‘Territory without Borders‘ – my short 2011 piece published in the Harvard International Review has been translated into Turkish by Utku Özmakas. Many thanks to Utku for doing this translation – and for alerting me and the journal that the piece had disappeared. It’s now available again – both pieces open access.
The piece was written while The Birth of Territory was in production, and I try to argue that while borders are crucial – and I give some examples in 2011 that have intensified today – I try to disentangle the relation between territory and borders.
Rather, what I want to do here is to raise the question of whether we can think territory without dependence on borders. This does not mean we should conceive of a territory without borders, an imagined space which has neither limit nor end. Instead, we should stop using a notion of “border,” “boundary,” or “boundedness” as the key element to define territory, as a concept. I want to suggest that the standard definition of territory as a bordered, bounded or defined space is actually an impediment to understandings of geopolitical relations. In short, I think we need a better theory of territory. We should not take the standard definition of territory as a bounded space under the control of a group, perhaps a state, straight-forwardly. As I look back through history to trace the emergence of modern territorial notions, I hope to address two key questions. How did a singular conception of territory emerge out of the divergent systems of organization that have historically characterized global political culture? And how does that definition inform the modern understanding of global political relations?
It’s a short piece, but I give a very brief summary of the history I trace in The Birth of Territory, and connect it up to some contemporary issues.