Terrain, politics, history

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This article is based on the 2019 Dialogues in Human Geography plenary lecture at the Royal Geographical Society. It has four parts. The first discusses my work on territory in relation to recent work by geographers and others on the vertical, the volumetric, the voluminous, and the milieu as ways of thinking space in three-dimensions, of a fluid and dynamic earth. Second, it proposes using the concept of terrain to analyse the political materiality of territory. Third, it adds some cautions to this, through thinking about the history of the concept of terrain in geographical thought, which has tended to associate it with either physical or military geography. Finally, it suggests that this work is a way geographers might begin to respond to the challenge recently made by Bruno Latour, where he suggests that ‘belonging to a territory is the phenomenon most in need of rethinking and careful redescription; learning new ways to inhabit the Earth is our biggest challenge’. Responding to Latour continues this thinking about the relations between territory, Earth, land, and ground, and their limits.




Elden, S. (2020). Terrain, politics, history. Dialogues in Human Geography. https://doi.org/10.1177/2043820620951353

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