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The first edition of L'Espace Politique, an online journal of political geography and geopolitics, was published in January 2007. It has continued to develop since then, joining the scientific electronic publishing portal Revues.org and constantly expanding its readership and ranking.

The journal is managed by geographers from various universities in France and abroad who have a particular interest in the interaction between politics and space. The publication is mainly funded by the ‘Habiter’ research laboratory (E.A. 2076) of the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne and it is managed and published online in Reims. L'Espace Politique also benefits from the occasional support of the following research laboratories: PACTE (UMR CNRS/IEP/UPMF/UJF 5194) in Grenoble, Ladyss (UMR 7533), Prodig (UMR 8586) in Paris and MTG (UMR CNRS IDEES 6063) in Rouen. L’Espace Politique also has close links with the Comité National Français de géographie (CNFG, French National Committee for Geography), and several of its committee members belonged to or have been directors of the CNFG’s commission on political geography. For the same reasons, it also has close links with the International Geographical Union (IGU/UGI) and, specifically, its Commission on Political Geography.

Since its establishment, L’Espace Politique has been committed to the promotion of partnerships and synergies. Accordingly, it invites collaboration with foreign geographers and non-geographers, either through its committees or editions. The journal covers all disciplines with a core interest in space. L’Espace Politique was conceived as a forum for debate for all researchers involved in political geography and geopolitics – without imposing any distinction or ranking between these designations — and in the humanities in general. L’Espace Politique was also conceived with a view to contributing to the cross-cutting consideration of space and politics. Although France has a relatively abundant supply of publications on geopolitics, prior to the emergence of L’Espace Politique there was no journal of political geography in either France or the French language: that is not to say that the topic was not addressed, but only in the context of generalist journals.

The open access operation of L’Espace Politique ensures the journal’s global diffusion. In this way, it meets demand within the francophone space. However, the journal also publishes in English and texts submitted exclusively in this language are reviewed. In its thematic issues and the successive miscellaneous issues (a specific coordinator is appointed for the miscellaneous issues every calendar year), L'Espace Politique presents original articles which are subject to double-blind peer review. In this way, the editorial team aims to stimulate basic research in political geography and geopolitics and to demonstrate the expertise of geographers in these areas in which power structures and citizens confront and associate with each other.

Objectives

The mission of L'Espace politique (EP) is to:

- foster theoretical comprehension of the political space;

- present theoretical models and conceptual tools applied to analyses carried out on all scales;

- disseminate university research on political geography and geopolitics;

- publicize the main schools of thought in these disciplines and help to disseminate French and francophone research in this area.

Topics

The EP’s main topics concern the ideas of spaces and territories, borders and boundaries, networks, points and centres, actors, territoriality, spatial dynamics and epistemology. This list does not claim to be exhaustive.

Spaces and territories

Space is a central concept in contemporary geography. Without going into the detail of its interpretations (cf. Brunet & alii, Les mots de la géographie), we assign two possible meanings to it. First, ‘all areas, finite or not’ structured by societies: in which case, space designates the way in which all societies project themselves onto the surface of the Earth and is a social product (cf. Henri Lefebvre, La production de l'espace). Second, in a more neutral sense, space may be considered as synonymous with the area of land that constitutes one of the determinants of all life, social relations and politics. Space is divided into territories which are appropriated portions of space. The nature of this appropriation is variable. All kinds of territories exist: states, regional unions of states, administrative subdivisions, electoral districts etc. Apart from these politico-spatial structures, the legitimate, that is legally recognized, spaces (Lévy, 1994), it is also possible to identify ‘fashioned’ spaces (Armand Frémont’s ‘lived space’), claimed spaces and represented spaces (the latter two concepts incorporate territoriality). The most classical of political territories is that of the state – a central object of classical political geography (Ratzel) – however, this type of territory should not monopolize all of the attention. The exercise of power also involves many other types of sub-state territories (‘regions’ as well as communes or municipalities) and supra-state territories (regional organizations). These two types of territory are associated with actors which, without being sovereign, play an increasingly important role in the organization of the space and in political decision-making. Areas, a term frequently used to describe spaces of culture and social phenomena, constitute another type of territory.

There is no single scale in the analysis of the political space. On the contrary, this analysis is ‘diatopic’ (Foucher, 1991, Fronts et frontières, p.35), that is it unfolds on several scales (both spatial and temporal) and is associated with both ‘large spaces’ (which frequently monopolize the attention of geopolitical analyses) and small spaces (which are more the prerogative of political geography). The diatopic character implies an intertwining of phenomena: intertwining of the causes and consequences on different scales. A factor or configuration on a given scale can have impacts on another scale. Hence, the link between the ‘global’ and the ‘local’ is becoming increasingly significant – generating the ‘glocal’ (a term popularized by sociologist Roland Robertson, ‘Globalisation or Glocalisation?’, Journal of International Communication, vol.1 no.1, 1994, pp. 33-52) – and abolishes the distinction between the internal and external. ‘Glocalization’ has impacts on territories, inhabitants, networks, practices, cultures etc.

All territory has a limit

Depending on their type, territories are demarcated by borders or boundaries. Borders form a complex network on different scales (state, supra-state, infra-state). The division of the world into states involves all of the continents (except Antarctica) and also the seas and oceans (although the modalities of this division are different and leave scope for unappropriated space). The distinction between a (recognized) legal border and an unrecognized (but de facto) border is important and underlines the possible co-existence of different types of territories in one and the same space. Borders and boundaries are classical topics for both political geography and geopolitics. Geographers have frequently shown an interest in the border or frontier effect, which varies in terms of significance depending on the scales involved, and border regions (Pounds, Political Geography, 1963; Guichonnet, Raffestin, Géographie des frontières, 1974). The concept of the boundary refers to other caesuras and discontinuities (J-C. Gay, Di Méo). Furthermore, the different types of networks are secant. More specifically, the ‘intersections of sets or groups’ generate tensions (Lacoste). Hence geopolitical analysis and political geography scan a wider field than that of the border and the boundary. The political space is also structured in socio-cultural areas (linguistic, religious, social areas) which form specific spaces that have complex and impaired boundaries (horizons) and are constantly evolving (links with settlement, the economy, power). Therefore ethnic and national minorities are the product of the gaps between the borders of the states and those of the cultural areas. While questions of language and religion are important, they must not overshadow the divides between rich and poor, which, in many cases, have impacts on the political space (segregation, secession).

Space is structured by networks

Networks are links or connections. It is possible to differentiate between material networks and networks of people, which are immaterial. The former are visible and continuous and the invisible are invisible and discontinuous, however their role is no less important. The study of networks was developed by ‘new geography’, however it is of interest to all of the social sciences, particularly sociology. Like spatial practices, accessibility to the network conditions the power relations, centrality and marginality. Paul Claval (Espace et pouvoir, 1978) was able to highlight the link between the distance from the centre and the capacity to control the territory some time ago. The correlation between networks and territories can also be highlighted: the place modifies the link and the link modifies the place.

Space is structured by places

Poles, places and nodes are different types of points that structure space, territories and networks. The poles are one of the elements that structure the political space. In effect, political territories are all structured around (or by) a pole. The pole controls and organizes the territory. The group of poles form a specific network. The place is also an operational concept in political geography and, more broadly, in geography itself. Did Vidal de la Blache not consider geography a ‘science of places’? The place is everything at once, the smallest fraction of the significant space, one of the constituents (support point or matrix) of identity, and, above all, the lived object and determinant of social practices. In a network, the node (or summit) is a connection or intersection – the limit of a ridge. It plays the role of a pivot, of distribution and organization.

Actors

The actor acts in and on the space. An actor is an individual, group or structure. The coherence of an actor’s process is variable. Apart from actors directly linked with territories (state, local powers), society also produces political space: cultural areas, appropriated spaces, networks that compete with the territorial grid etc. At the same time, the either conscious or unconscious interests (cf. Bourdieu) of the social classes and/or social groups also structure spatial representations, spatial behaviours and spatial strategies. Hence, the social and political actors form a fundamental object of study in political geography and geopolitics (and also in social geography and international relations): endogenous/exogenous, direct/indirect, dominant/dominated, majority/minority actors are among the typologies that can be used (in the context of joint considerations with those of social geography). Without actors, there are no dynamics, distance and, to a certain extent, no space.

The link between space and actors: territoriality

Territoriality is another key concept. Kevin Cox stresses that, together with territory, it is a ‘defining concept of political geography’ (Political geography, territory, state and society, 2002, p.1). Territoriality involves the spatial representations specific to each actor, the spatial practices that characterize them, and the strategies that bring them closer together or drive them further apart.

- Actors develop representations of space (Henri Lefebvre, La production de l'espace, 1974) which guide their actions. These representations are the products of social and political processes or the projection of social and political concepts into the space. They also exist in the perspective of researchers, which explains the relevance of comparative processes that can explore our western perspectives as many of the issues are globalized and a number of values are presented as universal (democracy, human rights etc.) but can appear to others as new manifestations of imperialism.

- The spatial practices refer to the (everyday) way of life, to movements and to ‘all concrete attendances of places’ (Di Méo, Buléon, L'Espace social, 2005, p.40) or, otherwise, to a social practice (associated with a determined group). They result from more or less conscious choices and are asserted to a greater or lesser extent. This practised space can be designated as the ‘lived space’ (Armand Frémont, La région, espace vécu, 1976). Each individual and social group has its own spatial practices (commercial, political, cultural etc.). The modification of spatial practices is a matter of competition between political and economic actors. Representations and practices are dialectically linked. The uses of space vary according to the actors and their representations, depending on the place, their integration/marginalization in society, their ethnic origins and gender.

- The strategy or group of resources used to attain an objective essentially refers to the area of the military and states, however all actors develop strategies, hence the current meaning of the term should not conceal the multiple strategies developed by actors. The strategies can be conceived as practices implemented for the purpose of power. Strategies and representations are also dialectically linked.

Hence the concept of territoriality is very broad. The different territorialities give rise to harshness (confrontation) or mediation (resolution/dialogue) between the actors. Democracy presents a specific approach of territoriality. In democratic practice, voting and elections are rendered possible, insofar as they are productive, by a legitimate territoriality. They underpin a new link between the political territory and citizens. The geography of dictatorship, democratic transition and diffusion and of elections are key topics here.

Power and force

These concepts are associated with international relations and with classical geopolitics (as Henri Lefebvre stresses there is ‘frequent confusion between the state and power’). ‘A true geography can only be a geography of power or powers’ (Raffestin, 1980, p.13). Power – and force – can be understood as the capacity to modify the behaviour of other actors and to recompose space. All power involves an organization of society and space. The exercise of power is sensitive in relation to political territories and networks. It concerns not only the states but also other economic, social and cultural actors. The exercise of power involves an effect on space and territories, on areas, networks and ‘points’. The effect of political decisions has a perceptible impact on the functioning of the economy. The liberalization of the economy and globalization have numerous effects on the political space. They influence the geography of flows, the mobility of capital, goods and persons. Economic competition is an increasingly current form of harshness between the actors.

Force is also economic

As a result of the globalization of the economy, the global economic space is recomposing and making new lines of force appear, new geographical ensembles and new caesura. With the emergence, whether institutionalized or not, of major supra-state economic groups (Mercosur, European Union, East Asia, North America) and economically integrated transnational regions, the states and borders remain objects of study of primary importance, however they relinquish some of their traditional functions.

Geo-economics is one of the most dynamic branches of geopolitical analysis. It studies the contours of these integrated economic regions and their evolution. It analyses the interaction between the territories they compose and the contours, which can be referred to here as the commercial and economic areas of influence of the major centres of the triad. It takes into account the distribution of major economic flows (goods, capital) on the Earth’s surface. It conceives space as a matter of power, not only between political actors but also between economic actors (states, regions, companies) which attempt to position themselves better in the space with a view to improving their competitiveness and ensuring their prosperity and development. Finally, despite liberalization and the formation of what some geographers refer to as the world-system, numerous barrier effects between states and economic regions still exist today. Geo-economic analysis sets itself the task of locating these effects, studying their evolution and identifying their determinants by relying, in particular, on high-quality statistical tools. Hence, geo-economics focuses the spotlight on the interactions between politics, in the strict sense, and economics in the production of space.

Spatial dynamics

The idea of dynamics embodies that of evolution and change. Spatial dynamics involves the consideration of the constituents of mobility, flows and networks, but also the appreciation of the impact of expected developments on territories.

- Flow expresses the circulation of people, goods, capital, information etc. It is possible to differentiate between material and immaterial flows, both of which are associated with different types of networks.

- Gradient (progressive modification of a variable over a certain distance) is variable in nature. Attention can be focused on socio-economic gradients but also – in a more geopolitical approach – on gradients of force (from superpower to marginality). The socio-economic gradients also engender phenomena associated with dissymmetry (border effect, divergent tropisms, family, social, ethnic and national networks) which make an important contribution to the structuring of the political space and spatial practices. Cultural confrontations and ideological coercion generate harshness, that is conflictual relations and clashes at all levels and of all natures (conflicts, war, separatism, terrorism, violence). The emphasis on violence represents a rupture with a more classical vision of geography. Mass violence, i.e. ethnic cleansing, genocide, ethnocide, are fundamental elements of spatial dynamics. The regulation/resolution of conflicts and dialogue are also becoming topics of interest for political geography and geopolitics. From this point of view, democracy should be highlighted as it generates new dynamics and a new relationship with the territory.

Epistemology

The epistemology of political geography and geopolitics and of the history of political geography and geopolitics are also relevant topics and are naturally compatible with the areas covered by L'Espace politique.

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