Manifesto: Geography, Politics, and Violence

I am a recent MSc Graduate Politics and International Relations, before which I attained a BA(Hons) in Geography.

The combination of these two subjects has provided me, I think, with a fairly unique perspective – though of course the cross-section denoted by the hybrid term ‘Geo-politics’ is one with a long history. But of course, I would be unwise to blot out the fact that this history has not only been long, but also controversial. In fact, when I announced my previous degree in the first seminar of a political philosophy module, the lecturer, half-joking, denounced me as a fascist.

I believe that in this word he displayed an ignorance towards the way in which geography has morphed; opened up as an academic discipline and, further, as a practical tool of activism and the left over the past decades. It is an ignorance that nonetheless remains all too common, and geography too remains a discipline that is finding its feet, and finding its boundaries or, rather, finding and coming to terms with the fact that it has no boundaries. It is a fact that history, still comfortable to divide its object – time – into neat, linear segments, is far from recognising.

It is true though, that geography’s heritage lies in the fascist project of making boundaries; quite literally, in the colonial project of drawing borders on maps. That is why the taunt familiar to all who have called themselves ‘geographer’ – the taunt of “colouring in” – holds a meaning far darker and heavier than those saying it consider. Colouring in, after all, was what colonial powers did…it just so happened that the only coloured-pencil they owned was pink.

This is why the use of geography as a tool for deconstructing such boundaries and borders; for destroying staid placings and (re-)opening spaces to the dispossessed, the repressed, and the depressed is so fascinating to me – it has the potential to be a truly subversive thing.

What I post here will thus cover whatever jumps out at me from current affairs and political theory that can be re-thought, or thought with a greater potential for change, through a currently absent or misunderstood grasp on spatial politics. However, my focus, because I have to have one, is drone warfare. I completed my masters dissertation on media portrayals of drones, and it remains in my eyes one of the most worrying, dangerous and brutal technologies of violence in existence today.

I will not give an entire historical account of their use here – though I can hopefully provide that gradually via my posts – but what is most important to know is that the production and use of drones, for both military and civilian purposes, is growing at an alarming rate, and without enough public knowledge or consent, nor enough legal regulation. The US, UK and Israel are currently at the forefront, but numerous other nations and organisations – provided for by a money-laden private manufacturing and research sector – are joining the fun in a global drone arms race.

On the military front – characterised also by a growing number of fronts – drones offer the promise of war without risk. That is of course, war without risk for the aggressor. Therefore, they threaten to create a situation in which violence, particularly that waged by the strong upon the weak, can be inflicted without the public and legal spheres’ cries for accountability.

It is this term – accountability – upon which this blog will centre; circling round it and passing through it again and again. Accountability is geographical: it can be demanded, given, taken away or denied according to the spaces, distances and media – visual, oral, tactile, physical, virtual – across which violence flows.

 

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