Reclaiming Democracy - Political Being in Geopoliticised Contexts

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: War Studies


From the so-called European 'refugee crisis', to the occupation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia to Transatlantic surveillance practices colonising digital space, this thesis takes issue with the employment of cynical realpolitik to make sense of political events, stressing the causal relationship between geography and politics. Such political practice is considered as "'truth' in world politics" which seemingly persists in world history. Despite academic deconstruction and critique of geographical-determinist accounts, practitioners as well as leading think tanks continue to frame international politics as realpolitik and fail to find alternative ways to think about the nexus of territory, bureaucracy of power, and population. This thesis further develops my current master's thesis about the annexation and occupation of the Crimean peninsula, which takes issue with precisely this geopolitical imaginary prescribed as a 'law of modernity'. What is at stake in this geopoliticised representation? It seems that it is democratic political space and political subjectivities that become whitewashed and objectified in the process of their geopolitisation. This thesis aims to explore precisely this tension between the geopolitical imaginary and citizenship practices.

Based on this unease about the prioritisation of territory over peoples, the overarching question of this thesis is: How are 'political subjectivities' configured in geopoliticised contexts? It seems as if territory has been inhabited by the dominant political forces of policy-makers, bureaucratic elites and political advisors, rather than peoples. This not only silences the effects on people's everyday lives, but also their resistance practices and acts of citizenship which constitute processes that configure political subjectivities in such contexts, as most prominently theorised by Engin Isin. Ironically, while the geopolitical imaginary claims and constantly monopolises the realm of politics, a view at its effects on peoples reveals the opposite: the geopolitical imaginary depoliticises the space its imaginary encompasses. John Agnew traces the development of geopolitics as a form of global thinking which emerged in conjunction with the nation-state. This modern geopolitical imagination is constructed by a rational observer who is detached from the world, framing "the world as apart from and prior to the places and peoples it contains" (2003: 26). Moreover, local dynamics are only mentioned with reference to the global, otherwise they are deemed irrelevant (ibid: 27). This thesis takes issue with these dynamics that erase the local and peoples from the geopolitical picture.

In order to understand the political implications of such practices, we have to shift from this geopolitical gaze to taking into account acts of citizenship as they unfold in those sites: migrants resisting the securitisation of borders, Crimean peoples protesting the homogenisation of the peninsula by an occupying power, and digital citizens and whistle-blowers spearheading the resistance against surveillance practices.

In sum, the focal point of this project is the nexus of territory, peoples, and politics, with the aim of assessing how political subjectivities are configured in this co-constitutive relation between the geopolitical imaginary and citizenship practices. This also challenges the separation between the social and the political, which social movement analysis and transnationalism tend to neglect, as this scholarship focuses solely on social aspects of citizenship and migration, rather than explicating the power relations at place. By granting the everyday and the local political significance, new political questions come to the fore. In espousing an International Political Sociology approach, this thesis will take the international not just as a level of analysis, but as an interconnection between processes, practices and relations.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
1918537 Studentship ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 30/03/2021 Alvina Hoffmann