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Critical Geopolitics Notes

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*Cross-reference - PO219 Realism & Neorealism; Postcolonialism; Post-structuralism; Theorizing the Post-Cold War Era; Theorizing Terrorism;
Environmental Politics & Green Theory // PO230 David Ricardo // PO203 Sustainable Development


1. What new perspectives does critical geography offer for theorizing international relations?
'Critical geopolitics has failed to challenge traditional IR in any meaningful way'. Discuss.

2. Critically assess Huntington's 'clash of civilizations'. [2013]
'Huntington's 'Clash of Civilizations' thesis is not just theoretically problematic but poses a danger in international politics'. Discuss,

3. To what extent is the post-Cold War world defined by war between civilizations? [2016]
'Rather than witnessing an 'end of history', the post-Cold War period has been characterized by a rise in terrorism from failed states and a clash of civilizations'. Discuss. [2017]

Geography is invariably about power. The physical geographic inheritance of a state such as its locality, topography, resource endowment and border demarcations, are not isolated products of Mother Nature, but of the perennial struggle between competing authorities to negotiate, occupy and administer global space. The centrality of 'space' and 'territory' reflects a ubiquitous feature of the human political experience (i.e. everything occurs somewhere). For example, governance entails making and enforcing laws upon people located within a spatially-bounded area. Westphalian sovereignty, by extension, is defined as the right to absolute authority over domestic matters within a nation-state, territorial integrity and external noninterference.
Geo (Earth, the material environment, 'nature') + Politics (an exclusionary practice which distinguishes 'Self' from 'Other')
Geopolitics refers to the 'impact of geographical distributions and divisions on the conduct of world politics' [Agnew] and the shaping of strategic trajectories; artificial delineations of power on a material surface. Modern usages of the term however,
reveal a more critical engagement in which practitioners view geopolitical representations as another manifestation of power,
insidiously exploited to preserve hegemonic narratives and justify imperialist foreign policy.
Point of departure: What constitutes 'world'? *
'Understanding the political world greatly depends on how we define that world in the first place' [Karl Dodds]. The way we perceive the world is contingent upon how we are historically socialized into understanding and internalizing 'truths' about the world.

Classical - Encourages deeper appreciation for the legacies and 'dictates' of geography from which a more consistent account of world politics may be procured for purposes of state policy-formation. Its dominant modes of narration are declarative ('this is how the world is'), followed by imperative ('this is what we must do') [Toal], thus resonating with realism*. The survival prospects of a nation-state amidst international anarchy are grounded in its 'relative power', i.e.
military capacity or territorial expansion.

Critical* - The practice of destabilizing the power infrastructures and ontological/epistemological assumptions enmeshed in dominant 'meta-narratives' which perfuse formal geopolitical discourse. In the words of Gerard Toal,
'geopolitics is not about power politics: it is power politics...a political practice of earth-writing.'


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