Volumetric Sovereignty

Introduction by
Franck Billé

Franck Billé presents a collection of essays from scholars actively engaged with the "volumetric turn," both in terms of new research and in revisiting past work. A seminal intervention that appears to have given the impetus for much of this “volumetric turn” was Stuart Elden’s 2013 paper, Secure the Volume, in which he argued for the necessity to rethink geography in terms of volumes rather than areas.

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seminal intervention that appears to have given the impetus for much of this “volumetric turn” was Stuart Elden’s 2013 paper, Secure the Volume, in which he argued for the necessity to rethink geography in terms of volumes rather than areas. While Elden was not the first scholar to draw attention to volumes—indeed Elden’s article quotes an extensive literature engaging with spaces beyond the surface—he was nonetheless instrumental in identifying commonalities shared by scholars interested in aerial spaces, such as Peter Adey (2010), Derek Gregory (2017),  or Alison Williams (2010), and subterranean realms, like Eyal Weizman (2007) or Bradley Garrett (2013), and integrating these various strands into a more comprehensive and coherent volumetric framework. Heeding his agenda-setting call, many geographers, and in more recent years an increasing cohort of anthropologists as well, have been actively engaging with the volumetric, both in terms of new research and in revisiting past work. The present collection of essays, involving over fifty scholars in both disciplines across two journals, is in many ways an outcome of this research zeitgeist.

Arguing that a volumetric approach to space allows for a dynamic understanding of terrain, Elden (2017) insists that thinking with volumes extends beyond the mere addition of a vertical axis. What indeed makes this approach especially fascinating is the entanglement of scales and materialities that is inherent to volumes. In a widely-cited text, Philip Steinberg and Kimberley Peters have proposed that the ocean represents an ideal spatial environment to challenge the assumed fixity and groundedness of space. The “voluminous, stubbornly material, and unmistakably undergoing continual reformation of oceans,” they write, is able to “reinvigorate, redirect, and reshape debates that are all too often restricted by terrestrial limits” (Steinberg & Peters 2015: 247). In a recent ethnographic study, Jerry Zee (forthcoming) makes a similar argument with respect to atmospheric flows that transport particulates across vast distances, thereby impacting air quality at continental if not planetary scales. Several of the contributors in this collection show that even the subterranean realm, generally assumed to be static and inhibitive of movement, is also a space of continual roiling and churning, with “solids becom[ing] turbulent under extreme conditions or at geological timescales” (Lord)—ultimately blurring the line between solid, liquid, and gaseous (Hein & Couling).

here.there.everywhere

An important challenge posed by a volumetric imagination concerns representability given that cartographic practices are eminently horizontal and therefore poorly suited to representations of depth. Geopolitical forays into vertical spaces such as the atmosphere or the subterranean have proven extremely challenging to represent, cartographically or mentally. From the God’s eye view cartographic perspective to which we are accustomed, the vertical axis collapses on itself and, once reduced to a single point, becomes invisible. Such challenges are typically encountered in vertical urban environments such as Hong Kong where the multilevel urban fabric makes it complex to map. Two points may share the same coordinates but be located on a different surface altogether (Wilmott 2017).[1]

Importantly, a volumetric approach also shines a spotlight on the abstract ideals cartography has conveniently relied upon, as showcased by six of the contributors to this collection. The two essays by Tim Ingold and Dylan Brady challenge common cartographic assumptions such as the abstract and disembodied notions of “ground” and “line.” In his contribution, Ingold contests the representation of the ground as a horizontal surface. The ground, he argues, is the actual continuous rolling up and turning over of material, leading lower and upper regions to be unremittingly inverted. The state is reliant on the ground as a fixed surface, but in order to establish sovereignty over volume, it needs to take leave of ground level. In a similar vein, Brady argues that lines are at best an imperfect abstraction, never as precise as they are represented. In their encounter with voluminous terrain such as mountains or tunnels, their very linearity forces them to confront three-dimensional space, and gain weight as a result.

Representability is an especially critical issue in the context of disputed territories. The border lines separating Israel from Palestine for instance where the land surface can be Palestinian territory while the subterranean space underneath and the airspace above are under Israeli control (Weizman 2007) are occasionally visible only with a cross-section view. In the case of the town of Uri, at the border between India and Pakistan in the contested mountainous region of Kashmir, bordering takes place in three-dimensional space. In her contribution, Aditi Saraf shows the complex entanglement of “incompatible but unexpectedly complementary” threat, tourism, and trade flows sited at different elevations, generating visual-affective interference patterns resulting in rapid shifts of perspective. This spatial complexity, according to Jeremy Crampton, is perhaps best challenged through the metaphor of a vortex: in cities segregated by height, with “the price per square foot vary[ing] vertically as well as geographically,” the vortex mixes objects—but even more importantly it mixes ideas and experiences—often violently and suddenly. As a process of movement from one level of the city to another, from one segregated space to another, the vortex works against the grain of cartographic fixity, thereby providing new avenues for thought and change. Along similar lines, Paul Richardson deploys the metaphor of the eddy to trace the unpredictable, counter-intuitive, multidirectional, spiral-like, concentric, centrifugal, and centripetal flows that have defined the post-Soviet cultural and political trajectory of the Southern Kurils, a small group of far-flung islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

The highly visual practice of cartography is also a poor model for auditory, tactile, electronic, and other nonvisual forms of bordering. In her contribution, Ekaterina Mikhailova argues that terrestrial television broadcast is an excellent metaphor for the gap between ideals of territorial sovereignty and bordering practices. She shows that states are invested both in providing access to the entire territory over which they have sovereignty, and in blocking foreign transmissions. If gaps in coverage tend to be perceived as symptomatic of state weakness, broadcasting across the border has proven a powerful tool of propaganda and/or soft power (Min 2018, Peters 2018). But as Mikhailova shows, territorial and electronic sovereignty can never be coextensive: signal transmission is impacted by local topography as well as jamming systems (Tawil-Souri 2012), whereas borderland populations have been highly proactive in tapping into alternative news and entertainment sources hailing from across the border.  As James Steintrager and Rey Chow (2019) insist, sonic entities—in contrast to the visual—need to be “apprehended otherwise,” a point Lisa Sang Mi Min and myself have also made with regard to sound and tactility respectively (Min 2018; Billé 2018), and which others have explored olfactorily (Lammes, McLean & Perkins 2018). This is especially true with combat waged across smellscapes (Feigenbaum 2017) or soundscapes, including those beyond the threshold of conscious detectability but with deleterious or even lethal consequences on the body (Goodman 2010).

underneath.underfoot.lateral

Several of the essays in this collection focus on the subterranean and the subsurface—a domain that remains mostly unexplored and untheorized, at least in contrast with the atmosphere. In his piece “stratigraphy,” Bradley Garrett looks at the intersection of anthropogenic forces with the earth’s layering. While the latter’s “dynamic temporal sequencing” constitutes nothing short of a cultural time map, human activity—not least through approaching geology as resource—has reterritorialized the environment as a “legible vertical landscape.” As Douglas Rogers argues in his text, the subsoil is not simply a three-dimensional space, it is also a space of potential, always relative to a temporal horizon. Looking at oil reserves through the concept of the reservoir, Rogers contends that the particular volume of an oil reserve is frequently a key source of a state’s claim to sovereign power over land and people. In the context of Russia, the state and corporate actors involved in oil production often compare the depth of the region’s oil deposits to the historical depth of its peoples’ culture.

Jeffrey Cohen (2015) writes that the subterranean, while generally assumed to be the realm of the inorganic and the immobile, is in fact, on its own timescale, restless and forever in motion. Two essays in this collection, by Max Woodworth and Evangeline McGlynn, shed light on these dynamic processes through the lens of fracking. North Dakota’s Bakken region is home to vast oilfield operations, originating at thousands of rectangular plots, or pads. As Woodworth writes, while these pads have a limited footprint, typically no larger than four acres in area, they are the entry points to massive passageways between the surface and sub-surface, a sprawling three-dimensional biophysical and sociocultural system that coheres around volumes in the subsurface strata. As it descends from a pad and then cuts horizontally, a wellbore may traverse property lines at the surface and may slice across multiple mineral rights holdings in the strata below, thus requiring plotting the three-dimensional coordinates of a coupled surface and subsurface prior to drilling. Fracking, as Evangeline McGlynn also shows in her contribution, thus requires a volumetric understanding of the subterranean, in terms both of the mining activities and of their aftershocks and unintended consequences. In addition to extralateral rights which have allowed serpentine underground claims to supersede the surface grid, vibrations caused by fracking have been linked to anthropogenic seismicity. In the past decade, she explains, this has resulted in multiple damaging quakes of both high magnitude and physical impact. The seismic events that have taken place across the Kansas and Oklahoma state lines in particular have highlighted the difficulty of defining notions of cause, effect, liability, and culpability across jurisdictions.

churning.erupting.collapsing

Related to McGlynn’s contribution, a second subset of essays focuses specifically on the materiality of the soil, the subsoil, and the subsurface. Exploring the notion of turbulence in the context of the recent earthquake in Nepal’s Langtang Valley, Austin Lord defines turbulence as violent encounters with “inhuman nature,” but also with ongoing and more subtle forms of harm, such as “gradual erosion, glacial deformations, seeping patterns of contagion, and the atmospheric unknowns of climate change.” As such, he contends, it is a particularly apt concept for confronting the immanence, indeterminacy, and multiplicity of the Anthropocene. By continually reshaping volumes, turbulence, as a material and discursive phenomenon, carries energy that can underwrite or destabilize claims to sovereignty, as well as expose our useful fictions of solidity. Along similar lines, the turbulent oceanic phenomenon known as “internal waves” also challenges the zoning and layering of maritime space. As Stefan Helmreich shows, internal waves are enormous masses of water that travel below the ocean’s surface and manifest at the interface between layers of water stratified by density—a stratification driven by temperature and/or salinity differentials. As per the Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf (1958), the fact that nation-states can claim the seabed as national extension of their continental shelf has no incidence on the legal status of the superjacent waters as high seas (nor indeed that of the airspace above those waters), thereby creating a horizontal border between sovereignties. The turbulent movement of internal waves across such hybrid spaces, transporting nutrients and fish populations while blurring the line between sea and seabed, renders the territorial disputes over the South China Sea even more complex.

The intricate entanglement of layers across materialities is the focus of the contribution by Nancy Couling and Carola Hein who write about Ekofisk City, one of the largest oil fields in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea. Not only is it a formation that spans a range of material environments—it descends through 75m of the North Sea to subsea formations 2900-3250m below the seafloor and rises around 100m above the 30m extreme wave threshold—but the materialities it encounters are subject to dramatic changes. As Couling and Hein show, oil’s viscosity disrupts binary assumptions such as the nature of solids and liquids. Ultimately, they contend, viscosity is inherently relational—contingent on temperatures and the surrounding environment, as well as on the relative liquidity and solidity of proximate materials. The transitional and intermediary quality of viscosity, they argue, is a very potent metaphor for the multilayered, sometimes thin and ephemeral, and mostly secured and disguised spaces that make up the contemporary petroleumscape.

Speaking directly to points made in the viscosity and turbulence essays, Malini Sur’s contribution mobilizes the spatial form of the spiral as political register and metaphor. Placing in parallel the barbed wire and the clouds of dust that characterize the border zone between India and Bangladesh, she contends that the volumetric properties of these two spiral shapes displace scholarly preoccupations with barriers as uniform artifacts of loss of sovereignty. Instead, as a metaphor for a nervous nation which rapidly envelops people in its own “circles of insecurity,” the spiral attunes to the expansions and extensions of national margins. Its twisted form palpably establishes what border infrastructures seek to do, while its spatial propensity to gather volume, aggregate, and generate disorderly forces amplifies the nation’s unsettling presence in the lives of its remote border residents.

The final essay of this subset, by Marilu Melo, looks at another form of turbulent change: the sudden collapse and subsidence of the surface. Sinkholes, she writes, remove surface land while their voids simultaneously become access points to the subterranean: “they are beginnings and ends, entries and exits; they are threads in the weft of territories that form volumetric landscapes.” While sinkholes have caused substantial damage and even deaths when the surface suddenly collapses in urban environments, they have, in places like Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, transformed into tourist commodities. Taking advantage of the emergence of a sinkhole market, some “land” owners have opted to dynamite the surface to accelerate the creation of sinkholes—thereby manufacturing recreational volume for tourist consumption.

detection.incursion.infection

Four essays in this collection examine volumetric sovereignty through the prism of the body—both human and nonhuman. In her contribution, Nayanika Mathur looks at animal incursions across the China-India border. In a high-altitude border zone such as this, at around 16,000 feet above sea-level, the “foreigners” that enter and exit tend to be nonhuman animals. The border guards stationed in this region spend much of their time tracking such incursions and chasing “Chinese yaks” back into Tibet/China. As Mathur’s ethnography elucidates, what is crucial is these animals’ capacity to inhabit and travel through landscapes that are, oftentimes, located beyond-the-human. In so doing they demonstrate, with a profound starkness, the volumetric nature of political space, as well as the “beastly” task that is the control of this space by humans.[2]

Looking at animal control in another volumetric space, this time in the urban environment of Miami, Florida, Michael Vine discusses the challenges inherent in controlling Zika-carrying mosquito populations in a built environment. With mosquito-control programs still depending primarily on spraying insecticide from light aircrafts, Miami Beach’s towering condominiums and apartment blocks are posing significant challenges for local mosquito control officials to deliver insecticides to the right places at the right doses. Not only do high-rise buildings constitute a physical impediment to low-flying aircraft, but tall buildings also create atypical convection currents that disturb the even dispersal of insecticidal chemicals. Taking into account variables such as airflow, temperature, and humidity, the material agency of local airscape itself therefore needs to be recruited as a vector for the distribution of protection against mosquito-borne disease.

Thousands of miles away, in the sugarcane plantations of Nicaragua, a progressive renal failure called chronic kidney disease of non-traditional causes (CKDnt) has become prevalent. Plantation workers (cañeros), Alex Nading shows, talk in volumes about their condition: from the tridimensional stalks of cane that need to be slashed, to the measurement of the kidney filtration rate, down to the very volume of bodily functions, tridimensionality is key to understanding the disease as well as medical and state responses. The title of his contribution, filtration, refers to kidney function but also evokes state practices of “triage” that assess whether CKDnt cases are work-related (laboral) or ordinary (común). As Nading concludes, the forms of biopolitical control to which cañeros are subject are eminently volumetric.

The fourth essay in this subset looks at the deployment of the infrared part of the spectrum as it relates to what Nicole Starosielski refers to as “thermal sovereignty.” She argues that, in reshaping the distribution of heat to naturalize forms of territorial control, thermal sovereignty is inherently volumetric. It is often, she writes, “a means of exercising power so that the environment, rather than the state or its people, appears to be exerting force and constraining movement”—a point Jason De León (2015) has also made compellingly in his ethnography of illegal migrations across the Mexico-US border. Using three examples—fiberoptic cables, drone imaging, and body thermal regulation—she demonstrates how thermal sovereignty, in part through the deployment of digital technologies that work on the infrared, has dramatically expanded its reach.

jetsam.gyre.untethered

The remaining six essays take us to the limits of territorial sovereignty, from the uppermost layers of the atmosphere to inhospitable spaces beyond the human. In all these cases we see the logic of territorial sovereignty stretched to its limits, yet remaining tied to—and defined by—a resolutely terrestrial logic. The essay by Adam Fish looks at the deployment of air balloons as novel ways to bring Internet connectivity to rural and remote communities where infrastructure is currently lacking. Alphabet’s “Project Loon,” first launched in 2013, uses software algorithms to determine where its balloons are needed and transports them using existing winds to form one large communications network. Local responses in Indonesia, where Project Loon was launched in 2015, have been mixed: Project Loon is a closed platform, which means it is neither transparent nor open for citizen understanding, critique, and adaptive reuse; further, the balloons are controlled remotely, by workers in Alphabet’s global headquarters in Mountain View, California rather than locally. In response, Indonesian startup company Helion has developed a proprietary balloon-based platform that provides internet access and remote sensing for lower elevations and in urban areas. Unlike Project Loon’s, Helion’s balloons are literally tethered to the ground, thus symbolizing the political and cultural significance of information infrastructure remaining linked to emplacement, domestic usage, and local investment.

Climate engineering and weather modification is another atmospheric intervention that illuminates the significance of volume for territorial management. In recent years, China has been employing both geo- and socio-engineering measures to ensure blue sky conditions, in particular for important events potentially generative of international prestige. In addition to aggressive cloud seeding prior to mega events to ensure clear skies on the day, China has also sought to shape social and economic activities, from the temporary closure of polluting factories and construction sites, to encouraging residents to stay off the streets or to leave town entirely, and to additional restrictions on personal and commercial vehicle use. If “blue sky performances” have been a useful tool for the government to achieve global legitimacy, they have also placed in sharp relief the perceived worth of the local population relative to foreign dignitaries and publics. Blueskying, Shiuh-Shen Chien writes, is thus a “pioneering concept of aggressive weather-taming through temporal restructuring and geo-engineering practices” as well as an opportunity to analyze the relationship between the state, society, and nature through the lens of volume.

Cultural linkages between the atmospheric and terrestrial layers are explored further in Agnieszka Joniak-Lüthi’s contribution. Looking at what one might term “cosmic jetsam”—pieces of satellites discarded and crashing onto Earth, she contrasts American and Kazakh responses, and usages, of these space debris. The crash of a piece of Russian Sputnik in Manitowoc, Wisconsin in 1962 led to the creation of the yearly Sputnikfest celebrating the 1962 event with contests such as the Ms. Space Debris Pageant, open to all “human life forms.” But whereas encounters with Russian space debris are rare in Wisconsin, in Kazakhstan and in the Russian Altai Republic, in close proximity to the Baikonur Cosmodrome,[3] such objects are a relatively common sight—Russian media estimate that over 2,500 tons of such debris have fallen in the region since the 1950s. As they impact people and animals, falling debris have raised issues of accountability. Through established norms and principles, as well as per the 1974 Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space, while outer space is considered neutral territory, human-made objects remain the property of the launching state (Stuart 2009: 12)—in effect orbital ambulatory enclaves of sovereign territory. For Kazakhstan, both Baikonur and the space objects taking off from it are inextricably entangled in debates about the meaning of national sovereignty, and about Russia’s protracted presence in post-Soviet Central Asia.

The three final essays explore spaces resolutely located beyond a territorial framework. The so-called “great Pacific garbage patch” is a plastic vortex of flotsam and jetsam whose contents and boundaries defy both spatial definition and visibility. Larger than Texas—and possibly twice the size of America—evaluations of its size speak to the ambition but ultimate impossibility of comparing it to a landmass as the nature of the patch invalidates all attempts at territorial referentiality. As the gyre churns vast quantities of discarded plastics, the material is broken down into ever smaller components. Frequently imagined as a vast floating collection of refuse, the garbage patch is in fact a ghostly presence reaching across scales, both immense and minuscule (Te Punga Somerville 2017). Generated for the most part by the planet’s own counter-clockwise rotation, this expanding entity has become an index of the Anthropocene (or Plasticene), but the gyre also has a long history intimately tied to the US military. As Elizabeth DeLoughrey writes, the concept of the gyre as an unstoppable, terrifying dynamic force has been a productive one for the Hydrographic Office of the US Navy. Working in close collaboration with corporations as well as the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, it developed decades’ worth of gyro-technology to support the navigation of their nuclear-armed submarines. The gyre has thus become both an animated force and an instrument for interpreting complex bodies in motion.

The complex and dispersive nature of new forms of political territoriality—and their entanglement with the military—also animates the next essay. In my own contribution I argue that the voluminous and transscalar materiality of the state displays levels of complexity and dynamism that defy both spatial definition and comprehension. Political appropriation of the maritime, aerial, and subterranean realms demands cutting-edge and ever more sophisticated human-machine assemblages, but this fine-tuning is gradually leading to assemblages skewed in favor of the nonhuman. Using the spatial phenomenon of murmuration, I argue that in assemblages where technology initially was a prosthetic extension, the human component now constitutes the weakest node, increasingly superfluous and obsolete.

The final essay, by Peter Adey, Rachael Squire and Rikke Jensen, explores the idea of territorial simulacra: colonizable and inhabitable spaces elsewhere—spaces untethered from the physical constraints of territory yet seeking to replicate familiar environments. The analogue, the authors argue, is a move beyond our home planet, an ambition to “find new spaces, membranes and volumes in which to start again, to capture something of Earth and take it elsewhere, removed from Earth’s climatic extremes and decay.” For NASA, for instance, harsh and inhumane environments such as oceans, deserts, and polar regions have become analogic testing grounds. They are earthbound environments that best replicate the physical, mental, and emotional effects experienced by those undertaking lengthy space missions. This essay’s foray into prosthetic spaces—on Earth yet not quite earthly—taps into an emerging literature on volumetric analogue spaces found in beyond-the-human environments, such as the oceanic seabed (Squire 2018), the underground bunker (Klinke 2018), or the “subterranean chrysalis” (Garrett, forthcoming). It also takes us full circle, to the contributions by Tim Ingold and Dylan Brady, as well as to the essays by Sarah Green (2017) and Clancy Wilmott (2017) in the sister collection, who all deconstruct some of the basic building blocks of territorial sovereignty and their assumed horizontality: ground, surface, geometry, lines.

In foregrounding the voluminous materiality of the state, the essays in this collection also speak to current and emerging concerns about the emulsive relationship between political sovereignty and elemental forces—from wind (Boyer and Howe 2019), ice (Dodds 2018) and water (Ballestero 2019), to the omnipresent force of gravity (Gordillo, forthcoming; Chambliss, forthcoming). The increasing recognition of generative entanglements between the human/nonhuman, animate/inanimate, and organic/inorganic (Amato 2000, Cohen 2015, Tsing 2015, Fishel 2017) means that the cooperative and the mutually constitutive are gradually replacing the crude earlier model of neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. This dramatic shift in conceptual models is having significant repercussions on the way state borders are imagined and approached: less human-centered, more collaborative, eminently three-dimensional. It is perhaps here, at the juncture between political theory and the more-than-human, that a volumetric imaginary is especially critical.

References

Amato, Joseph A. 2000. Dust: A History of the Small & the Invisible. Berkeley: University of California Press
Ballestero, Andrea. 2019. A Future History of Water. Durham, NC: Duke University Press
Billé, Franck. 2018. “Skinworlds: Borders, Haptics, Topologies.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 36 (1): pp.60-77
Boyer, Dominic and Cymene Howe. 2019. Wind and Power in the Anthropocene. Durham, NC: Duke University Press
Chambliss, Wayne. Forthcoming. “Spoofing: The Geophysics of Not Being Governed” in Voluminous States: Sovereignty, Materiality, and the Territorial Imagination, ed. Franck Billé. Durham, NC: Duke University Press
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. 2015. Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
De León, Jason. 2015. The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail. Oakland: University of California Press
Dodds, Klaus. 2018. Ice: Nature and Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Elden, Stuart. 2013. “Secure the Volume: Vertical Geopolitics and the Depth of Power,” Political Geography 34, pp.35-51
———————. 2017. “Legal Terrain—The Political Materiality of Territory.” London Review of International Law, 5:2, pp.199–224
Feigenbaum, Anna. 2017. Tear Gas: From the Battlefields of World War I to the Streets of Today. London: Verso
Fishel, Stefanie R. 2017. The Microbial State: Global Thriving and the Body Politic. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
Garrett, Bradley L. 2013. Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City. London: Verso
———————. Forthcoming. “Doomsday Preppers and the Architecture of Dread,” Geoforum
Goodman, Steve. 2010. Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press
Gordillo, Gastón. Forthcoming. “Gravity: On the Primacy of Terrain” in Voluminous States: Sovereignty, Materiality, and the Territorial Imagination, ed. Franck Billé. Durham, NC: Duke University Press
Gregory, Derek. 2017. “Dirty Dancing: Drones and Death in the Borderlands” in Life in the Age of Drone Warfare, eds. Lisa Parks and Caren Kaplan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, pp. 25-58
Green, Sarah. “Geometries.” Theorizing the Contemporary, Cultural Anthropology website, October 24, 2017. Link
Klinke, Ian. 2018. Cryptic Concrete: A Subterranean Journey into Cold War Germany. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell
Lammes, Sybille, Kate McLean & Chris Perkins. 2018. “Mapping the Quixotic Volatility of Smellscapes: A Trialogue,” in Time for Mapping: Cartographic Temporalities, eds. Sybille Lammes, Chris Perkins, Alex Gekker, Sam Hind, Clancy Wilmott & Daniel Evans. Manchester: Manchester University Press
Min, Lisa Sang Mi. 2018. “Echolocation.” Theorizing the Contemporary, Cultural Anthropology website, June 27. Link
Parikka, Jussi. 2010. Insect Media: An Archaeology of Animals and Technology. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
Peters, Kimberley. 2018. Sound, Space and Society: Rebel Radio. London: Palgrave Macmillan
Squire, Rachael. 2018. “SEABEDS | Sub-Marine Territory: Living and Working on the Seafloor During the Sealab II Experiment” in Territory Beyond Terra, eds. Kimberly Peters, Philip Steinberg, and Elaine Stratford. London: Rowman and Littlefield International, pp221-236
Steinberg, Philip & Kimberley Peters. 2015. “Wet Ontologies, Fluid Spaces: Giving Depth to Volume through Oceanic Thinking,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 33, pp. 247-264
Steintrager, James & Rey Chow. 2019. Sound Objects. Durham, NC: Duke University Press
Stuart, Jill. 2009. “Unbundling Sovereignty, Territory and the State in Outer Space” in Securing Outer Space, eds. Natalie Bormann and Michael Sheehan. London: Routledge
Tawil-Souri, Helga. 2012. “Digital Occupation: Gaza’s High-Tech Enclosure,” Journal of Palestine Studies 41:2 (Winter), pp. 27-43
Te Punga Somerville, Alice. 2017. “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch as Metaphor: The (American) Pacific You Can’t See” in Archipelagic American Studies, eds. Brian Russell Roberts & Michelle Ann Stephens. Durham: Duke University Press
Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton: Princeton University Press
Weizman, Eyal. 2007. Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation. London: Verso
Williams, Alison J. 2010. “A Crisis in Aerial Sovereignty? Considering the Implications of Recent Military Violations of National Airspace,” Area 42(1), pp.51-59.
Wilmott, Clancy. 2017. “Surface.” Theorizing the Contemporary, Cultural Anthropology website, October 24. Link
Zee, Jerry. Forthcoming. “Downwind: Three Phases of an Aerosol Form” in Voluminous States: Sovereignty, Materiality, and the Territorial Imagination , ed. Franck Billé. Durham, NC: Duke University Press

Notes

[1] With the earth’s surface getting mapped ever more precisely, with every inch accounted for, a British company has recently divided the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares and assigned each one a unique 3-word address. what3words can pinpoint an exact location and direct a user to it—a very useful advantage for a country like Mongolia with little infrastructure and no street addresses. The system is however poorly suited to identify elevation. The section titles of this introduction are a playful critique of the app’s horizontal assumptions, and do not refer to any of the existing what3words addresses.
[2] Engaging with the work of Lippit and Derrida, Jussi Parikka (2010: 92-93) writes that while animals have disappeared from the midst of technological modernity, they remain as “shadows, phantasmatic echoes that transposed their intensive capacities as part of media technological modes of communication.” Animals, he writes, “are the conditioning and establishing framings of nature in modernity but at the same time lack a voice.”
[3] The Russian spaceport Baikonur is actually located in an area of southern Kazakhstan leased to Russia. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Russian base became an extraterritorial space in the newly independent state of Kazakhstan.

essays in this forum

Volumetric Sovereignty Part 5: Beyond The Earth

The remaining six essays take us to the limits of territorial sovereignty, from the uppermost layers of the atmosphere to inhospitable spaces beyond the human. In all these cases we see the logic of territorial sovereignty stretched to its limits, yet remaining tied to—and defined by—a resolutely terrestrial logic.

By

Franck Billé

Volumetric Sovereignty Part 4: Bodies

Four essays in this collection examine volumetric sovereignty through the prism of the body—both human and nonhuman. In her contribution, Nayanika Mathur looks at animal incursions across the China-India border. In a high-altitude border zone such as this, at around 16,000 feet above sea-level, the “foreigners” that enter and exit tend to be nonhuman animals.

By

Franck Billé

Volumetric Sovereignty Part 3: Turbulence

‍Related to McGlynn's contribution, a second subset of essays focuses specifically on the materiality of the soil, the subsoil, and the subsurface. Exploring the notion of turbulence in the context of the recent earthquake in Nepal’s Langtang Valley, Austin Lord defines turbulence as violent encounters with “inhuman nature,” but also with ongoing and more subtle forms of harm, such as “gradual erosion, glacial deformations, seeping patterns of contagion, and the atmospheric unknowns of climate change.”

By

Franck Billé

Volumetric Sovereignty Part 2: The Subterranean Realm

Several of the essays in this collection focus on the subterranean and the subsurface—a domain that remains mostly unexplored and untheorized, at least in contrast with the atmosphere. In his piece “stratigraphy,” Bradley Garrett looks at the intersection of anthropogenic forces with the earth’s layering. While the latter’s “dynamic temporal sequencing” constitutes nothing short of a cultural time map, human activity—not least through approaching geology as resource—has reterritorialized the environment as a “legible vertical landscape.”

By

Franck Billé

Volumetric Sovereignty Part 1: Cartography Vs. Volumes

‍The last five years have witnessed a veritable efflorescence of publications on the topic of volume. A seminal intervention that appears to have given the impetus for much of this “volumetric turn” was Stuart Elden’s 2013 paper, Secure the Volume, in which he argued for the necessity to rethink geography in terms of volumes rather than areas.

By

Franck Billé