We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Professor Joe Painter

Painter, J. Rethinking territory. Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography. 2010;42:1090-1118.

Author(s) from Durham


Territory is the quintessential state space and appears to be of growing political importance. It is also a key concept in geography, but it has not been subject to as much critical attention as related geographical terms and remains under-theorised. Taking my cue from Timothy Mitchell's suggestion that the state should be understood as the effect of social practices, I argue that the phenomenon that we call territory is not an irreducible foundation of state power, let alone the expression of a biological imperative. Instead, territory too must be interpreted principally as an effect. This “territory-effect” can best be understood as the outcome of networked socio-technical practices. Thus, far from refuting or falsifying network theories of spatiality, the current resurgence of territory can be seen as itself a product of relational networks. Drawing on an empirical case study of the monitoring of regional economic performance through the measurement of gross value added (GVA), I show that “territory” and “network” are not, as is often assumed, incommensurable and rival principles of spatial organisation, but are intimately connected.