1 December 2017: Workshop on Territory, Law and the Anthropocene (Warwick)


On 1 December 2017, the Territory subgroup will hold its second workshop, Territory, Law and the Anthropocene, in the Department of Politics and International Studies (Room E2.02) at University of Warwick (UK).

ICE LAW is both a question – do we need a law of ice, just as we have laws about territory on land and the UN convention on the Law of the Sea – and an acronym – Indeterminate and Changing Environments: Law, the Anthropocene, and the World. As such the project has broadened its focus to look at the interrelation of geophysical features of the Earth and legal-political questions more generally. This specific workshop thus contributes to ICE LAW’s work by looking at how specific territories are being transformed as a result of anthropogenic climate change – coastlines, mountains and glaciers, deserts and rivers. More generally it asks how do we need to rethink our way of theorising territory, and the legal-political regimes that govern it, in the light of these changes?

The format of the workshop will be of 20 minute presentations with lots of time for discussion, a longer presentation from the Italian Limes project, and then a closing roundtable with Dora Kostakopoulou, Phil Steinberg and Davor Vidas reflecting on the day’s presentations and how the themes connect to their work.


9.45am welcome

10-11.30am – Session 1: Law, Security and the Anthropocene (chair Klaus Dodds)

  • Nigel Clark (Lancaster Environment Centre) – The Paleopolitics of Climate Change
  • Madeleine Fagan (PAIS, University of Warwick) – Security in the Anthropocene: Environment, Ecology, Escape
  • Timo Koivurova (Law, University of Lapland) – What is the Role of International Law in Coping with Climate Change Consequences?

11.30am-12noon coffee

12noon-1pm – Session 2: Italian Limes project (http://www.italianlimes.net/) (chair Stuart Elden)

  • Marco Ferrari and Andrea Bagnato, Italian Limes: Mapping the Shifting Border across Alpine Glaciers

1-2pm lunch (speakers and discussants only)

2pm-3.30pm – Session 3: Shifting Territories (chair Phil Steinberg)

  • Isla Forsyth (Geography, University of Nottingham) – Genealogies of the desert: Imaginaries, Materialities and Mobilities of violence in the Second World War
  • Ingrid Medby (Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University) – The Arctic State in the Anthropocene: From Anthropolitics to Geopolitics and Back Again?
  • Klaus Dodds (Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London) – The Polar Regions strike back? Fissuring, Rising and Shrinking in International Law and Geopolitics

3.30pm-4pm coffee

4pm-5pm – Session 4: roundtable discussion (chair Stuart Elden)

  • Dora Kostakopoulou (Law, University of Warwick)
  • Phil Steinberg (Geography, Durham University)
  • Davor Vidas (Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Norway/University of Leicester)

5pm – close/drinks

7pm – Dinner for speakers and discussants

The conference is open to all – further enquiries can be directed to the workshop convenor, Stuart Elden (stuart.elden@warwick.ac.uk).


The Paleopolitics of Climate Change – Nigel Clark (Lancaster Environment Centre)

What might it mean that the challenge of climate or earth system change is less an emergent political-legal issue than an originary complication of the urbanised, hierarchical social formations formerly known as `civilization’?  While the Anthropocene problematic has sparked a long overdue engagement of social science with earth processes, there is still a tendency to downplay the rest of geohistory, including the adjacent Holocene epoch.  Though no specialist in ancient history or paleosocial worlds, I am finding myself drawn into engagement with the climatic transition of the mid-Holocene and its correspondence with the emergence of city states in fertile regions that seem to have functioned as environmental refugia. In such contexts, inscriptions on the land might be seen attempts to order unruly and excessive flows – with prototypical forms of territorialising politics and law emerging at the juncture of three profound forms of instability: sea level change, alluvial formation and climate transition.

Security in the Anthropocene: Environment, Ecology, Escape – Madeleine Fagan (University of Warwick)

The Anthropocene poses a set of conceptual challenges for the study of security in the discipline of International Relations. By complicating the distinction between human and nature, the concept of the Anthropocene puts into question one of the key organizing logics of upon which much security discourse is built: what would a security look like whose subject was not modern man? This article offers a reading of environmental and ecological approaches to security as two potential avenues for rethinking security in the context of the anthropocene. This is done in order to demonstrate the dominance and centrality of the nature/culture binary for conceptualizing the environment, ecology and security. Such a common philosophical horizon problematizes and undermines the scope for a critical reorientation of security thinking from either perspective. Drawing on R.B.J. Walker’s concept of the politics of escape, the article suggests that in attempting to escape the nature–culture binary, the move to ecology in fact, simultaneously reinscribes and obscures this distinction, thereby limiting the potential of the concept of the Anthropocene to offer a critical framework with which to analyse the interplay of nature and culture in contemporary security politics.

What is the Role of International Law in Coping with Climate Change Consequences? – Timo Koivurova (University of Lapland)

We know that climate change impacts are already to some extent realizing and it seems that we will have to witness many of these in the years to come (sea-level rise, glacier retreat, melting of the Arctic Ocean sea ice, permafrost thawing etc.). We already now know that the geo-physical nature of our environments will dramatically change, which would imply that also law and international law should be reflecting this change. This presentation will explore what we can expect of international law, when these changes start to materialize. Can it be changed to reflect the transforming geo-physical world or will it sustain a world of the past that becomes a hindrance of sustainable change?

Italian Limes: Mapping the Shifting Border across Alpine Glaciers – Marco Ferrari and Andrea Bagnato (Italian Limes project)

The border between Italy and its adjacent countries traverses snowfields and perennial ice sheets at high altitudes, mostly following the path of the Alpine watershed. Due to the global warming–induced shrinkage of the glaciers, a substantial shift of the watershed line has been detected in several places. In the past decade, the Italian State has been negotiating bilateral agreements with Switzerland and Austria in order to deal with the ensuing territorial changes, and to introduce the definition of “moving border” into law.

The Italian Limes project, embracing design, historical research, and counter-mapping practices, was conceived to intervene in the rupture that has emerged between the increased speed of natural changes and the slowness inherent in their cartographic and political representation. Between 2014 and 2016, the project team of Studio Folder installed a network of custom-made, open-source sensors on a small section of the Austrian–Italian border on the Similaun glacier, to transmit in real time the position of the line. They also designed and built a receiving device that plots up-to-date maps of the border.

Marco Ferrari and Andrea Bagnato will talk about the genesis of the project and the fieldwork done in the Alps; they will also present their ongoing research on the history of Italian border surveys. More details on the project at www.italianlimes.net

Genealogies of the Desert: Imaginaries, Materialities and Mobilities of Violence in the Second World War – Isla Forsyth (University of Nottingham)

Shifting, corrosive, abrasive, fluid, featureless, the North African sands from the British perspective creates hazy auras and uncanny atmospheres, infiltrating bodies and technologies, all the while obscuring and subverting attempts to map, know and control territory.  This paper will examine how the materiality and mobility of sand has shaped the ways through which the desert was framed as a landscape of violence.  First, by taking the British Military’s intervention in the Second World War, it will explore the ways in which the physical geography, geopolitics and cultural imaginaries of the desert were used to legitimise particular forms of military violence that, like sand, shifted and corroded seemingly defined territorial and ethical boundaries.  Second, it explores and traces the spatialities and temporalities of the landmine, a military technology heavily deployed during the North African Campaign.  The landmine, taken here to be a complex assemblage of military strategy and technology, environments and law, raises important questions as to how we deal with legacies of conflict in spaces that resist static notions of territory and which are framed as distant and distinct from states responsible for military intervention.  Overall, this paper considers the desert as a space and sand as an element that troubles any neat conceptualisations of territory, instead revealing a fluidity that is not only geographical but also temporal.

The Arctic State in the Anthropocene: From Anthropolitics to Geopolitics and Back Again? – Ingrid Medby (Oxford Brookes University)

This paper focuses on the Arctic region, a part of the planet where anthropogenic change can be seen most acutely. Yet, paradoxically, it is also a region currently being ‘statised’ and bordered in the most traditional of ways. In a changing, moving, thawing, and largely oceanic region, the eight Arctic states remain the preeminent political actors in its legal-political regime of governance. Looking at three of these Arctic states – Iceland, Norway, and Canada – the aim was to explore how conceptualisations of identity, territory, and statehood are currently being challenged in the Arctic. However, as state personnel articulated their understandings of and relationships to the Arctic, it became increasingly clear that perhaps it was the pre-conceived political and legal definitions that were already inadequate. As they spoke of borders and international law, they weaved in and out of personal, embodied, emotional stories too. In this paper then, I want to suggest a reconsideration of not only the ‘geo’ of geopolitics but of the ‘anthro’ too. Perhaps arrangements of territories and sovereignties have always rendered invisible their undeniably human foundations. As such, the era of the Anthropocene offers us an overdue opportunity to understand our own social structures – and indeed, perhaps to change them, meeting anthropogenic change with an anthropolitical response.

The Polar Regions Strike Back? Fissuring, Rising and Shrinking in International Law and Geopolitics – Klaus Dodds (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Does the Anthropocene mark the end of a particular era of geopolitics and international law – one in which the earth and climate were assumed to be largely stable and if not reasonably predictable? The warming of both the Arctic and parts of the Antarctic is heralding a new era of sea ice shrinkage and ice sheet melting, with implications for sea level rise, new patterns of exploitation and accessibility and disruption of coastlines.

The Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS) has one explicit reference to ice in Article 234, and makes reference to ‘ice covered waters’ and stipulates that “for most of the year create obstructions or exceptional hazards to navigation, and pollution of the marine environment could cause major harm to or irreversible disturbance of the ecological balance”. Sea ice continues to decline, and ocean biologists already warn of foreign objects such as plastics and pollutants in the central Arctic Ocean. Is Article 234 in danger of becoming redundant and what implications might follow from such a development? Will it embolden further extra-territorial actors to challenge the role of coastal states to act as environmental stewards?

By addressing recent discussions and negotiations over the central Arctic Ocean (possible) fisheries, biological diversity and seabed, the paper addresses what is at stake when ice melts, waters warm and coastal (including indigenous peoples as partners) and non-coastal parties vie for influence over a fragile ecosystem.


Nigel Clark is Chair of Social Sustainability at the Lancaster University Environment Centre.  He is the author of Inhuman Nature: Sociable Life on a Dynamic Planet (2011) and co-editor (with Kathryn Yusoff) of a recent Theory, Culture & Society special issue on Geosocial Formations and the Anthropocene. Current work includes the political aesthetics of pyrotechnology, politics and ontology of strata, and geologies of race.

Klaus Dodds is Professor of Geopolitics at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is author of a number of books including the co-authored Scramble for the Poles (Polity 2016) and Ice (Reaktion 2018). He currently holds a Major Research Fellowship (2017-2020) courtesy of the Leverhulme Trust exploring the future prospects for the Arctic region.

Stuart Elden is Professor of Political Theory and Geography at the University of Warwick. He is the author of books on territory, Michel Foucault, Martin Heidegger, and Henri Lefebvre. Shakespearean Territories is forthcoming with University of Chicago Press in October 2018. He is currently working on Georges Canguilhem; on Lefebvre’s writings on rural issues; and the very early Foucault, each for book projects. He is also exploring the concept of terrain as way of thinking about the materiality of territory, and runs a blog at www.progressivegeographies.com

Madeleine Fagan is an Assistant Professor in the department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick. Her research explores the politics of ethics. Her ESRC-funded PhD thesis explored the implications of prominent critical, interpretive, and non-foundational normative theories for rethinking political action. The monograph based on this research, Ethics and Politics after Poststructuralism: Levinas, Derrida, Nancy, is published with Edinburgh University Press (2013, 2016). Her current research applies this approach to a focus on the politics of ethical and normative claims about and representations of the Anthropocene, as a lens through which to explore the relationships between temporality, subjectivity, spatial imaginations and political community relied upon in these accounts. Initial outputs from this research appear in the European Journal of International Relations (2016) and the British Journal of Politics and International Relations (2017).

Isla Forsyth is an assistant professor in cultural and historical geography at the University of Nottingham. Her research focuses on desert landscapes, critical military geographies, technology, biography and more-than-human geographies.  She has published on the cultural geographies of Second World War camouflage, covert military geographies and animals in war.

Italian Limes Project – Marco Ferrari, an architect, and Elisa Pasqual, a visual designer, are co-founders of Studio Folder, a design and research studio based in Milan. Their work focuses on the visualization of ideas and concepts through a diverse range of outcomes, including editorial design, art direction, exhibition design, data visualization, web platforms, and curatorial projects. Ferrari teaches at ISIA Urbino, while Pasqual is a doctoral candidate at IUAV in Venice. They started working on Italian Limes in 2014; the project has been presented at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale and in the exhibition Reset Modernity! curated by Bruno Latour. Andrea Bagnato is an architect and book editor; he has worked on several exhibition and book projects including Forensis: The Architecture of Public Truth (Sternberg Press, 2014). Together, the three are preparing a book based on Italian Limes, which will be co-published by Columbia University Press and ZKM in 2018.

Dora Kostakopoulou joined Warwick Law School in September 2012 as Professor of European Union Law, European Integration and Public Policy. Formerly, she was Jean Monnet Professor in European Law and European Integration and Co-director of the Institute of Law, Economy and Global Governance at the University of Manchester (2005-2011) and Professor of European Union Law and Director of the Centre for European Law at the University of Southampton (2011-2012). She has been British Academy, Thank Offering to Britain Fellow (2003-2004) and recipient of an Innovation Award by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (2004-2005). Her articles have appeared in the Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, Columbia Journal of European Law, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Modern Law Review, European Law Journal, Journal of Common Market Studies, Political Studies, European Political Science, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Journal of European Public Policy, European Journal of Migration and Law, European Security, Perspectives on European Politics and Society, International Law in Context and the Journal of Political Philosophy.

TImo Koivurova is a research professor at the University of Lapland. He has specialized in various aspects of international law applicable in the Arctic and Antarctic region. In 2002, Koivurova’s doctoral dissertation “Environmental impact assessment in the Arctic: a Study of International Legal Norms” was published by Ashgate. Increasingly, his research work addresses the interplay between different levels of environmental law, legal status of indigenous peoples, law of the sea in the Arctic waters, integrated maritime policy in the EU, the role of law in mitigating/adapting to climate change, the function and role of the Arctic Council in view of its future challenges and the possibilities for an Arctic treaty. He has been involved as an expert in several international processes globally and in the Arctic region and has published on the above-mentioned topics extensively.

Ingrid A. Medby is a Lecturer in Political Geography at Oxford Brookes University. Prior to this, she taught at University College London and completed her PhD at Durham University. Her research focuses on the intersection of national identity and statecraft in the Arctic region. More specifically, she has studied how state personnel articulate Arctic identities, which in turn condition Arctic geopolitical practices. Additionally, she has written on Arctic geopolitics more generally and youth identities, and has worked briefly with related topics at the North Norway European Office in Brussels.

Phil Steinberg is Professor of Political Geography at Durham University where, in addition to convening the ICE LAW Project, he serves as Director for IBRU: Durham University’s Centre for Borders Research. His recent publications include Contesting the Arctic: Politics and Imaginaries in the Circumpolar North (co-authored with Hannes Gerhardt and Jeremy Tasch), Territory beyond Terra (co-edited with Kimberley Peters and Elaine Stratford), a series of articles on the marginal ice zone in Canadian and Norwegian ocean management policy (co-authored with Berit Kristoffersen and Kristen Shake), and a series of articles on ocean ontologies (co-authored with Kimberley Peters).

Davor Vidas is Research Professor in International Law and Director of the Law of the Sea Programme at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Norway, and Honorary Professor in the School of Geography, Geology and Environment at the University of Leicester. He is a member of the Anthropocene Working Group, and is the Chair of the Committee on International Law and Sea Level Rise at the International Law Association. During the course of the past 25 years, he has initiated and led several major research projects on international law and interdisciplinary approaches to ocean issues, and is currently the Principal Investigator for an international research project on “Climate Change and Sea Level Rise in the Anthropocene: Challenges for International Law in the 21st Century”. Professor Vidas is the author or editor of ten books on the law of the sea, and also serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the journal monograph series Brill Research Perspectives on the Law of the Sea and of a popular-science book series Anthropocene, both launched in 2017.