AAG Session: Multispheres: Legal & Political Geographies of Geophysical Interfaces

Multispheres: Legal & Political Geographies of Geophysical Interfaces

CFP AAG 2017
Zachary Sugg, Colorado College
Katherine Sammler, Cal State Maritime

In this session we wish to consider how legal and political considerations take account of, or dismiss, geophysical materialities. In examining these relationships and their logics, we seek papers that address the plane where different materials interface. Some of the most destructive environmental disasters of this century have involved events of subterranean wealth unlocked, and inadvertently unleashed. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill ejecting oil into the ocean, and the less reported on 2015 Porter Ranch methane leak in California are examples of the material exchanges which occur when industry increases the porosity of these surfaces. Mediums of soil, water, and air — solid, liquid, and gaseous states of matter — are often imagined as discrete entities or framed politically and legally as distinct regimes. The vast volumes of ocean, atmosphere, and subterranean have been disassembled by reductive legal framings into more manageable geometries of points, lines and planes. Yet, these interfaces, where the spheres of geo, hydro, and atmo meet, are not restricted by the boundaries traced upon them and can prove violently noncompliant through their mixing, leaking, penetrability, and porosity.

Through this session we seek to engage cross-pollinating theorizations of geophysical mediums, elements, volumes, planes, surfaces, interfaces with recent movement in legal geography towards conceiving of space and law in relational and “nomospheric” terms (Braverman et al., 2014; Delaney, 2010). How might thinking of geophysical mediums as produced “…through the spatiality of flow, juxtaposition, porosity and relational connectivity” (Aminy, 2002) rather than as a set of static artifacts help us expand our understanding of the complexities of law and materiality? And further, can these volumes and interfaces provide points of entry for exploring understudied realms of legal geography such as international law (Jones and Smith, 2015) and “physical and other-than-human worlds” (Delaney, 2016)?

We welcome conceptual, theoretical, and empirically based papers that engage with political and/or legal geography topics that might include (but are not limited to):

  • Extractive industries: mining, fracking, oil, natural gas, groundwater, spills, leaks
  • Boundary drawing: national/international boundaries, private property, extraterritorial
  • Infrastructure: dams & levees, docks & ports, Big Bertha tunneling machine
  • Scientific research: mantle drilling, archeological digs, Kola Superdeep Borehole, Sudbury Neutrino Observatory
  • Private industry: Space X, space elevator, asteroid mining
  • Civil Society: Autonomous Astronauts, recreational drones, rocketry

If you are interested in presenting a paper in this session, please submit a title and abstract (up to 250 words) to Katherine Sammler (ksammler@csum.edu) and Zachary Sugg (zach.sugg@coloradocollege.edu) by October 27, 2016.


  1. Aminy, A. (2002). Spatialities of Globalisation. Environment and Planning A, 34(3), 385–399. https://doi.org/10.1068/a3439
  2. Braun, B. (2000). Producing vertical territory: Geology and governmentality in late Victorian Canada. Cultural Geographies, 7(1):7–46.
  3. Braverman, I., Blomley, N., Delaney, D., & Kedar, A. (2014). The Expanding Spaces of Law: A Timely Legal Geography. Stanford University Press.
  4. Delaney, D. (2016). Legal geography III New worlds, new convergences. Progress in Human Geography, 309132516650354. https://doi.org/10.1177/0309132516650354
  5. Delaney, D. (2010). The Spatial, the Legal and the Pragmatics of World-Making: Nomospheric Investigations. Routledge.
  6. Forsyth, I., Lorimer, H., Merriman, P., and Robinson, J. (2013). Guest editorial: What are surfaces? Environment and Planning A, 45:1013–1020.
  7. Jones, C. A., & Smith, M. D. (2015). War/Law/Space Notes toward a legal geography of war. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 33(4), 581–591. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263775815600599
  8. Steinberg, P. E. and Peters, K. (2015). Wet ontologies, fluid spaces: giving depth to volume through oceanic thinking. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 33.
  9. Weizman, E. (2002). The politics of verticality. Open Democracy, May 1, URL:http://www.open democracy.net /ecology–politicsverticality/article 801.jsp.
  10. Williams, A. J. (2013). Re-orienting vertical politics. Geopolitics, 18(1):225–246.