History

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."