• A subfield within the human branch of geography • The study of the interaction of geographical area and political process • It is the formal study of territoriality.

Political geography
• Economics supposedly eroding significance of borders. • Ethnic minorities feel they deserve states of their own. • States under attack from above (global economics) and from below (ethnic communities). • Yet states are still powerful, and can respond.

• A politically organized territory • Administered by a sovereign government • Recognized by a significant portion of the international community. A state must also contain:
– a permanent resident population

– an organized economy

Nationality and Ethnicity
• Nationality = tied together through a legal status • Ethnicity = groups with distinct ancestry and cultural traditions • Race = groups defined narrowly by skin color and other physical characteristics


• A country whose population possesses a substantial degree of cultural homogeneity and unity.

Classic Example of a Nation-State: Japan


Must a nation be a place?

• Some examples of stateless nations: the Cherokee Nation, the Kurds, the Palestinians

Multi-ethnic States
Every U.S. citizen = American nationality Every American = belongs to a race Some Americans = identified with ethnicity

State-nationstate-multinational state

Geographic Characteristics of States
– What role does size play? – What are the most powerful nations on earth today? – What were the most powerful nations on earth 200 years ago?

Geographic Characteristics
• • • • • Compact Prorupt Elongated Fragmented Perforated

State Ethnic Religious Racial
Fears of “Balkanization” (splitting state) But common defiance of outsiders

Types of territoriality

(Uniting same group from different states)


Pan-Arab, Pan-Kurdish

Religious: Pan-Islamic Racial: States: Pan-African Pan-American

Ethnic group in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria. Many Kurds for state of Kurdistan. States pit Kurds against each other

Ethnic: Arabs vs. Kurds Religion: Sunnis vs. Shi’as Rulers were Sunni Arab


Iran-Iraq War, 1980-88
IRAN (Shi’a Persian) vs. IRAQ (Sunni Arab)
Yet Iraqi Shi’as fought for Iraq, Iranian Arabs fought for Iran


(State territoriality won)

Armenia-Azerbaijan War, 1988-94
ARMENIA (Christian) vs. AZERBAIJAN (Shi’a Muslim)
Yet Shi’a Iran stayed neutral, fearing ethnic Azeris in NW Iran (Ethnic territoriality won)

Armenian (above) and Azeri views


Kashmir conflict



INDIA (Hindu) vs. PAKISTAN (Muslim)
British India partitioned into two states, 1948. Kashmir had Muslim majority but Hindu ruler.

Indian and Pakistani propaganda maps

Wars split Kashmir between India, Pakistan, and China (all now have nukes)

Cold War propaganda map: “Red menace”

View of Communist “Red Bloc” during Cold War

Lumping failed to recognize differences among Communists, or local causes of conflict

“Clash of Civilizations” theory
Samuel Huntington theory of Western, Islamic, Slavic, etc. “blocs” in conflict with each other.

“Clash of Civilizations” theory
Fails to recognize differences within each “bloc.” Most sources of conflict are local (often ethnic), not religious. Often blames the victim for the conflict. The West shares responsibility for conflicts (military aid arms both sides)

Lumping Arabs or Muslims after Sept. 11

How Many Americans View the World

Cartoon: Bush’s View of the World

Problem: some former allies later seen as “evil”


State’s power to control territory, shape international policy and other states’ foreign policy

Growth of Russian Empire

African colonies

Decolonization, 1940s-1990s

Berlin Conference divides map of Africa, 1884

Ethnic nations split between and within colonial empires (British, French, Russian) But “clean” ethnic boundaries also not possible

Mackinder’s Heartland Theory
(Whoever controls Pivot Area can control the world) The “Great Game” between Britain and Russia, 1800s-1900s

Enlargement of Soviet bloc after World War II

Berlin Wall, 1961-89

NATO and Warsaw Pact, 1945-89

Changes in Europe, 1990-93

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), 2002

Kosovo military zones

European Union


Began as European Economic Community (EEC), 1957. Stronger in 1994 10 new members to join, 2004

United Nations member states

Switzerland 2002

Other international alliances

Interaction of politics and place

Geography of Politics

Effect of politics on place

U.S.Canada boundary

U.S.Mexico boundary
Calexico, CaliforniaMexicali, Mexico

Politics of Geography
Effect of place on politics Example: Making political boundaries

Congressional reapportionment

Levels of administrative regions

Political Geography of Elections Variation of voting districts and voting patterns

U.S. congressional delegation redistricting
Reapportionment : allocating seats to a geographic area (after every census)

Redistricting for partisan purposes

1860 Presidential Vote

Led to Southern secession, Civil War

1996 Presidential Vote

2000 Presidential Vote

Davis (D) Simon (R) Camejo (G) Copeland (L)

48% 42% 5% 2%


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