- Access throughyour institution
Volume 23, Issue 3,
, Pages 307-322
The intersections and conversations between feminist geography and political geography have been surprisingly few. Feminist geographers’ forays into geopolitics and international relations within political geography have been relatively rare compared to their presence and influence in social, cultural, and economic geography. Likewise, only a few political geographers concerned with IR and geopolitics have engaged with scholarship in feminist geography. In an attempt to traverse this gap, the notion of a feminist geopolitics is elaborated; it aims to bridge scholarship in feminist and political geography by creating a theoretical and political space in which geopolitics becomes a more gendered and racialized project, one that is epistemologically situated and embodied in its conception of security. Building upon scholarship in critical geopolitics, feminist international relations, and transnational feminist studies, a theoretical framework for feminist geopolitics is sketched in the first part of the paper. Feminist geopolitics represents more accountable and embodied political responses to international relations at multiple scales. Its application to pressing issues of security and mobility is illustrated in the second half of the article.
Geographers who find themselves at the crossroads of feminist and political geography have lamented the paucity of scholarship that links the two (Kofman and Peake, 1990, Staeheli, 1999). Despite on-going work to advance a thoroughly feminist political geography (Staeheli, Kofman, & Peake, 2004), the intersections between these two sub-disciplines are relative few, particularly in relation to geopolitics. I aim to strengthen these connections in this paper by making the case for a feminist geopolitics, one comprised of an embodied view from which to analyze visceral conceptions of violence, security, and mobility. While the state remains a vital subject of interrogation in relation to security, it obscures fear and violence at other scales, beyond its purview.
Feminist geography has undergone several transformations since its inception in the late 1970s and early 1980s. A largely Anglo-North American socialist feminist geography has not proven analytically powerful enough to incorporate social relations produced through differences beyond those of gender and class. A cultural turn in feminist geography has shifted more attention to spatialized processes of racialization and racism, highlighting the ways in which space and social relations are mutually constituted (Kobayashi & Peake, 1994). The rise of postcolonial feminisms, and what have been referred to as “feminist geographies of difference,” mark a cultural turn in geography since the late 1980s (Pratt, 2000). Given the dearth of feminist geographical analysis on international relations (IR), the case for a political turn in feminist geography has been made (Hyndman, 2001). Feminist geography is already inherently political in that it advocates change where social, economic, or political relations, including those of gender, are inequitable, violent, or exploitative. This political turn, however, aims to synthesize the small “p” political of feminist geography with the larger “P” political of political geography.
The main focus of this paper is not to develop further the “political” within feminist geography, but to establish common terrain between elements of feminist and political geography and generate grounds for applying feminist geopolitics as an analytical approach. I focus on feminist geopolitics at multiple scales, but without assuming that scale is pre-given or discrete as spatial units of analysis. The article provides a theoretical framework and concrete illustrations of what a feminist geopolitics might look like and how it can be done. A feminist geopolitics attends to unprecedented transnational economic integration, political transformation, and social dislocation (Dowler & Sharp, 2001). In what follows, feminist geopolitics aims to forge more accountable and material conceptions and scales of security.
Two tasks are central to the articulation of feminist geopolitics. First, I outline a theoretical framework that builds upon three diverse, extant literatures: critical geopolitics, feminist perspectives on international relations, and transnational feminist studies. Following Simon Dalby, I take critical geopolitics to be a recent radical school of geopolitics that refers not to a new theory of geography and politics, but is “broadly understood as the critical and poststructuralist intellectual practices of unraveling and deconstructing geographical and related disguises, dissimulations, and rationalizations of power” (Dalby, 1994: p. 595; see also Ó Tuathail, 1998). As Dalby (2003: p. 4) cautions, “recent debates under the rubric of critical geopolitics are always in danger of becoming discussions of social science method rather than engagements with politics, discussions of the relative merits of various theorists rather than critiques of the geopolitical reasoning in vogue in world politics.” I contend that the synthesis of critical geopolitics with feminist politics galvanizes this political engagement and strengthens the project of critically assessing dominant geopolitical discourses.
Feminist geopolitics aims to extend the work of arguably disembodied critical geopolitical analysis by (re)situating knowledge production as a partial view from somewhere (Haraway, 1991, Sparke, 2000).
Situating knowledge is the key practice grounding the imagery of vision, particularly cartographies of geopolitical alliance and enmity. Feminist geopolitics then includes embodied epistemologies and the security, or protection, of people. Embodied vision, that is to say ontologically committed, partial perspectives, may have the potential to subvert dominant geopolitical narratives, actions that might have concrete effects on the lives of people who are players in such events. Feminist geopolitics is distinguished from critical geopolitics by adding a potentially reconstructive political dimension to the crucial but at times unsatisfactory deconstructionist political impulses. In the second part of the paper, I sketch several ways in which feminist geopolitics has been brought to bear on conventional discourses of geopolitics and international relations.
There is no way to ‘be’ simultaneously in all, or wholly in any, of the privileged (subjugated) positions structured by gender, race, nation, and class… an optics is a politics of positioning (Haraway, 1991: p. 193).
The term “feminist” is employed in a broad and inclusive sense to describe analyses and political interventions that address the asymmetrical and often violent relationships among people based on real or perceived social and cultural differences. Just as there are several schools of thought within political geography, there are many feminisms, and this paper does not attempt to fix the term “feminist” in any singular manner. Gender remains a central concern of feminist politics and thought, but its primacy over other positionings is not fixed across time and place. Asymmetrical gender relations that position women as subordinate to men exist across space and time, but it would be ethnocentric, if not racist, to assume that gender is always and everywhere the primary basis of oppression, persecution, or exclusion (Anzaldua, 1987, Mohanty, 1991). Relations of class, race, caste, sexuality, religion, nationality, ethnicity, and other axes of affiliation are potentially exclusionary, discriminatory, and even violent. And while disparities based on these differences are in themselves important, it is the prevailing power relations and discursive practices that position groups of people in hierarchical relations to others based on such differences that remain critical to this feminist analysis. Building on critiques from both political geography and political science, feminist geopolitics decentres but does not dismiss state security, the conventional subject of geopolitics, and contests the militarization of states and societies (Falk, 2000). It attempts to develop a politics of security at the scale of the (civilian) body.
A feminist geopolitical imagination aims to remap realist geopolitics by interrogating scale as pre-given and discrete from other levels of analysis. The invocation of scale is critical in structuring political action (Staeheli, 1994), yet it is historically produced, variegated, and contested (Swyngedouw, 2000). Rethinking scale entails more than deconstructing dominant geopolitical narratives; it involves engaging relationally with processes that are made powerful by the existence of borders, or that appear to exist beyond borders. International borders can serve to naturalize difference, refuse political alliances, and obscure commonalities between discrete spaces and linked oppression. Spivak’s (1990) work urges us to connect local contingencies with the operation of power across borders that construct and reify difference. Studying mobility across such borders represents one tool for problematizing scale and foregrounding power relations that include, but exceed, the borders of nation-states. The analytical and political valence of deploying feminist geopolitics in relation to mobility, violence, and security is explored in the second half of the paper. By analyzing state power at a multiplicity of scales and focusing on embodied epistemologies and subjects, geographers can begin to forge a bridge between political and feminist geography.
Taylor (2000) has referred to geopolitics as the least problematized aspect of geographical knowledge, tacitly underwritten by Cold War strategy and “real world” political concerns (Agnew, 2003). The emergence of “critical geopolitics” in political geography and political science coincides with the end of the bipolar division of superpowers and their allies. Influenced by poststructuralism and responding to the realist approaches of international relations in conventional geopolitical
From theory to practice
Two interrelated analytical practices provide entry points for research related to feminist geopolitics. First, by redefining scales to employ analyses both finer and coarser than that of the nation-state and global economy, different epistemologies are produced and subjects analyzed. This approach imputes a new understanding of transnational as not only relations that traverse political borders, but as scales of analysis both coarser and finer than the nation-state. Second, by employing the
Concluding remarks on a nascent project
This paper has argued for a analytics of feminist geopolitics that is accountable to the care of bodies, one that shifts scales to include the security of state but in relation to the security and well-being of people who live in and across its borders. From the disembodied space of neo-realist geopolitics, and critical geopolitics, to the historically and geographically situated condition of peripheral subjects, a feminist geopolitics promulgates a multi-scalar approach to analyzing power
I would like to thank the editors of this special issue and of the journal as well as three anonymous referees for their comments on this manuscript. Many others asked difficult questions and offered suggestions to improve it. I am especially indebted to Matt Sparke, Vicky Lawson, Eleonore Kofman, and Lynn Staeheli who all provided feedback on the paper. I am also grateful to the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada for its support of this research program. All errors and
- M. TesfahuneyMobility, racism and geopolitics
- L. StaeheliEmpowering political struggle: spaces and scales of resistance
- M. SparkeGraphing the geo in geo-political: critical geopolitics and the re-visioning of responsibility
- J. SharpRemasculinising geo-politics? Comments on Gearoid O’Tuathail’s critical geopolitics
- J. SharpHegemony, popular culture and geopolitics: the Reader’s Digest and the construction of danger
- E. Kofman et al.Into the 1990s: a gendered agenda for political geography
Political Geography Quarterly
- J. Agnew
Geopolitics: re-visioning world politics
- N. Alarćon et al.
Introduction: between woman and nation
- G. Anzaldua
Borderlands: the new mestiza
(1987)(Video) Exploring Feminist Solidarity at the Intersections of Transnational Feminism
- T.J. Barnes et al.
Worlding geography: geography as situated knowledge
Critical geopolitics: discourse, difference, and dissent
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space
Gender and critical geopolitics: reading security discourse in the new world order
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space
The environment as geopolitical threat: reading Robert Kaplan’s “Coming Anarchy”
A feminist geopolitics?
Space and Polity
Human rights horizons: the pursuit of justice in a globalizing world
Introduction: transnational feminist practices and questions of postmodernity
Managing displacement: refugees and the politics of humanitarianism
Towards a feminist geopolitics
The Canadian Geographer
The politics of location
The coming anarchy: how scarcity, crime, overpopulation, and disease are rapidly destroying the social fabric of our planet
Jadranka Cigelj and Nusreta Sivac: efforts to bring the rapists of Bosnian women to justice
Unnatural discourse. ‘Race’ and gender in geography
Gender, Place and Culture
Feminism, gender relations and geopolitics: problematic closures and opening strategies
Globalization: theory and practice
The Spivak reader: selected works of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Power-geometry and a progressive sense of place
- Memory and the everyday geopolitics of tourism: Reworking post-imperial relations in Russian tourism to the ‘near abroad’
2022, Annals of Tourism Research
This article examines the geopolitical implications of memory production in Russian tourism to post-Soviet cities. Based on fifty qualitative interviews conducted in Tallinn, Kyiv and Almaty in 2019, it reveals how, by remembering the shared Tsarist and Soviet past, tourists rework relations to places that used to be part of their own state. Tourist memories are ambiguous, showing imperial nostalgia for a former homeland as well as recognising the significance of national independence. Bringing together perspectives from memory studies and tourism geopolitics, this article illuminates how memory is implicated in the construction of geopolitical relations and shows the significance of everyday encounters that tend to remain below the radar of researchers.(Video) Future Affairs 2019 - Livestream
- Security, violence, and mobility: The embodied and everyday politics of negotiating Muslim femininities
2022, Political Geography
- Informal sovereignties and multiple Muslim feminisms: Feminist geo-legality in Sri Lanka
2022, Political Geography
This paper argues that Muslim feminisms emerge as spatially differentiated strategies and tactics to accommodate local varieties of Muslim “informal sovereignties”. These informal sovereignties are exercised by Muslim judges, scholars and lawyers regulating Muslim marriages and divorces, based on diverse readings of the Muslim Personal Law and situated in the context of different forms of violence, such as Islamophobia and ethno-religious communalism. Comparing two districts in Sri Lanka - Puttalam and Batticaloa - the paper shows how Muslim feminist activists navigate spatially diverse forms of informal sovereignties exercised by Muslim movements and institutions, in response to locally specific political, social and economic challenges that Muslims face in the aftermath of Sri Lanka's decades-long civil war. The struggles over implementing and reforming the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA), the Muslim Personal Law in Sri Lanka, focus on Muslim women's bodies and spaces as main sites of politics. The paper thereby contributes to debates in feminist geo-legality and Muslim femininity by pointing to the need to understand the contextuality of Muslim Personal Law within Sri Lanka's varieties of lived Islam.
- U.S. anti-abortion ideology on the move: Mobile crisis pregnancy centers as unruly, unmappable, ungovernable
2022, Political Geography
Crisis pregnancy centers—anti-abortion non-profits that masquerade as abortion clinics—are increasingly using mobile units to expand their geographical and political reach. In this article, the first to consider mobile crisis pregnancy centers, we examine the methodological, epistemological, and political challenges that mobile units raise for scholars and activists alike. The mobile nature of on-the-go crisis pregnancy centers makes them difficult to both map and regulate. Taking these challenges as a starting point, we reflect on what we learned from our failure to map mobile crisis pregnancy centers. We first outline how mobile crisis pregnancy centers—the epitome of the wild, ungovernable, and unruly—call into question the glorification of these concepts in feminist and queer studies. We also suggest that mobile crisis pregnancy centers trouble the possibility of thinking feminist and political geography separately, as well as the positive affects associated with mobility in discussions of reproductive mobilities. We close with a qualitative analysis of mobile crisis pregnancy centers’ online presence, examining the particular concerns that their mobility raises in terms of race, class, and place.
- “Let us create space”: Reclaiming peace and security in a Kenyan Somali community
2021, Political Geography
This article pushes for a postcolonial, feminist critique of “anti-terrorist” securitization, that makes space for transformative peace-building. The post-9/11 securitization of the African continent builds on a long legacy of colonial conquest and racist Othering. Somalia is regularly centered here, portrayed in media and state narratives as a volatile failed state, one that produces terrorist bodies and acts. But rather than building peace, we follow others in arguing that the projects of securitization have stoked violence, intensifying discrimination against the Somali diasporic community (Mohamed, 2017; Wairuri, 2020). To counter this dominant narrative, we centre the Somali-Kenyan Awjama Cultural Centre, in the Eastleigh neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya. A particularly rich and instructive case study of peace-making through community activism, we ask: How do Somalis who use the Centre subvert racist, Islamophobic narratives and reclaim their own modes of representation? And how do these new narratives disrupt systemic violence and build peace? Demonstrating the insights of a feminist, postcolonial geographic approach, we argue that spaces like the Awjama Centre provide interpersonal support and new kinds of (self-) representation. These fundamentally disrupt single stories of Africa and of terrorism, with greater possibilities for establishing long-term embodied peace than projects of geopolitical securitization.
- Harnessing the sending state: Pragmatic improvisations and negotiated memberships of the Chinese diaspora in Laos
2021, Political Geography
As a form of state-led transnationalism, diaspora strategies have garnered much scholarly attention over the past two decades. Yet, the robust intellectual field still sees a dearth of works addressing how the power of the sending state is lived and experienced in the prosaic lives of transnationality. This paper fills the gap by examining the grounded ramifications of a specific approach that the Chinese government deploys to cultivate diaspora. It prioritizes coopting civil association leaders (hui-zhang) from populations abroad for diaspora governance. I unpack how street-level bureaucracies involved in the execution of this sending state strategy has been exploited by the Chinese entrepreneurs in Laos through qualitative fieldwork. My analysis reveals that these situated actors scrambled to set up their own diaspora associations in an attempt to make themselves hui-zhang eligible for the home country government's targeted engagement. In doing so, they accessed opportunities to appropriate and rework resources from the Chinese state for self-interested accumulation of symbolic and social capital. Both forms of capital are crucial to propel their wealth amassment in private career as intermediaries who extract commissions and kickbacks by brokering Chinese investments into Laos. Detailing these dynamics, the paper elucidates how the power of the sending state is disseminated and enacted through mundane and pragmatic improvisations of diasporic actors. Empirics presented also bring forward a nuanced understanding of the de facto convoluted relations between the Chinese government and the overseas Chinese populations.
Research articleUnderground exploration beyond state reach: Alternative volumetric territorial projects in Venezuela, Cuba, and Mexico
Political Geography, Volume 79, 2020, Article 102144
Geographic analyses have centered on how state and capitalist enterprises—often in collaboration with each other—deploy volumetric territorial strategies and processes to achieve their ends, i.e., control in the form of securitization or resource extraction. We invite an exploration of different ways voluminous environments, their flows, and ecosystems can be experienced and represented with analyses of diverse activities of cave explorers in Venezuela, Cuba, and Mexico. These activities call attention to the heterogeneity of volumetric territorial projects. By exploring and mapping subterranean spaces, cavers co-opt some of the techniques of the state and/or capitalist territorialization and commodification. But the experiences of underground exploration and even mapping exceed and sometimes contradict the motivations and effects rightfully associated with these volumetric practices. Not only are these activities deeply affective and embodied, they typically happen beyond state reach. Moreover, following cavers' explorations requires more open conceptions of both territory and voluminous spaces, and the ecological rhythms and flows that constitute them. Doing so leads to the recognition of how cavers experience and enact alternative volumetric territorial projects. In the process, some of these projects forge defiant national imaginaries, literally from below. The possibility and potential of these imaginaries come from the unique quality of subterranean exploration: only those who explore and survey passages underground know their location, extent, and at times, their content. Yet, there are dangers as well: not only are most of these projects far from emancipatory or inclusionary, they can be co-opted by state and/or capitalist enterprises. The implications of this last point are complex and potentially contradictory: while state knowledge and control of caves and karst environments may limit caver access and activities, lack of state knowledge and control may also result in these environments and their contents’ lack of protection.(Video) Socialism and the Struggle for Palestine
Research articleTowards queering the globally intimate
Political Geography, Volume 56, 2017, pp. 114-116
Research article“Making America great again”?: The fascist body politics of Donald Trump
Political Geography, Volume 54, 2016, pp. 79-81
Research articleAffective atmospheres, urban geopolitics and conflict (de)escalation in Beirut
Political Geography, Volume 61, 2017, pp. 1-10
The article joins literature on urban geopolitics and on affective atmospheres to trace the intensities of feeling that propagate during escalation and de-escalation of urban conflict in Beirut. Based on two months of fieldwork in 2010 in the Lebanese capital, it considers the deadly clashes of May 2008 between government- and opposition-affiliated militias. Political decisions and deliberate interventions involving the urban built environment before and after the clashes, contributed to propagating affective atmospheres of (de)escalation, which in turn impacted on the residents’ practical and emotional responses to violence. The paper proposes an atmospheric urban geopolitics that moves away from techno-centric, disembodied approaches to urban conflict, and that instead takes seriously the lived experiences of urban (de)escalation.
Research articleWhat we talk about when we talk about intimacy
Emotion, Space and Society, Volume 21, 2016, pp. 25-32
This essay develops a theory of interpersonal intimacy. It argues that intimacy is made up of four interrelated feeling-states: curiosity, vulnerability, empathy, and a recognition of irreducibility—that is, a recognition that one cannot ever fully know the Other, that one cannot ever completely ‘become one with the object adored’ (Woolf, 1992b, p.69). These four feeling-states operate as a carefully calibrated series of affective checks and balances; curiosity without empathy can become aggression, vulnerability without curiosity can become selfishness, empathy without uninhabitability can become self-congratulation. However, when these affects coexist, they allow for a generous orientation towards the Other, and for the Other's openness in return—in other words, they lay the groundwork for interpersonal proximity.
Research articlePolitical geographies of the object
Political Geography, Volume 33, 2013, pp. 1-10
This paper examines the role of objects in the constitution and exercise of state power, drawing on a close reading of the acclaimed HBO television series The Wire, an unconventional crime drama set and shot in Baltimore, Maryland. While political geography increasingly recognizes the prosaic and intimate practices of stateness, we argue that objects themselves are central to the production, organization, and performance of state power. Specifically, we analyze how three prominent objects on The Wire – wiretaps, cameras, and standardized tests – arrange and produce the conditions we understand as ‘stateness’. Drawing on object-oriented philosophy, we offer a methodology of power that suggests it is generalized force relations rather than specifically social relations that police a population – without, of course, ever being able to fully capture it. We conclude by suggesting The Wire itself is an object of force, and explore the implications of an object-oriented approach for understanding the nature of power, and for political geography more broadly.(Video) Kate Crawford on “Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence”
Copyright © 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.