Anti-Geopolitics as Perspective

Geopolitics has always been a contentious form of knowledge and practice, and there have been many critiques to dominant geopolitical reasoning. These range from the orthodox Marxism of the German communist Karl Wittfogel in the 1920s to the poststructuralist interventions of the critical geopolitics school of the 1980s. More recently, feminist geographers have called for a feminist geopolitics. They expose the historical reasoning of geopolitical thought and practice as masculinist and advocate an embodied geopolitics that rewrites the lived experiences of women and other marginal voices back into geopolitical arguments.

These critiques have given rise to different ways of thinking geopolitically, or to anti-geopolitical forms of knowledge. Since geopolitics is not only about politics per se but also about the representation of the world and a normative world view, anti-geopolitical discourse also intends to disrupt these representations. In other words, anti-geopolitics not only sees itself as radical politics opposed to dominant geopolitical practices, but also as a differential perspective undermining traditional geopolitical reasoning. Some of these perspectives are briefly reviewed here.

Dependency Theory and Development Critique

Dependency theory emerged in the 1960s as an influential, complex body of theoretical concepts with structuralist and Marxist roots that explained Latin America's underdevelopment in terms of a structural logic inherent in the development of global capitalism. It built on arguments developed in the Economic Commission for Latin America that the global system was not a uniform marketplace but divided structurally between rich and poor economies – a center of industrialized nations and a periphery of primary producers. Through this system, all of the benefits of technology and international trade would accrue to the center. Dependency theorists regarded the economic development of the periphery within such an unequal world-system a nearly impossible task. According to Andre Gunder Frank, one of its principal exponents, the metropolis (or the core) creates and exploits peripheral satellites, from which it expropriates economic surplus for its own economic development. The satellites remain underdeveloped for lack of access to their own surplus and as a consequence of the exploitative contradictions that the metropolis introduces and maintains in the satellite's domestic structure.

Dependency theory has been critiqued for its overly structuralist explanatory approach to uneven development. Yet it is hard not to agree with its principal insights over the highly structured unevenness of global economic development and its underlying capitalist logic in the production of space. As a sustained theoretical critique of global capitalism, dependency theory constituted an important intellectual challenge to US hegemony and political and economic intervention in the Americas. It thus also disrupts the geopolitical and geoeconomic vision of US sponsored global capitalism. In this sense dependency theory can be regarded as an anti-geopolitical perspective.

The Anti-Geopolitical Eye

One of the most prolific writers of the critical geopolitics tradition, Gearoid O Tuathail coined the term anti-geopolitical eye in 1996. With that he refers to an alternative way of seeing and representing that disturbs the all seeing eye usually evident in geopolitical arguments. The anti-geopolitical eye acknowledges its view from somewhere specific. It represents a situated view of the world that rejects the detached perspectives of statesmen. Instead it travels at ground level to observe, feel, and transmit a moral proximity to those observed and described. O Tuathail considered the anti-geopolitical eye a provisional category, which he introduced to analyze the impassioned reports of the war in Bosnia that the British journalist Maggie O'Kane sent back to the readership in Britain from the frontlines. Her reporting was based on an eyewitness approach of multiple perspectives. The victims of the war in Bosnia were present in her visceral descriptions of the horror of war. The suffering of the victims entered graphically into her reporting, which accused, took sides with the victims, and did not try to hide behind the high minded abstractions of traditional geopolitical discourse. The anti-geopolitical eye breaks down the distance between observer and observed. It reveals a moral proximity that accuses and asks awkward questions enquiring about ethical responsibilities that are often ignored.

Feminist Geopolitics

With its emphasis on marginal voices that are usually silenced in the big geopolitical stories and its embodied vision of lived experience on the ground, the category of the anti-geopolitical eye has attracted the attention of feminist geographers. Some consider it a first step in critically addressing the marginalization of such voices and in recovering viewpoints that are otherwise hidden in geopolitical meta narratives. They see the anti-geopolitical eye as a way of embodying geopolitics and to give it that visceral feeling of life histories transmitted from close up. It is out of this necessity that the call for a feminist geopolitics emerged at the turn of the millennium, challenging the intrinsic masculinist character of geopolitical arguments and reasoning. A feminist geopolitics perspective argues that women's bodies are caught up in international relations, but often at the mundane level of the everyday. As a result, they have not been written into the texts of geopolitical discourse. Analytical attention grounded in the everyday would therefore recover women's experiences and those of other marginalized people, it is argued. Specific attention in this perspective is paid to the scale of analysis. Feminists argue that geography's understanding of space has been significantly transformed by examining the world through the scale of the body. A feminist geopolitics thus stresses the need to analyze geopolitical relationships at different scales, privileging the body as the site of performance in its own right. It therefore provides a radical departure from traditional geopolitical perspectives.