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Transnational space: territory, mobility and technology

posted on 2023-06-09, 07:11 authored by Michael CollyerMichael Collyer, Russell King
In this paper we argue for a more explicitly geographical insight into the currently dominant theme of transnationalism in studies of contemporary international migration. Although space is not the exclusive concern of geographers, the latter have a more intense engagement with space and its many attendant notions – distance, borders, geometries and spatialities of mobility, power etc. – than other social-science disciplines. The rise in interest in the transnational activities of international migrants in the 1990s coincided with the ‘spatial turn’ across the social sciences which popularised a flexible, liquid notion of space. Transnational activities provided the ideal empirical support for those wishing to contest firmly territorialised notions of states and power, and a range of spatial metaphors became popular in association with migration. Over the last decade geographers have built on established critiques of spatial metaphors to try to counter notions of freefloating transnational spaces, without artificially pinning them down. This paper reviews this expanding literature with the aim of locating important sites of state control of transnational activities and identifying a ‘power geometry’ of transnational space. These sites of control are conceptualised through Harvey’s grid of spatial practices and illustrated with examples from our research around the Mediterranean. We select three essential elements of such a power geometry: territory, mobility and technology – each of which is related to both space and the borders that separate space into territories of residence, confinement, crossing, and control.


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Malmö University

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