Culture

In the Zone

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BLDGBLOG's Geoff Manaugh has a great post about those anomalous pieces of terrain that exist outside conventional systems of sovereignty. An excerpt:

[Neal Ascherson] discusses nation-states from the early 20th century through to the end of the Cold War. During that time, we read, there were a number of "less durable spaces" — for instance, the "parallel but unlicensed institutions" of Solidarity-era Poland. He points out that, "in the early 20th century, there were a number of spaces which were not absolutely unpopulated but whose allocation to empires or nation-states was undecided."

From an imperial standpoint, these unofficially recognized lands and institutions — mostly rural and almost always located near borders — represented "a dangerous breach in space." They were "intercellular spaces," we're told, and they functioned more like "gaps, crevices, interstices, [and] oversights" within much larger systems of sovereign power.

In fact, these "unlicensed" spaces "appear whenever some new international system attempts to demarcate everything sharply, menacingly and in a hurry."

A follow-up post lists several such territories, including the smugglers' republic of Cospaia, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and the intricate web of enclaves that is the town of Baarle-Hertog.

Elsewhere in Reason: James Scott's theory of "nonstate spaces."