and subsoil natures
• Earth sciences and state formation/national territorialization
• Role of earth sciences in territorial conflicts
• “Everyday verticalities” (Harris 2014) of the subsoil

Please submit your abstract of no more than 250 words to Andrea Marston ( and Matt Himley ( by October 9th.

Note: This session will have a discussant. Presenters will be asked to submit a written paper several weeks before the conference.

Full details here


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