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In libreria

Territories, Environments, Politics. Explorations in Territoriology

Edited By Andrea Mubi Brighenti, Mattias Kärrholm

27 gennaio 2023
Versione stampabile

While the globalisation debate of the 1990s largely pivoted around a ‘general deterritorialisation’ hypothesis, since the 2000s it has become apparent that, rather than effacing territories, global connections are added to them, and represent a further factor in the increase of territorial complexity. Key questions follow, such as: How can we further the knowledge around territorial complexities and the ways in which different processes of territorialisation co-exist and interact, integrating scientific advances from a plurality of disciplines? Where and what forms does territorial complexity assume, and how do complex territories operate in specific instances? Which technological, political and cultural facets of territories should be tackled to make sense of the life of territories? How and by what different or combined methods can we describe territories, and do justice to their articulations and meanings? How can the territoriological vocabulary relate to contemporary social theory advancements such as ANT, the ontological turn, the mobilities paradigm, sensory urbanism, and atmospheres research? How can territorial phenomena be studied across disciplinary boundaries? Territories, Environments, Politics casts a fresh perspective onto a number of key contemporary socio-spatial phenomena. Refraining from the attempt to ossify territoriology into some disciplinary straightjacket, the collection aims to illustrate the scope of current territoriological research, its domain, its promises, its theoretical advancements, and its methodological reflection in the making.

The collection seeks to illustrate the state of the art in territoriological research, both empirical and theoretical. The volume gathers together a series of original, previously unpublished essays exploring the newly emerging territorial formations in culture, politics and society.

Andrea Mubi Brighenti is professor at the Department of Sociology and Social Research of the University of Trento

Mattias Kärrholm is professor at the Department of Architecture and the Built Environment, of Lund University.

From Introduction: The Stake of Territories (pagg. 1-4)

The enduring significance of territories in the current historical context

First conceived in the mid-twentieth century, territoriology – the science of territories – is currently being re-appreciated as a research approach and theory. In this context, this volume seeks to contribute to an on-going conversation revolving around a number of renewed approaches to territories. While not representing a unified disciplinary field, territoriology offers a distinctive take on the possible collaboration between the social and the natural sciences. In the light of contentious contemporary challenges in the fields of politics and the ecology, of environmental changes and newly emerging patterns of urban life, and of an increasingly complex balance between technology and ethics, territoriology offers a contribution to analyse the interplay between space, social interaction, biological processes, social imagination, local attachment and global governance. In the social sciences, territory has been a central tenet of spatial political modernity, in connection to the administration of a population that was supposed to become progressively ‘landed,’ ‘settled,’ ‘housed,’ ‘schooled,’ etc. In the natural sciences, on the other hand, territory has been extensively investigated by ethological research as a type of behaviour – in this case, ‘territoriality’ has been defined as the relation the social animal entertains with an environment that appears imbued with social valences. Current territoriology, as we also seek to pursue it through this volume, incorporates all these various insights, and furthers them in the fields of human geography, sociology, anthropology, politics, architecture, urban planning and beyond.

Since 2020, the global pandemic scenario has powerfully brought back the reality of territories into the public debate, not only in terms of managing human mobility and border crossing, but also in terms of structuring healthcare organisations, supporting education and psychological wellbeing, sustaining the economy, adapting lifestyles in ways previously unseen in living memory. Concurrently, however, the continuing significance of territories also inherently reveals the limits of the classic model of the territorial state. More than ever before, our geographical imagination needs to be liberated from the still dominating state model of territoriality, in order to embrace multiple territorial formations and territory-making activities. Here again, the pandemic has highlighted the significance of territories at multiple scales and in multiple formats, ranging from self-disciplining practices (the control of one’s touch and breath) to interpersonal distance management (‘social distancing’ protocols etc.), from the sorting of access to facilities and spaces (‘health passports’ etc.), through transformation of entire economic sectors (educational, cultural and recreational activities etc.), to the reconfiguration of global hegemonies (the Chinese model of epidemic control, etc.).

If there is one aspect of territories that comes powerfully to the foreground in the current historical context, it is their complexity – where, by complexity, we mean their multidimensional and dynamic nature – their ‘immanent constitution,’ as we suggest calling it. Facing territorial complexity is the starting point for any serious attempt at analysing contemporary territory-making activities. Whereas the globalisation debate of the 1990s largely pivoted around a ‘general deterritorialisation’ hypothesis, since the 2000s it has become apparent that, rather than effacing territories, global connections are in fact being superposed onto them: networks do not ‘deny’ territories, rather, they represent a further factor in the increase of the overall territorial complexity. It is in this sense that the reality of territories has been brought back by not only the pandemic, but more amply, the global ecological and climate crisis, and all the ‘anthropocenic’ transformations we are living through (with the pandemic being just an instance of a more general critical situation). All these challenges indeed evoke the problem of the ‘carrying capacity’ of territories, in the context of the demographics of a planet that has never been so populated before – with the population factor, in turn, constituting only one among the many issues that, in various ways, today evoke problems of ‘measure.’

Once we are able to reframe territories as processes rather than stretches of land, as social programmes and (to borrow from Bachelard) instances of ‘material imagination,’ they indeed appear as crucial sites for analysis, as they proceed through cycles of production, stabilisation and transformation. Whether one studies the life of an urban street corner or a protest movement that communicates online and then takes to the streets, whether one tackles mundane, everyday shopping wayfaring through urban public space – which again, in pandemic times is not so mundane after all – or the geography of commercial drones as they are deployed in the aerial milieu of periurban and suburban zones, whether one studies the transhumance of African herders or the action of community-based organisations in Detroit neighbourhoods, one is inevitably confronted with the on-going reformulations of territory-making activities, of territorial politics and management, of territorial significations and feelings, as well as territorial explorations and experimentations. This way, territories appear as, in the end, an intrinsic component of social life: more than places and spaces, they encapsulate practices, rhythms, respirations, patterns, formats, desiderata, expectations, affections, explorations, drifts, dreams, melodies.

The proposition that we and the contributors to this volume advance is that territories need to be conceived of in not only legal, political, topographic and ‘identitarian’ ways (all dimensions that certainly matter!), but must also be attended in additional terms: namely, in terms of volumes and depths, in terms of materials and their arrangements – in sum, in terms of the life they are capable of enabling, supporting and fostering. Territories are ways in which it becomes possible to establish and strengthen forms of what Les Roberts in this volume calls ‘connectedness with the world.’ From this perspective, territories appear as social attempts conducted inside shared environments, with unfolding potentials for connections, expectations, observations, and interactions. Contemporary politics, as we know, is haunted by ‘possessional,’ exclusionary, revanchist and conflictual stances, which nourish a reactionary imagination of territories. While such imagination certainly intersects real concerns and anxieties, it is short-sighted and insufficient. Once we are able to develop a richer notion of territory-making, we come to realise that identitarian, exclusivist and conflictual elements only represent a small fraction of the whole life of territories. What remains excluded from the classic territorial narratives is, accordingly, what we set out to explore here.

The hypothesis that grounds this volume is that territorial complexity acts as a spur to advance new ways of researching spatialised social life. Among other things, territories offer the chance to expand our research methodology. Territorial complexity, as we have seen above, derives from the superposition of a series of plural, incommensurable logics, dynamics, modes of existence within, and engagement with, local environments that are quintessentially shared – or social, as we are wont to say. This means that research into the many ways of territory-making must be equipped with an adequately rich and imaginative theoretical-methodological toolkit. Here is where the chance is given us to retrieve a wide range of sources of inspiration: whether it is earlier classical social theory or seemingly defunct research programmes such as human ethology, whether it is heterodox research traditions such as psychogeography or more fashionable and contentious epistemologies such as the non-anthropocentric approaches to the social sciences, whether it is the elemental philosophy of Gaston Bachelard or the literary visions of J. G. Ballard, out of which Les Roberts develops his own ‘deep territoriology,’ we are offered plenty of possibilities.

Courtesy by Routledge.