Critical Geopolitics by Gearoid O. Tuathail

By Gearoid O. Tuathail

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22 In distinction from previous regimes of objectification, however, it was strongly committed to a visual and aesthetic organization of the space of the world and to the dream of a “total view” of global space, to panoramic display of all that there is in the world. Implicated in the operation of this panoramic vision was the panopticon, the impulse to master (and the masculinist dimensions of this term should not be lost on us) all that is exhibited. The panopticon, as is well known, also arranged objects into a single encompassing horizon but did so in order to monitor and control the objects thrown into definition by the gaze.

It is a widening of vision, a broadening of focus beyond the regional or continental scale. This setting into perspective is, second, a steadying of vision, a deliberate construction of a perspectivalist triangle of vision with the sovereign monocular eye/I at its base and the stage/spectacle/ scene of history or international politics at the far wall of the triangle. The fixed disembodied eye of the geographer qua strategist is its foundation. Finally, this setting into perspective is also a distantiation from the immediate surface of appearances of “international politics,” from the to and fro of normal events, from the confusing stimuli of everyday life.

15 In geopolitical narratives, what is being produced in the more complete post-Columbian condition is an “international politics” conditioned but not determined by the previously hidden forces of physical geography in combination with technologies of mobility and relative geographical position. The metaphor of the panorama is interesting, for panoramas, paintings in the form of a cylinder looked upon by a viewer from the center, were particularly popular in the nineteenth century before the advent of moving pictures.

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