Tag Archives: Territory

“Discipline is exercised on the bodies of individuals, and security is exercised over a whole population” (M. Foucault)

I am currently writing a book chapter with Lucas Melgaço about informational territorialisation and the complex aspects of the relationship between actions that happen dispersed and splintered over networks of data such as the Internet, and the physical (topological) bounds to those actions.

Part of this paper is focused on discussing the meaning of sovereignty and how this concept is inherently attached to a demarcation of territories through precise boundaries and symbolic elements of identity. The idea is to confront this notion of controlled territories to what goes on online, in the so-called cyberspace, and to analyse various attempts by governments and corporations to transfer their sovereign powers on to the informational space, in the making of informational territories.

I am saying all this because Foucault, in his series of lectures on security, territory and population, relates the constitution of territory to the spatialization of social control and security by showing how the exercise of power is applied in space. This is where I got today’s message from, as for him, “sovereignty is exercised within the borders of a territory, discipline is exercised on the bodies of individuals, and security is exercised over a whole population”.

I will say more about my chapter with Lucas as soon as it comes out…

Day 75: "Discipline is exercised over individuals' bodies [...] security is exercised over the whole population" (M. Foucault)

Day 75: “Discipline is exercised over individuals’ bodies […] security is exercised over the whole population” (M. Foucault)

Who has the rights to be where, when and how?

This message is, in fact, a quote by sociologist Paul Jones during an interview to Mark Townsend for his interesting article published by the Guardian titled “Will privatisation of UK cities rip out their hearts?” earlier this week.

This is part of a series of articles by the Guardian on the privatisation of public spaces in the UK. Townsend’s article focused on Liverpool and its central Liverpool One private development which, obviously, resembles any other privatised development in London or elsewhere in Britain: clean, full of nice cafés, sanitised, and with its own rules when it comes to public gatherings, skating, biking, and, as they usually say, inappropriate “anti-social behaviour”.

The discussion is timing and relevant, as real public spaces are being squeezed to a few ones surrounded by a merchandised city private companies, groups and individuals assume control of large portions of urban land, dictating the kind of behaviour they expect from people “publicly” using “their” places. Then, the issue raises questions about the legitimacy of publicness in today’s city and about the rights to access, experience and share open spaces.

In the end it is, indeed, as Paul Jones stated in his interview, about asking local authorities and city makers “who has the rights to be where, when and how?”. This is the kind of question to be asked when private developers assume every citizen is a potential customer who should have their rights restricted in deciding whether to consume Cocal-Cola or Pepsi, or to go to Starbucks or Costa!

These are times when I caught myself rethinking about a concept I really never liked,  Marc Augé’s famous non-place idea, which he uses to describe, very shortly, homogenised spaces in supermodernity times. Analogously, and using another quote from Townsend’s piece, Anna Minton resonates this notion of places without identity while commenting about Liverpool One:

“But then Liverpool One is not for the people of Liverpool, it’s basically a regional centre where you can drive straight into an underground car park, come out for an all-day shopping experience, head back and not even know you’ve been in Liverpool. It’s like a hermetically sealed bubble that could be anywhere in the world.”

Day 74: Who has the rights to be where, when and how?

Day 74: Who has the rights to be where, when and how?

I connect, therefore I am!

This is how André Lemos and I attempt to discuss, on a recently published paper, what we call informational territorialization, when the power to connect can determine position and ownership in space. The title of the paper is “I connect, therefore I am: places, locales, locations and informational territorialization” and, in our own words:

“We seek to build an understanding of how to think through the different forms of spatiality (territorialization, placemaking, locales, locations, etc.), and the recent developments in the human experience with information and communication technologies, especially those most directly related to, or dependent on, geolocational and control functions.”

What we try to do in this article is to, first, clarify the conceptual boundaries between location, locale, and place, and then reflect on how these geographical dimensions behave in the face of communication, information and the various possibilities of territorialization.

Day 71: I connect, therefore I am!

Day 71: I connect, therefore I am!

Territory is a “political technology”!

Inspiration of today’s message came from the excellent article by Stuart Elden on territorialities titled “Land, Terrain, Territory”. Elden examines the concept of territory beyond the traditional biological and social uses of the term. Territory is approached from the point of view of a sociotechnical construction for the demarcation of land and terrain. Ellen’s work is way too complex to be explained in a few sentences and a couple of paragraphs, so I leave this with his own words and recommend the reading of his very interesting paper…

“Territory can be understood as a political technology: it comprises techniques for measuring land and controlling terrain. Measure and control – the technical and the legal – need to be thought alongside land and terrain. Understanding territory as a political technology is not to define territory once and for all; rather it is to indicate the issues at stake in grasping how it was understood in different historical and geographical contexts.”

Day 70: Territory is a "political technology"!

Day 70: Territory is a “political technology”!

Free Assange!

The message could hardly be other than something related to today’s announcement that Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, is near to end his enforced stay at the Equatorial Embassy later this weak. The UN body on arbitrary detention will rule on Assange’s case on Friday morning. Assange said he will come out either way – free to fly to Ecuador or to be escorted to prison in Britain (and then Sweden). He will step out Friday at noon if the UN rules against his case, but also demands his passport back and free way to Ecuador in case it rules otherwise.

The case of is notorious for the links between the attempts, by many governments but mainly the US, to stop Wikileaks doing what it is famous for (leaking top secret documents and cables), and the person (body and mind) of its founder. Many facts and documents to this story can be found at justice4assange.com.

I’ve written about the uncommon territorial connections of this story in a paper published in Portuguese a few years ago (I am currently writing an update and expanded version in English) called “Territory and Materiality: Wikileaks and the Control of the Informational Space”. I believe that what is happening to Assange/Wikileaks and, more recently, to Ed Snowden, can also be inspected through the lens of the association between surveillance and space, which will help us further understand important aspects in the geography of surveillance, international/domestic legislation, and geopolitics.

The world (and Jeremy) is waiting to see the end of this three-and-a-half-year drama, hopefully in favour of Assange.

Day 65: Free Assange! justice4assange.com

Day 65: Free Assange! justice4assange.com

Get out of your “territorial bubble”!

Another message based on territorial control and how boundaries are managed, sometimes by law and regulations, sometimes by negotiations between potential insiders and outsiders. Although the definition of a territorial boundary may not always involve a final agreement by all parts involved, there is a mutual recognition about the portion of the space being on dispute, and the possibilities for border and boundary interpretations. It’s a power struggle, so a dispute might go on for years and years without a consensus (see the cases of nation-states and disputes like the one between North and South Korea, Spain and Catalonia or the Basque Country, and so on).

Obviously, territorial control is not only about nation-states and disputes involving spatial jurisdiction and boundaries definition can happen in many different scales. In the article that served as an inspiration for today’s message, “The S.U.V. model of citizenship: floating bubbles, buffer zones, and the rise of the “purely atomic” individual”, Don Mitchell explains how much blurriness and confusion can exist when we try to understand these kinds of controversy. On his analysis of the relationship between territory and citizenship, Don starts with the case of a court ruling in the US which defined spatial buffers and bubbles around health clinics and people, respectively, in order to avoid forms of protests that include person to person interaction. Don explains that:

“The law creates two kinds of bubbles. First, it establishes a one-hundred-foot radius buffer zone around health clinic entrances. Second, within that buffer zone, it establishes an eight-foot floating bubble around each person who enters, a bubble that cannot be pierced for the purposes of politically charged conversation, leafleting, “education,” and so forth.”

This is a very interesting idea to explain some socio-spatial experiences and also resonates Sloterdijk’s theory that uses the metaphor of spheres and foams to engage in the debate of securitised spaces, fear and paranoia.

Day 63: Get out of your "territorial bubble"!

Day 63: Get out of your “territorial bubble”!

How do you control “your boundaries”?

Last week, I had a very nice and informative walk around the City of London to “see” the boundaries and spatial control strategies for the ring of steel. I thank Henrietta Williams for kindly accompanying me and for explaining everything she knows about this famous urban territory, created in the 1990s to secure the financial core of London against, at that time, bomb attacks by the IRA.

Sentry box on the ring of steel

Sentry box on the ring of steel

Jon Coaffee has written many important papers describing the different material and immaterial (technological, political) strategies put in place at the Square Mile (one of the names by which the City is also known) since the 1990s to maintain the ring of steel in place, motivated by ever changing domestic and foreign threats to the security of the powerful businesses situated in this area.

Another interesting work I came across was one by Camilo Amaral on the (re)production of urban enclosures in London – “Urban Enclosure: Contemporary Strategies of Dispossession and Reification in London’s Spatial Production” (2015, unpublished) –, where he analyses various strategies for dispossession and land control in recent urban developments in the English capital. The idea of “tangled control” is particularly useful to understand the material and immaterial forms through which private corporations manage and take control of privatised public areas. It also helps us debate the limits between public and private spaces in the contemporary city. According to Camilo,

“The institution of multiple specific rules, with each place imposing a different set of use norms (such as prohibition of bikes, drinking, or the necessity of leaving a licence on a parking vehicle) transforms the city into an intertwined set of tangled orbits of hierarchy and control.”

I have been revisiting these and other works about securitising urban spaces because of my recent interest in territorial/boundaries control. This has been at the core of my recent work and I am trying to see if there’s any ground for comparison between what is happening in the UK and Brazil with regards to privatised public spaces and the territorial changes triggered by this swap in landownership. So, more to come in this theme soon…

Day 62: How do you control "your boundaries"?

Day 62: How do you control “your boundaries”?

Splintering surveillance and new forms of territory

This was a message to try and call attention to my public lecture on the same day for the Situating Architecture seminar series. The lecture was great with good attendance and clever questions at the end. Thanks to the situating architecture people and all those who attended!

Day 38: Splintering surveillance and new forms of territory (www.bit.ly/urblab)

Day 38: Splintering surveillance and new forms of territory (www.bit.ly/urblab)

“Splintering surveillance and invisible territories”. I’ll mention you, Jeremy!

“Splintering Surveillance as a New Territorial Layer?” (Situating Architecture Lecture Series, UCL), Dec 7th 7pm at The Bartlett School of Architecture.

Click here for more information about this talk.

Day 36: "Splintering surveillance and invisible territories". I'll mention you, Jeremy! bit.ly/urblab

Day 36: “Splintering surveillance and invisible territories”. I’ll mention you, Jeremy! bit.ly/urblab