If all goes well, this one will eventually be part of a special issue in Political Geography titled Earth Politics: Territorialization and the Subterranean, which I'm co-editing with Matthew Himley. Look for it in 2020.
Marston, A. (In Press) Strata of the State: Resource Nationalism and Vertical Territory in Bolivia. Political Geography. DOI: 10.1016/j.polgeo.2019.102040.
This paper examines the relationship between resource nationalism, state territorialization, and geological knowledge production in Bolivia. Focusing on two historical moments of post-revolutionary state-building – post-Independence (1825) and post-National Revolution (1952) - I show how the subterranean was produced as vertical state territory not only in law but also through science. By charting this history, I argue that anti-Indigenous racism was historically built into resource nationalism through ongoing collaborations between earth scientists and various iterations of the Bolivian state. In the post-Independence era, French naturalist Alcide d’Orbigny was hired by the nascent Bolivian state to produce the country's first geological map. His writings, which ranged from the geological to the ethnological, conceptually grafted Indigenous peoples to the surface of the earth while representing the subterranean as empty save for natural resources. In the post-National Revolution era, d’Orbigny's work reemerged as influential when it was taken up by both political theorists and geologists. Through a close examination of works from these two eras, I show how the subsoil became the rationalized realm of the state. I further suggest that the contemporary tension between state-led resource extraction and Bolivia's “plurinational” constitution, which pluralizes the nation and ostensibly supports Indigenous autonomy, can be understood as a spatial tension between the subterranean, which is held in perpetuity by the state, and the surface, which can be owned privately or communally and imbued with place-specific meanings. Although resource nationalism might appear to be a progressive effort to redistribute resource wealth, capable of countering the neoliberal privatization of decades prior, such extractive projects threaten Indigenous territorial rights, compromising the purportedly decolonial goals of the Plurinational State.
I have co-organized (with Matthew Himley) three sessions titled "Political Geologies: Earth Sciences and Subterranean Territorialization" at the upcoming AAG in New Orleans. The call for papers is pasted below. We have a great line up of presenters and we're excited to discuss this important topic in April!
Political Geologies: Earth Sciences and Subterranean Territorialization
CFP: American Association of Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting; New Orleans, Louisiana; April 10-14, 2018
Organizers: Andrea Marston (UC Berkeley); Matt Himley (Illinois State University)
Sponsors: Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group; Political Geography Specialty Group
Recent publications have called for geographers to attend to the “verticality” and “volume” of space, including the air, oceans, and subsoil (Weizman 2007, Elden 2013, Adey 2015, Grundy-Warr et al. 2015, Steinberg and Peters 2015). Much of this work has explored volumetric space from a geopolitical perspective, emphasizing the optical techniques used to render space visible, governable, and in some cases marketable. Although perhaps inattentive to the lived experiences of three-dimensional space (Harris 2014), as a corpus this work directs attention to the scientific and technological practices through which volumetric space is known, secured, and exploited, and thus the role of these practices in the making of territory (Bridge 2013).
In this session, we build on this work with a focus on the technosciences of subterranean territorialization, aiming to encompass the political/governmental, economic/commercial, and social/meaningful aspects of territorial production. While attempting to understand earth’s “deep history” and “inner structure,” geological exploration has long been linked to the production of colonial and capitalist spaces (Stafford 1990, Frederiksen 2013). Capitalist expansion relies on metals and fossil fuels buried in the subsoil, and the production of subterranean resources has gone hand in hand with the inventorying of colonial natures and colonized peoples. These interlinked processes have produced “geological landscapes” and cultivated geological senses of regional and national belonging (Braun 2000, Shen 2014). In conjunction with archeology and paleontology, geology provides earthy depth to national historical narratives, while subsoil engineering transforms such “natural inheritance” into promises of future progress. On (and in) the ground, “geologic subjects” (Yusoff 2013) continue to produce and consume the products of the subsoil, through their daily actions rendering these subterranean resources the literal bedrock of capitalist modernity.
We invite papers that explore the sciences and technologies of subterranean territorialization as they relate to questions of governance, exploitation, and belonging. Potential topics include but are not limited to:
Adey, P. (2015). Air’s affinities. Dialogues in Human Geography, 5(1), 54–75.
Braun, B. (2000). Producing vertical territory: geology and governmentality in late Victorian Canada. Cultural Geographies, 7(1), 7–46.
Bridge, G. (2013). Territory, now in 3D! Political Geography, 34(C), 55–57.
Elden, S. (2013). Secure the volume: vertical geopolitics and the depth of power. Political Geography, 34(C), 35–51.
Frederiksen, T. (2013). Seeing the Copperbelt: science, mining and colonial power in Northern Rhodesia. Geoforum, 44(C), 271–281.
Grundy-Warr, C., Sithirith, M., & Li, Y. M. (2015). Volumes, fluidity and flows: rethinking the ‘nature' of political geography. Political Geography, 45(C), 93–95.
Harris, A. (2014). Vertical urbanisms. Progress in Human Geography, 39(5), 601–620.
Shen, G. Y. (2014). Unearthing the Nation: Modern Geology and Nationalism in Republican China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Stafford, R. A. (1990). Annexing the landscapes of the past: British imperial geology in the nineteenth century. In Mackenzie, J. M (ed.) Imperialism and the Natural World. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 67-89.
Steinberg, P., & Peters, K. (2015). Wet ontologies, fluid spaces: giving depth to volume through oceanic thinking. Environment and Planning D, 33(2), 247–264.
Weizman, E. (2007). Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation. London, UK: Verso.
Yusoff, K. (2013). Geologic life: prehistory, climate, futures in the Anthropocene. Environment and Planning D, 31(5), 779–795.
PhD Candidate, Geography, UC Berkeley