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Durham University

Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Professor Joe Painter

Painter, J. Territory-network. Chicago, USA: Association of American Geographers. Annual Meeting; 2006.

Author(s) from Durham


The state seems to have tangible existence as an entity through territoriality. States' territorial integrity is protected under international law, the OED offers 'territory' as one definition of 'state', and the association of 'territory' with 'land' seems to provide a material basis for understanding the state as a unity. This paper will argue that, far from being a stable foundation of legitimate state authority, territory should rather be understood as the unstable and provisional effect of everyday practices of statization. The production of the effect we call 'territory' is a work in progress. Myriad networks of routine activity are required for the actualization of territory. These include cartography, surveying, legal argumentation, fence-building, boundary marking, the issue of passports, the maintenance of border posts, the staff of immigration departments, the regulation of air, sea and land transport and so on. All of these assemblages appear in mainstream thought as the effects of territory. I want to argue, however, that it is territory that is the effect - the virtual effect – of these social and material practices. 'Territory' and 'network' are thus not incommensurable forms of spatiality, but in fact intimately related. The same is also true of the internal territorial differentiation of the state. For example regions, insofar as they appear as bounded territories, are also virtual phenomena, produced again through prosaic practices such as the organization of government departments, the collection of social and economic statistics, the circulation of media, and the funding of economic development.


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