Kate Driscoll Derickson, Lorraine Dowler, and Nicole Laliberte
Geography and international studies are both deeply rooted in masculinist, imperialist, and patriarchal ways of viewing the world. However, over the past 20 years, the increase in the number of women within these fields has planted the seeds for the introduction of feminist intervention. Feminist geography is primarily concerned with the real experiences of individuals and groups in their own localities. It can be viewed as the study of "situated knowledges derived from the lives and experiences of women in different social and geographic locations." Feminist geographers consistently seek out techniques which are in line with their feminist philosophies. Although much of the work will be categorized as qualitative, such as ethnographic fieldwork, feminist geographers recognize the need for feminist approaches in quantitative analysis, and techniques alone do not render the project feminist. Rather, feminists in geography argue that all types of data collection must recognize the power relationship between the researcher and the researched. Feminist geography also operates at the local scale and crosses to the global. This is illustrated by geographers who not only study the daily lives of women in a refugee camp but also construct theoretical arguments focused on global forces such as climate change or war in relation to the international migration of women.
Migration has always been a feature of human affairs, though in recent decades it has become a major phenomenon. In fact, the growing diversity of the European population as well as the inevitable changing of borders within the European Union (EU) reveal that Europe has become an immigration continent. These developments have, however, prompted concerns over the EU’s external borders and control of immigration, as well as the need for further inquiry by international relations scholarship. Although the regulation of immigration has received a European dimension only recently, the EU has taken steps to cooperate on the issue of immigration. The changing nature of immigration had, after all, led to a perception among European electorates that immigration was not only a demographic or an economic issue but had other dimensions. It could have multiple impacts on their societies, including welfare, social services and social cohesion. Furthermore, until recently, theories of international migration have paid little attention to the nation-state as an agent influencing the flow of migration. When the nation-state has been mentioned, attention has focused primarily on immigrant-receiving countries. Little has been written about the regulation of emigration in countries of origin. As a result, the role of the state in limiting or promoting migration is poorly understood. Though there is a growing body of scholarship attempting to address these gaps in understanding the EU’s case for immigration, there are still further avenues of research many have yet to pursue.
Critical geopolitics is concerned with the geographical assumptions and designations that underlie the making of world politics. The goal of critical geopolitics is to elucidate and explain how political actors spatialize international politics and represent it as a “world” characterized by particular types of places. Eschewing the traditional question of how geography does or can influence politics, critical geopolitics foregrounds “the politics of the geographical specification of politics.” By questioning the assumptions that underpin geopolitical claims, critical geopolitics has evolved from its roots in the poststructuralist, feminist, and postcolonial critique of traditional geopolitics into a major subfield of mainstream human geography. This essay shows that much of critical geopolitics problematizes the statist conceptions of power in social sciences, a conceptualization that John Agnew has called the “territorial trap.” Along with political geography more generally, critical geopolitics argues that spatiality is not confined to territoriality. The discursive construction of social reality is shaped by specific political agents, including intellectuals of statecraft. In addition to the scholarship that draws empirically on the rhetorical strategies of intellectuals of statecraft, there is also a rich body of work on popular geopolitics, and more specifically on resistance geopolitics or anti-geopolitics. Another emerging field of inquiry within critical geopolitics is feminist geopolitics, which shifts the focus from the operations of elite agents to the constructions of political subjects in everyday political practice. Clearly, the heterogeneity of critical geopolitics is central to its vibrancy and success.
The history of development studies as a field of academic inquiry can be traced most directly back to the Cold War era when public funding for “development studies” went hand in hand with international development as a state project, particularly in the United States. Economists, sociologists, and planners began to take the development of the “Third World” as an object of analysis, partially in response to new funding opportunities and a discursive context legitimating it as a field of study. By the 1960s, geographers began to take (so-called) “Third World” modernization and development as an object of research. Geographers’ engagement with development as intervention, and eventually the exploration of uneven global development as part of the “ebb and flow of capitalism,” can be divided into three waves. The first wave, visible in the early 1960s, took the quantitative spatial models dominant at the time in geography, such as those concerning urbanization patterns, transportation linkages, regional development, and population movement, and began to apply them to “Third World” contexts. This second wave, linked to the turn toward Marxist theory by a new generation of geographers in the 1960s, explored the uneven geography of wealth and power produced by capitalism and launched a powerful critique of development intervention as imperialism. The third wave of debates emerged in the late 1980s–early 1990s and is associated with poststructural and postcolonial critiques gaining traction at the time in geography and related disciplines.
Moving away from the conventional geopolitical analyses of territory, states, and nations, geographical research is now focused on the ways in which political identities are constituted in and through space and place, as well as the power and the marginalization associated with identity making and their implications for social justice. Poststructuralist theory problematized the fundamental premise that the literal subject is resolutely individual, autonomous, transparent, and all knowing. Feminist scholars have also insisted that the self is socially embedded and intersubjective. Meanwhile, research on geographies of gender and sexuality has emphasized the importance of embodied research. There are four prominent and inherently political themes of analysis in geographical research: nation states and nationalism; global identities; citizenship and the public sphere; and war and security. Geographers have critically examined the production and reproduction of national identity. Geographers have also focused on the contemporary transnationalization of political identity, as the mobility of people across borders becomes more intensive and extensive because of globalization. Consequently, globalization and global mobility have raised important questions around citizenship. Rethinking war and the political, as well as security, has also become a pressing task of geographers. Meanwhile, there has been a growing attention to the political identities of academics themselves, which resonates with a concern about forms of knowledge production. This concern exists alongside a critique of the corporatization of the university. Questions are being raised about whether academics can use their status as scholars to push forward public debate and policy making.
World-systems theory is a multidisciplinary, macro-scale approach to world history and social change which emphasizes the world-system as the primary (but not exclusive) unit of social analysis. “World-system” refers to the inter-regional and transnational division of labor, which divides the world into core countries, semi-periphery countries, and the periphery countries. Though intrinsically geographical, world-systems perspectives did not receive geographers’ attention until the 1980s, mostly in economic and political geography. Nevertheless, geographers have made important contributions in shaping world-systems perspectives through theoretical development and critique, particularly in the understanding of urban processes, states, and geopolitics. The world-systems theory can be considered as a sub-discipline of the study of political geography. Although sharing many of the theories, methods, and interests as human geography, political geography has a particular interest in territory, the state, power, and boundaries (including borders), across a range of scales from the body to the planet. Political geography has extended the scope of traditional political science approaches by acknowledging that the exercise of power is not restricted to states and bureaucracies, but is part of everyday life. This has resulted in the concerns of political geography increasingly overlapping with those of other sub-disciplines such as economic geography, and, particularly, with those of social and cultural geography in relation to the study of the politics of place.
Carl T. Dahlman
Extreme political violence, i.e., genocide, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes, can be examined within three explanatory frameworks important to geographical thought: nature and society; spatial identities; and geopolitics. Extreme violence is often closely associated with humanity’s failure to overcome human nature. These are fundamentally geographical concerns in the sense that they relate to geography’s central interest in humans and their environment. Scholarly works abound with Hobbesian images, often presenting primitive violence as a pervasive social condition in the absence of an effective ruler. The literature on state failure presumes the same contradiction between nature and the social-political order, but in reverse: without a conventional sovereign, social conflict emerges over basic resources. These theories suggest that the causes of extreme political violence can be identified at the intersection of nature and society, where human behavior cannot be extricated from its biological and environmental condition. Identity is understood primarily as cultural difference. Identities are an important element in any explanation of extreme political violence given that it stems from conflict between sociopolitical groups that are defined by some degree of cultural difference. Classical geopolitical analysis of extreme political violence has retained environmental and biological factors as ultimate causes. They assume that scarcity of resources and population growth drive culture, territorialism, and conflict. In contrast, contemporary and critical approaches focus on the language and action of politics, such as statecraft, diplomacy, and popular mobilization.
As a broad discipline, geography encompasses the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. However, its concerns are built around four core concepts: environment, place, space, and scale. The importance of each concept can be better appreciated by relating them to discussions on competition for environmental resources, territoriality, imperialism and international conflict, place-making within the world state system, and current global environmental issues. The study of international relations must be built on geographical foundations, which are fluid in nature as new places and spaces emerge to exploit and protect environmental resources as well as local cultural, social, and political sensitivities; this results in continually changing geographies. Many states are often termed nation-states because their populations have a separate national identity (an “imagined community”) linked to the state’s territory—they are geographical places. Such an identity is considered necessary to the state apparatus successfully implementing its major functions, such as guaranteeing social integration and the welfare of all. The system of territorially defined states is affected by globalization, giving rise to a growing concern about environmental change that is global in scope. In order to tackle global environmental problems, several issues need to be addressed, including the recognition that an associated problem exists; identification of resources necessary for tackling the problem; winning acceptance for the proposed solution; gaining political commitment to the solution; implementation of the solution; and evaluation of the implementation.
The problem of international migration is that global cooperation is somewhat rare. If international cooperation is to develop, then it will depend on states; but effective cooperation would also impose real constraints on states. Moreover, as states and their borders give meaning to international migration, it follows that the development, consolidation, and transformation of the state system is a key factor determining the possibilities for the global and regional governance of migration to develop. Existing forms of regional integration and their migration provisions as well as regional consultation processes (RCPs) can serve as a mechanism for intraregional communication, the sharing of knowledge, and for the dissemination of policy ideas and practices. The EU has already been discussed as the world’s most highly developed form of regional integration. It is the only international organization with the power and capacity to make and implement laws through its own institutional system that must be implemented by member states. The EU moreover has a highly developed system of internal free movement for nationals of its own states and has developed a border-free travel area for participating states. These developments constitute the hallmark of a highly developed intra-EU migration framework linked to the creation of the “single market.”
Brad K. Blitz
Evidence shows that international flows of highly skilled workers are increasing, both between advanced states and between advanced and developing regions. The movement of skilled people around the globe is driven by a variety of political forces, including governments’ continued efforts to address domestic labor shortages and restock through preferential immigration policies and international recruitment drives. For social scientists, the unprecedented movement of highly skilled labor across the globe calls into question earlier approaches to the study of migration. Where international highly skilled workers were treated in the classical sociological literature on migration as a small population that reflected both the potential for human capital transfers between states and, more controversially, a corresponding “brain drain” from source countries, the realities of transnational migration now complicate this picture. The expansion of the European Union and other forms of regional cooperation have given rise to important trade liberalizing agreements, producing a truly global migration market and the policy context for much contemporary research. More studies are needed to tackle issues relevant to the study of skilled migration, such as estimates of skilled migrants, longitudinal studies of circular migration, and analyses of the differentiation of migrants by occupational group and country of origin, along with the relative access that such groups enjoy in the receiving state.