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Research

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Publication details for Professor Joe Painter

Painter, J. (2010). Rethinking territory. Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography 42(5): 1090-1118.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

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.