RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2015

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20 Knowledge, governmentality and power
Chair(s) Sarah Mills (Loughborough University, UK)
Timetable Wednesday 02 September 2015, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Room Peter Chalk - Room 1.4
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2015@rgs.org
Governmentality, Geopolitics and Procedural Rhetoric in Video Games: A Practice Based Methodological Toolkit
Evren Eken (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
One of the significant turns of the recent scholarship in IR and in Critical Geopolitics has been towards the close scrutiny of everyday life, popular culture, and subject positions. However, despite the wide range use of Foucauldian literature and especially the concept of governmentality attributed to those recent scholarships, the absence of a clear methodological approach is not only apparent but also yet to be addressed. In order to fill this lacuna, the paper suggests the deployment of Ian Bogost`s concept of “procedural rhetoric” as a toolkit to devise “visual rhetorical analysis” as a methodological approach to elicit the traces of governmentality in popular culture. In this aim, by pinpointing the methodological flaws in the literature as “preliminary analyses” attempting to show popular cultural practices` relationship to governmentality, first, the paper will show the ways in which those terms are engaged in recent scholarship. Second, through an FPS game play example, possibilities of a practice based, yet empirical methodological approach will be discussed. In this regard, the main aim of the paper is an attempt to provoke a methodological debate to trace the ways in which popular culture is governmentalized.
Maps, Big Data, Smart Development?: The role of Big Data analysis in reopening the digital divide in International Development
Doug Specht (University of Westminster, UK / VOZ)
For a long time the creation of maps was the preserve of those with money and power, however since 2005 the opportunities for community mapping and PGIS has increased vastly. This research examines how increases in Big Data analysis affect the power dynamics surrounding publicly created online maps supporting devlopment and humanitarian projects. It questions whether we have really opened up mapping products to the worlds poor, and explores the extent to which the shift towards Big Data analytics might impact negatively upon open source mapping projects.

Using document and theoretical analysis, interviews, surveys and GIS, this paper examines the role of Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) in Development projects and to what extent increased digital connectivity has helped to share local knowledge.

Results show that the use of online mapping is still embryonic and hindered by strong hierarchical power structures within social movements, meaning its effect on political mobilisation is often limited, or negative. Furthermore it is suggested that the shift towards Big Data analytics by international aid organisations reinforces these and historic power structures. The digital divide which had begun to close as access costs decreased has begun to open again as skill and infrastructure costs increase dramatically. The study goes on to ask whether it is then Small Data, rather than Big Data that will help legitimize locally situated geographical knowledge around humanitarian projects and the development industry.
Colonialism, Exiles and the Holy Land: British-German Encounters and the Emergence of Israeli Spatiality
Shira Wilkof (University of California Berkeley, USA)
This paper examines the intersection between British and German geographical ideas as they were imported into Palestine during the interwar period and formed Zionist-Israeli spatial thought. The case of Palestine captures a compelling, yet heretofore untold, moment in mid-20th century history of spatial thought and global knowledge flow, especially between former colonial powers and the decolonizing world. Zionist spatial experts wedded British Garden Cities concepts and colonial socio-spatial techniques, as imported during British Mandate rule (1920-1948), to German regionalism and innovative geo-economic locational theories. This encounter between traditional English sensitivities to the environment and place-making, on the one hand, and Germanic functionalism and regional thought, on the other, contributed to the dramatic reshaping of the land during the early statehood years of Israeli nation-building.

The paper traces the collaborative work of a distinct German-émigré group of spatial experts (geographers, planners and architects) who laid the foundations for Israeli spatial thought and practice. Professionally trained in 1920’s Germany and having found refuge in Palestine in the 1930’s, these Jewish practitioners immediately integrated themselves into the British Mandatory planning system, into which spatial ideas flowed from the Anglophone world. The reworking of British-German concepts into the local context of nation-building, as it negotiated issues from contested territory and imagined biblical categories to competing political-economic ideologies, adds a vital new prism to our understanding of the mid-20th century global migration and reinterpretation of geographical knowledge.
Little Wars: The Geopolitics of 20th Century Board Games
Alexander Harby (The University of Nottingham, UK)
Gaming and play is a growing concern in critical geopolitics, and geographers have begun to analyse the geopolitical discourses embedded within war video games, including the game industry’s linkages with the military and the use of Western military protagonists against orientalised antagonists. This research in popular geopolitics in gaming is important, but it is somewhat ahistorical and it overlooks the traditional board game. Considering the long history of popular geopolitics in board games, which have been used as military training tools for millennia and were valuable propaganda and recruitment tools for states during 20th century conflicts, this absence must be addressed. This research paper presents a historical political analysis of war-themed board games produced during the 20th century. By employing an analysis of such objects as text, including boards and rule books, it considers how board games convey and even shape the geopolitical imaginations of 20th century conflicts and international relations.
Territory and National Identity in Contemporary Argentina
David Keeling (Western Kentucky University, USA)
National identity in Argentina has had a long, conflictual relationship with notions of place, space, and ethnicity. The essence of Argentina’s identity is a Latin American exception, rooted in 19th-century nationalist race and positivist ideologies, and consolidated territorially and socially through intersecting political and educational objectives. Argentine identity initially emerged out of the interplay between an Alberdi-Sarmiento positivist vision, exemplified by the rapid growth of porteño culture (Buenos Aires after 1880) and the perceived threat of excessive cosmopolitanism, along with the imagined weakening of Argentina’s national identity caused by successive waves of European immigration. After 1945, the policies of Juan Domingo Perón (peronísmo) shaped ideas of a “monolithic” national identity often through martillo escolar, the overt propagandizing of youth through the school curriculum, and through relationships with the church and the military. Recent efforts to reassert Argentine national identity include reigniting claims to the Malvinas/Falklands islands (territorial nationalism) and promoting via socio-economic policy initiatives the idea that Argentina belongs squarely in the developed world, unlike the rest of Latin America.