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Terror and Territory

The Spatial Extent of Sovereignty

2009
Author:

Stuart Elden

Terror and Territory

A timely analysis of the contemporary state of territory

From so-called deterritorialized terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda to U.S.-led overthrows of existing regimes in the Middle East, the relationship between territory and sovereignty is under siege. Unfolding an updated understanding of the concept of territory, Stuart Elden shows how the contemporary “war on terror” is part of a widespread challenge to the connection between the state and its territory.

By his focus on how territory animates world politics, Stuart Elden demonstrates how far we are from the borderless world of popular fantasy. More specifically, in this deftly argued and richly emprical book, he shows how, in responding to 9/11 as an act of war, the US government, through its association of al Qaeda with the Afghan Taliban and in its pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, directly undermined the very territorial integrity norm that the terror of 9/11 was held to have violated. In this way, ‘terror’ sheds light on the continuing political importance of territory.

John Agnew, author of Globalization and Sovereignty

Today’s global politics demands a new look at the concept of territory. From so-called deterritorialized terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda to U.S.-led overthrows of existing regimes in the Middle East, the relationship between territory and sovereignty is under siege. Unfolding an updated understanding of the concept of territory, Stuart Elden shows how the contemporary “war on terror” is part of a widespread challenge to the connection between the state and its territory.

Although the importance of territory has been disputed under globalization, territorial relations have not come to an abrupt end. Rather, Elden argues, the territory/sovereignty relation is being reconfigured. Traditional geopolitical analysis is transformed into a critical device for interrogating hegemonic geopolitics after the Cold War, and is employed in the service of reconsidering discourses of danger that include “failed states,” disconnection, and terrorist networks.

Looking anew at the “war on terror”; the development and application of U.S. policy; the construction and demonization of rogue states; events in Lebanon, Somalia, and Pakistan; and the wars continuing in Afghanistan and Iraq, Terror and Territory demonstrates how a critical geographical analysis, informed by political theory and history, can offer an urgently needed perspective on world events.

Awards

Association of American Geographers – 2009 Globe Book Award for Public Understanding of Geography

Royal Geographical Society’s Murchison Award for publications in political geography

Julian Minghi Outstanding Research Award from the AAG’s Political Geography specialty group

Terror and Territory

Stuart Elden is professor of political geography at Durham University, UK.

Terror and Territory

By his focus on how territory animates world politics, Stuart Elden demonstrates how far we are from the borderless world of popular fantasy. More specifically, in this deftly argued and richly emprical book, he shows how, in responding to 9/11 as an act of war, the US government, through its association of al Qaeda with the Afghan Taliban and in its pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, directly undermined the very territorial integrity norm that the terror of 9/11 was held to have violated. In this way, ‘terror’ sheds light on the continuing political importance of territory.

John Agnew, author of Globalization and Sovereignty

Stuart Elden’s book exemplifies that rich vein of geographical scholarship, generated by an unfortunate sequence of political actions and reactions. It is an important scholarly work deserving wide and careful reading. With such explorations, we can help students and others appreciate the contemporary terrain and its spatial structuring.

Environment and Planning A

Stuart Elden has written a brilliant but also a very particular engagement with the problematics of terror and territory.

Annals of the Association of American Geographers

Elden has written an important and timely book, making a strong case for the presence of territory as a continuing theme in global politics.

Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review

Terror and Territory is a timely text that helps to elucidate and bring into focus how current political geographies are both shaping and being shaped by the war on terror. This text should be a welcome addition to the bookshelves of students and scholars from a variety of disciplines who have an interest in international affairs, geopolitics, terrorism, and/or political violence.

Canadian Geographer

Stuart Elden’s Terror and Territory is an important addition to this literature, and a work that political theorists working on the concept of sovereignty must read because of its timely analysis of how spatial practices shape contemporary political logics.

Contemporary Political Theory

Terror and Territory

UMP blog Q&A: A new look at the concept of ‘territory’

4/14/2010
The recognition of the book’s potential to make an impact outside of academia was a very pleasant surprise. I’d certainly aimed to make this book accessible to a wide audience. Compared to my previous work, which had largely been on French and German political philosophy, the subject matter certainly made a difference.  I’d made a decision early on that that the theoretical issues—which certainly informed the analysis I offered—would be fairly muted in this book. There is enough in the book and especially in the notes for those interested to follow up the lines of thought. But in terms of the complexity of the events discussed in the book, there are several things to say. It’s clear that certain parts of the media simplify contemporary events, either through a belief that their complexity needs to be muted in order for their audience to understand things, or for more explicitly political reasons.
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