Territory…Another not so Straight Forward Concept

After reading the two articles on territory, once again it amazes me that “territory” isn’t as straight forward as I once believed it to be. In the Ansi Paasi reading, one of the first paragraphs goes into discussing this point. Territory, a word that you would think has its roots in the word “terra” actually might have its roots “terrere” two roots with completely different meanings. Then Paasi goes on to say that in actuality, what we consider territory today might somehow be a blend of both of these ideas; territory as a space or boundary, however also possessing a connection to power.

To muddle things up a little more, then the concept of human territoriality is introduced. This is the idea that territory has a human component, it us up to us to maintain and form the territory to which we belong. Form what I read, it also seems that the government uses territory to control its citizens, relating this all to power, and that people behave differently in different parts of a territory, relating the concept to place. Power seems to be the most important theme related to territory, for when a powerful group controls a territory they often have control over the populace inside the territory as well. In the Agnew article, which was very dense, he makes it sound as if “the state” and territory are almost completely intertwined. He argues that a nation with full control over its territory gains international standing, and power whereas a group without territory is merely an organization like the United Nations perhaps. By invoking the feudal system of Medieval Europe, and how territory changed rapidly due to changing allegiances it is interesting to see how stagnant “territorial boundaries” are in our modern world today.

One central idea from the Agnew article is that historically nation states that control territories are essentially nodes, fighting against one another for control f the global economy especially during the mercantile era. Even with the advent of capitalism, according to Agnew, there are still aspects of this nodal idea in our society today. Another way to view territory on a global scale is through the ideas of us vs. them, which is touched on in the Paasi article. This concept for me is easier to grasp, because it is far more evident on the surface then the mercantile view on territory. Territory is often more then just the space between boundaries, it represents an important place to the people who live within it. An example of this I was thinking of is the territory of the United States, here in the mainland United States there is a strong sense of nationalism and pride for our territory. If you were to go to Puerto Rico, another U.S. territory, you would find that most of the people consider themselves “Puerto Rican” rather then American.

At the end of these readings, I am once again surprised that there are so many views on what the word “territory” means. It is surprising that like the past concepts we discussed, this one also does not have one agreed upon meaning. I think that says a lot about territory, and the fact that it truly is a word with multiple meanings all of which somehow relate to our understanding of “place”, “space”, “power” and “the state”.

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