Political Geography of Sea, Air, & Space. AAG SFO 2016.


2016 Sammler, K. Common Heritage or Private Commodity: Political Geography of Sea, Air, & Space. Association of American Geographers, San Francisco, CA, 29 Mar–02 Apr.

SESSION TITLE:  Point, Line, Plane, Volume: Increasing Dimensionality in Geographic Inquiry I & II

SESSION ORGANIZERS: Katherine Genevieve Sammler & Audra El Vilaly. University of Arizona – School of Geography & Development

ABSTRACT: In reaction to recent academic calls for scholars to engage with verticality, volumes, and three dimensions of territory, this paper critically analyzes political, legal and practical engagement with oceans, atmospheres and outer space. From the arcane depths of the seabed to celestial bodies in the sky, each of these expanses differs from most land-based materialities – difficulties of occupying, delimiting, or securing vast unruly volumes – manifesting in distinct strategies of asserting sovereignty within devised jurisdictional zones. They share many aspects of their social and legal constructions based on international treaties, utilizing a “common heritage” designation to integrate these spaces into a framework alongside normalized nation-states. Nonetheless, national and private entities are asserting themselves beyond treaty parameters. With improvements in marine and flight technologies in robotics, rockets and satellite surveillance, claims to spaces are expanding to include offshore and off- planet resources.

This paper investigates recent sovereignty and resource claims on seafloors, airspaces, and outer spaces as well as the blurred boundaries of each. Specifically attending to the conceptual and performative aspects of territory and territorialization from areas to volumes, from surfaces to cubes, spheres and columns of height and depth. This produces a need to rethink the politics of space, in particular the techniques for asserting power over and within volumetric spaces. This research expands political geography analyses to include relationships of the geometry of the submerged spaces of the deep sea to the sea level horizon, to the air space above marine jurisdictions, and finally looking towards outer space.

TRAVEL GRANT(S): Institute of the Environment University of Arizona, $500.

Graduate and Professional Student Council University of Arizona, $750.
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