Political Geography: Is the state an object in Object-oriented Ontology?

I am not a cultural critic, nor an expert in Object-oriented Ontology (though I try to keep up on it), but I recently published a short response to an article in Political Geography that applies OOO to interpret a favorite t.v. show of mine: The Wire.

My critique, and the authors’ response to it, are both up online now. A central point I raised is that to be consistent with OOO, any treatment of the state (qua object) must treat it as both real and retreating – which is based on a reading of Harman’s work and his interpretation of Heidegger’s tool analysis. This idea runs counter to a lot of political geography, which doesn’t want to reify the “state” or its space as the basic unit of analysis. Initially, it puzzled me that the original paper didn’t engage with what OOO might say about the state as both real and retreating.

The authors’ response is intriguing. They abandon defense of OOO before recovering the points of their article they wish to highlight (and about which I raised no contest, though linking up OOO to Deleuze and co. raises other questions too).

This leaves my original question open: what does OOO have to say about the state? And what can/should political geographers do with its tools?

It is far from clear to me that OOO must reify the state in ways that have worried political geographers. In fact, it may have some nice elements to add (presuming, of course, one is willing to accept the larger philosophical package it comes with).

Where is territory? Rosenberg report on the Mackenzie River Basin

Last fall the Rosenberg International Water Forum met in Vancouver to discuss Canada’s Mackenzie River Basin – the Amazon of Mackenzie-Basin-Graphicthe North. There was some press coverage I linked to here and the promise of a report, which was released two days ago and can be downloaded here (pdf).

The report covers a lot of ground. Perhaps not surprisingly since the Mackenzie is an enormous basin. It is an important step towards raising some of the key issues going forward for the region and it comes out at a timely moment given the Northwest Territories recent ‘devolution’ agreement with the federal government and the role of natural resource development in it. It is also timely given that Canada is now the chair of the Arctic Security council and the report’s linkage between the the fate of the Mackenzie and the challenges of planetary environmental security.

It is also interesting in the way in which the entire report represents itself – the subtitle emphasizes the “transboundary” nature of the basin as it is shared between several Canadian provinces and territories. But this is a VERY peculiar political geography given that the basin is also under several treaty agreements with many First Nations. Some of these agreements were reached under the early treaty system and some are termed “modern” – meaning that they were reached after the 1970s under a different model. It is not that the report entirely ignores First Nations but there is no treatment of even the fact that different kinds of treaties exist in the basin. It does discuss some implications for ‘traditional knowledge’ in the ‘science’ of watershed planning and governance. But the political space – the watershed – is calculated through the territory of the state and not the shared lens of agreements and the need to keep on negotiating over how to share this political space.