Abstracts Vol. 28, No. 3

Special Issue: Territorialities, Identities and Movement in International Relations


The workings of political power are often regarded as a historical constant. At the same time, political power is usually associated with the quintessential modern state. It is envisioned as 'pooled up' in equivalent units of territorial sovereignty that exercise it throughout their territories and vie with one another to acquire more of it beyond their current boundaries. This paper disputes both of these contentions. The objective of the paper is to build a historicised understanding of the workings of political power for world politics by 'mapping' it from three different points of view: the first in terms of ideal-types of spatiality of power in different historical epochs, the second with respect to the ontological assumptions about statehood that presume an identity between political power and a naturalised territorial statehood, and the third with regard to the empirical conditions of movement that reinforce or undermine the association of political power with territorial statehood.

Territory and Identity in International Law: The Struggle for Self-Determination in the Western Sahara Joshua Costellino

The norm of self-determination has evolved significantly since its first expression in the American and French Revolutions. Modern self-determination re-interpreted Wilsonian norms to set the process of decolonisation in motion. In doing so however, the primacy of identity was subjugated to the requirements of territorial demarcations. Decolonisation took place within the fixed boundary regimes drawn for colonial entities. In the interests of order, these boundaries were considered sacrosanct and as a result many postcolonial entities bear little resemblance to their precolonial existence. This is well demonstrated within the Maghreb. The case of the Western Sahara has evaded resolution for more than twenty-five years despite the active interest of the international community. We shall seek to examine the problems associated with this case, and the message that it reveals with regard to the relevance of territory and identity within international legal discourse.


'Boundary' and related terms have been in use since the commencement of disciplines like Geography and History, yet their conceptualisation is relatively novel in other social sciences. Since Frederick Barth's pioneering study, the concept of ethnic boundary has shed light on the process of ethnic identity formation and maintenance. The concept has only recently been applied to the study of nationalism, an interdisciplinary field par excellence which has remained for long quite marginal to the anthropological mainstream. Drawing on the Barthian distinction between ethnic boundaries and ethnic content, this article proposes a renewed emphasis on cultural selection in nationalist mobilisations.

The main independent variable is the availability or absence of ethnic markers. A model for reassessing the role of the boundary in relation to its content is proposed. This content will be associated with two different types of ethnic mobilisation, namely violent and non-violent conflicts. The process of selection is analysed with the help of concepts derived from the study of race relations and immigration, particularly the works of Jerzy Smolicz and Heribert Gans. Examples from former Yugoslavia and other areas will shed light on the relationship between boundary-building and violence.

Racism, Desire, and the Politics of Immigration Roxanne Doty

This article examines some of the implications that post-World War II immigration from the poor countries of the South to the rich industrialised countries of the North has for conceptualising 'the state'. How should this entity be conceptualised when a cohesive political community can no longer be taken for granted and when the domestic/international divide is itself becoming increasingly blurred? I explore how the phenomenon of neo-racism is implicated in the practices that arise in response to the threat to cohesion and community that immigration is perceived to pose. In doing so I present an alternative way of understanding the state that draws upon the concept of desire as articulated by Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. This understanding moves away from the idea of the state as a fixed and concrete entity to conceptualising it as a set of practices. I illustrate the usefulness of this conceptualisation through an examination of France's responses to post-World War II immigration.


Diasporas are usually defined as ethnic groups which lack a territorial base within a given polity. Territoriality, however, is not a given. It is determined not only by such objective factors as geography, demography, and history, but also by perceptions and ideas. The degree to which a certain group is attached to the territory on which it lives is, up to a point, a political, not an empirical question. The members of a minority group may see themselves as clearly 'rooted' in the land, while the majority are unwilling to accept this claim.

These general points are illustrated by an examination of the Russian minority groups in the former Soviet republics after the break up of the unitary Soviet state. It is argued that, from very different starting points, the Russian state and the political leaders in the non-Russian Soviet successor states, somewhat ironically, have arrived at basically the same conclusion: they tend to see the Russian diaspora communities in the so-called 'near abroad' as territorially linked to Russia rather than to the countries in which these communities are actually based.

State, diaspora, and transnational politics: haiti reconceptualised Michel S. Laguerre

This essay analyses five models of state-diaspora relations (reincorporation, ethnic, economic, political opposition, and transnational) in the context of the history of Haitian immigration to the United States. It argues that these relations have contributed to a repositioning and reshaping of both diaspora and the state. The technology of the dynamics of these transnational processes will be examined in terms of the extraterritorial expansion of political constituency is and the rise of transnational grassroots organisations, in an effort to show how international migration in particular and globalisation in general have reshaped our notions of national territories and national identities.

Territory and Translocality: Discrepant Idioms of Political Identity Peter Mandaville

This article argues that international political theory requires better ways of thinking about the formation of transnational (or, as it is suggested, translocal) political identities in the wake of changing configurations of territory/political space. More specifically it identifies discrepant forms of political practice - typified by transnational communities, borderzone identities, and spiritualist movements - whose political practices problematise the dominant statist assumption of equivalence between territorial situatedness and political identity.


This study appeals to Edouard Glissant's notion of transversality in an attempt to retheorise identity, territoriality, and movement. Challenging the notion that movement and migrants exist in between hard sovereign, territorial entities, transversality allows for people's stories to fashion alternative epistemological and ontological questions for the study of international relations. Specifically, the study develops the concept of transversality and places migrant stories and histories at the centre of 'many' worlds instead of seeing them as dangerous exceptions to modernity's dominant spatial story.