02.112 Space and Power

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The aim of the course is to analyse and interpret on the relationship between space and power: how space shapes and determines certain forms of power, and how power in turn takes on specific spatial dimensions. The notions of a territory and national boundaries, e.g., which seem so self-evident, are in fact a very specific historical construct, elaborated with precise political aims; they also rest on a particular conception of space and of geometry, without which the notion of a territorial nation-state could not have been invented.

More generally, while philosophy and political science have abundantly reflected on time as a key component of political regimes, they have consistently neglected space as an instrument of power, even though it is no less important in establishing, sustaining and reinforcing law, governance and political control. Space is not an empty, homogenous container: it is a social and political reality, which is the result of social, historical and political power struggles.

The course will consider various figures and aspects of this spatiality of power; in particular, we will look at the importance of geometry in creating the conditions for the modern nation-state, notably through the invention of cartography. It will further show how spatial thinking allows for fresh conceptual approaches to political issues, such as cosmopolitanism, minority rights, property rights or immigration ethics. We will also look at the relationship between space and state violence, as is e.g. manifested by phenomena such as ethnic cleansing or forced population displacements; we will also explore the politics of space, or how given political ideas and values shape and transform space, notably in urban planning.

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Christine Habbard