No-Space in the International Order

Geoff Manaugh has a fascinating piece over at BLDGBLOG on the "Akwizgran Discrepancy", a sovereignty-seam at the confluence of Belgium, Holland, and Germany. Picking up on an article in the London Review of Books that was published way way back in 2001, he surveys its discussion of gaps in the international order:

In a subscriber-only article published back in 2001 by the London Review of Books, author Neal Ascherson describes "the Akwizgran Discrepancy." There "may or may not have been," he writes, "something called the ‘Akwizgran Discrepancy’." It’s now just "a forgotten thread of diplomatic folklore." Before we get there, though – and before I sidetrack myself pointing out that "diplomatic folklore" would be an amazingly interesting literary sub-genre – Ascherson’s paper is about the fluid nature of "international space." He focuses particularly on the changing natures of both terrain and sovereignty – and how the definition of one always affects the definition of the other.

Amen.

Ascherson’s geography is, for the most part, European; he discusses nation-states from the early 20th century through to the end of the Cold War. During that time, we read, there were a number of "less durable spaces" – for instance, the "parallel but unlicensed institutions" of Solidarity-era Poland. He points out that, "in the early 20th century, there were a number of spaces which were not absolutely unpopulated but whose allocation to empires or nation-states was undecided."

Shades of… well, you know.

From an imperial standpoint, these unofficially recognized lands and institutions – mostly rural and almost always located near borders – represented "a dangerous breach in space." They were "intercellular spaces," we’re told, and they functioned more like "gaps, crevices, interstices, [and] oversights" within much larger systems of sovereign power.  In fact, these "unlicensed" spaces "appear whenever some new international system attempts to demarcate everything sharply, menacingly and in a hurry."

 There’s more. Go read it.

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  1. On the subject of voids, etc:

    PARRHESIA – A Journal of Critical PhilosophyCOLLAPSE – Journal of Philosophical Research and DevelopmentandiRes – Research in Interactive Art & Designpresent a one day symposium:THINKING NOTHING – the void and its resurgence in contemporary thoughtFrom the emergence of empty set as a basis for ontology, to materialist negative theology, to Metzinger’s ‘nemocentric’ destitution of the subject, contemporary thought seems to be obsessed with nothing. But the politics of this nothing seems drastically different from its earlier existentialist and postmodern nihilistic incarnations. This symposium seeks to explore the problem of nothing in contemporary thought, asking precisely how the postulation of an inherent negativity as a productive realm of philosophical discourse has come to characterise our intellectual landscape, and how the contemporary void relates to those of Ancient and Modern philosophical traditions.

    Should be a cheery day out at University College Falmouth on 31st July.[h/t Bruce Sterling]

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