GEOG 128
Geography of International Affairs

Constructing Territory


Territorialization: The way that territory is used to enable politics. The next lesson will discuss flows between spaces. In this lesson, we will cover boundary formation and management as a territorial process—and how nation-states or non-state actors direct or contest this process of territorialization.

Deterritorialization: The way in which what is believed to be a coherent nation-state loses its ability to enact the despotic and infrastructural forms of power introduced previously (in other lessons/chapters). These entities are often referred to as “failed states” and are identified as security threats. Failed states have largely lost the ability to govern effectively across the whole of their territorial extent. Furthermore, failed states are often unable to provide basic services (especially education and health care) and are ill-equipped to provide order or security for the population. Flint gives the examples of Somalia and Yemen as often cited failed states. A more recent example of a failed state might be Syria (and Iraq). It can be argued that the current civil war in Syria and the overwhelming presence of ISIS (also known as ISIL or the Islamic State) call to question the central government's ability to effectively govern the territory, or provide basic services or security to its people. This leads us to the concept and term, reterritorialization

Reterritorialization: While Flint provides examples of reterritorialization at a regional scale with the example of the creation of the European Union (EU), we can also see the practice of reterritorialization operationalized at a smaller scale. Essentially, reterritorialization happens in contrast to deterritorialization. Reterritorialization is the restructuring of a place or territory that has experienced deterritorialization. So, as the Syrian government under Basher al-Assad struggles to stay in power (against both moderate rebels, like the Free Syrian Army, supported by the US government as well as its battles against ISIS over Syrian territory and people), opposition groups have increasingly gained ground throughout Syria. The following three articles highlight some of the process of reterritorialization in portions of Syria under ISIS.

To Read

The following articles provide specific examples of the ways in which ISIS has been able to control infrastructure and distribution of basic services and utilities, collect taxes, and enforce its own strict laws and regulations in the regions it controls. Such an example sheds light on how territorialization is a process that is/can be contested. Further, it illustrates the role non-state actors can have in processes of deterritorialization as well as reterritorialization.

Life in a Jihadist Capital: Order With a Darker Side

In a Syrian City, ISIS Puts Its Vision Into Practice (NY Times)

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Has a Consumer Protection Office

A guide to how the militant group overrunning Iraq wins hearts and minds (The Atlantic)

ISIS Builds Government in Northeast Syria

(Article from the NY Post)