Migrations and Mobilities Sub-Project Workshop entitled ‘Questioning territory: extending concepts of territory through engagement with experience, affect, and embodiment’ – March 2019 in Albany, NY



Questioning territory: extending concepts of territory through engagement with experience, affect, and embodiment

Friday, March 8, 2019

University at Albany, State University of New York

Sponsored by the Leverhulme Trust Ice Law Project International Network


What could be the promise of a territory thus made “other,” this territory under tension whose quality or value would depend on the quality and value of the relationship with others? (Gardey 2016: 128)

Put differently, it shifts attention away from an emphasis on control over territory and towards a consideration of how power works through territory, the political and conceptual work that the term does, and how it shapes prospects for social justice (Bryan 2012: 216).

Feminist geographers have long been concerned with the differential impacts of the intersections of power and space: indeed, Hyndman (2001: 210) concludes that a feminist geopolitics must be characterized by re-scaling geopolitical analysis to account for these differential impacts. Theories of embodiment that consider it as a strategic methodological, theoretical, and geographically situated positioning have allowed geographers to explore the everyday and embodied relationships that constitute concepts such as sovereignty, citizenship and the state (Mountz 2004; Coddington et al. 2012). Theories of affect and feminist geographies of emotion have similarly allowed geographers deconstruct concepts such as nationalism, imperialism, and race (Closs-Stephens 2016; Tolia-Kelly 2016). Similarly, a focus on lived experience has allowed geographers to consider the human implications of wider narratives of national security and humanitarianism (Hiemstra forthcoming; Williams 2015). Meanwhile, geographers and other social scientists continue to expand upon Elden’s (2013) investigation of the historical roots of the concept of territory (Peters et al. 2018), focusing on the political geographic implications of fluidity (Steinberg and Peters 2015), exclusion of non-citizens (Culcasi 2017; Maillet et al. 2018) and property (Blomley 2016) for the notion of territory. Smith et al. (2015: 3) bring these two strands of thinking together, using feminist geographical understandings of intimacy to argue that, “embodied practices and the materiality of bodies affect and are inseparable from the production and maintenance of territory” but other scholarship using feminist geographical frameworks to better understand the times, spaces, and power relations entangled in the notion of territory is limited.

In this workshop, we aim to fill this gap, exploring how feminist thinking can help extend contemporary theories of territory. We draw inspiration from two avenues of critical scholarship that reinforce the contemporary instability and malleability of ideas of territory in framing our questions. First, we are inspired by changing climatic conditions that are destabilizing formerly solid territory, particularly the icy spaces of the Arctic and the changing terrain of Pacific island nations, forcing new and diverse understandings of what territory might come to mean in these contexts (Elden 2017; Steinberg and Williams-Reed 2018). Secondly, we are inspired by diverse and pressing indigenous critiques of territory in different parts of the world, from Canada’s Idle No More movement to Aboriginal Australians’ challenges to settler colonial policies (Barker 2015; Cox 2015). How do indigenous approaches towards territory and territoriality upend the stability of the concept, and force new questions about land, ownership, sovereignty and belonging? We invite provocations from scholars interested in feminist legal studies, international relations, political theory, and geography who are considering the relationship of embodiment, experience, affect and territory in interesting and diverse ways, and seek to bring together emerging work on the intersection of feminist thinking and studies of territory in order to develop new collaborations, writing opportunities, and future research topics.



This workshop will have two main components: (1) provocations from a variety of speakers engaging in work related to conceptual challenges of territory from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, who will share their conceptual entry points in pairs of 20-minute sessions followed by wider discussion from the whole group; (2) roundtables, which will address both conceptual and practical issues stemming from conceptual challenges to territory, including possibilities for publications.Albany Schedule


Travel logistics:

As an invited speaker, your travel and accommodation expenses will be covered by the conference funding. We will organize to fly you to Albany, NY on Thursday 7 March 2019 and depart Saturday, 9 March 2019. We will have a dinner for invited speakers on Friday evening, 8 March 2019.



Barker, A. J. (2015). ‘A direct act of resurgence, a direct act of sovereignty’: Reflections on idle no more, Indigenous activism, and Canadian settler colonialism. Globalizations, 12(1), 43-65.

Blomley, N. (2016). The territory of property. Progress in Human Geography, 40(5), 593-609.

Bryan, J. (2012). Rethinking territory: social justice and neoliberalism in Latin America’s territorial turn. Geography Compass, 6(4), 215-226.

Closs Stephens, A. (2016). The affective atmospheres of nationalism. Cultural Geographies, 23(2), 181-198.

Coddington, K., Catania, R. T., Loyd, J. Mitchell-Eaton, E., & Mountz, A. (2012). Embodied possibilities, sovereign geographies, and island detention: negotiating the ‘right to have rights’ on Guam, Lampedusa, and Christmas Island. Shima: the international journal of research into island cultures., 6(2), 27-48.

Cox, E. (2015). Sovereign Ontologies in Australia and Aotearoa–New Zealand: Indigenous Responses to Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Overstayers. In Knowing Differently. Devy GN, Davis G, and Chakravarty KK (eds) Routledge India, pp. 161-179.

Culcasi, K. (2017). Displacing Territory: Refugees in the Middle East. International Journal of Middle East Studies, 49(2), 323-326.

Elden, S. (2013). The birth of territory. University of Chicago Press.

Elden, S. (2017) Legal Terrain: The Political Materiality of Territory. London Review of International Law.

Gardey, D. (2016). “Territory trouble”: feminist studies and (the question of) hospitality. differences, 27(2), 125-152.

Hiemstra, N. (2019) Detain and Deport: The Chaotic US Immigration Enforcement Regime, University of Georgia Press.

Hyndman, J. (2001). Towards a feminist geopolitics. Canadian Geographer/Le Géographe Canadien, 45(2), 210-222.

Maillet, P., Mountz, A., & Williams, K. (2018). Exclusion Through Imperio: Entanglements of Law and Geography in the Waiting Zone, Excised Territory and Search and Rescue Region. Social & Legal Studies, 27(2), 142-163.

Mountz, A. (2004). Embodying the nation-state: Canada’s response to human smuggling. Political geography, 23(3), 323-345.

Peters, K., Steinberg, P., & Stratford, E. (2018). Territory beyond terra. Rowman & Littlefield International.

Smith, S., Swanson, N. W., & Gökarıksel, B. (2016). Territory, bodies and borders. Area, 48(3), 258-261.

Steinberg, P., & Peters, K. (2015). Wet ontologies, fluid spaces: Giving depth to volume through oceanic thinking. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 33(2), 247-264.

Steinberg, P. and Williams-Reed, E. (2018) In a world of land and water, where does ice fit in? A report from the ICE LAW Project. Current developments in Arctic law.

Tolia-Kelly, D. P. (2016). Feeling and being at the (postcolonial) Museum: Presencing the affective politics of ‘race’and culture. Sociology, 50(5), 896-912.

Williams, J. M. (2015). From humanitarian exceptionalism to contingent care: Care and enforcement at the humanitarian border. Political Geography, 47, 11-20.

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