Myth of the Nation-State

Lecture Slides on ISIS

ISIS LectureDear Readers,

For the next 10 weeks I will be teaching a lecture course on the history and geography of current events, which is offered in two versions, one for Stanford students and the other for the community at large through Stanford’s Continuing Studies Program. This class is very demanding on me, as I must come up with new 70-minute lectures each week on a wide variety of topics. As a result of such burdens, I will not have time to put up regular GeoCurrents posts during… – Read More

Tatarstan: A “Hostage of Freezing Relations between Russia and Turkey”?

[Many thanks to Ekaterina Lyutikova for most helpful discussions of some of the issues discussed in this post, as well as for the photos, some of which are used as illustrations below. I’m also grateful to Martin W. Lewis for helpful discussions and edits and for modifying the Wikipedia map of Percentage of Ethnic Tatars, used below.]

Tatarstan_location

Tatarstan has not been much of a geopolitical hotspot in recent years and has largely remained “under the radar” for most mainstream Western media. This may soon change, however… – Read More

“Misled by the Map”—video lecture

 

Misled by the MapDear Readers,

One of the main concerns of GeoCurrents is the thesis that the basic political map of the world, focused as it is on mutually recognized sovereign states, is a misleading document. This map purports to depict the existing global political configuration but does not actually do so. Instead, it essentially shows the world as it should be, according, that is, to the foreign-policy establishment. Western Sahara, for example, appears as a country on almost all political maps—except… – Read More

The Anomaly of Banaba Island: Part of Kiribati, But Administered from Fiji

 

Revised-Map-Of-Geopolitical-AnomaliesFor some time I have been making a list of “geopolitical anomalies,” loosely defined as existing arrangements that defy the standard model of sovereign states exercising completely control over unambiguous, clearly delimited territorial realms. Until recently, however, one of the world’s more interesting geopolitical anomalies had escaped my attention: that of Banaba Island (also called Ocean Island) in the Pacific island country of Kiribati. Banaba definitely belongs to the country of Kiribati, yet it is administered by a legal body based in another country, Fiji. The “body” in… – Read More

GeoCurrents Editorial: Recognition for Iraqi Kurdistan and Somaliland

(Note: GeoCurrents is a non-partisan blog devoted to providing geographical information, particularly in reference to current global events. On rare occasions, however, opinion pieces are posted on the site. This is one of those occasions. As I regard this issue as extremely important, this post will remain at the top of the GeoCurrents page for at least the next week.)

Now that Joe Biden is a possible candidate for the 2016 U.S. presidential election, attention is again falling on a 2006 editorial in which he and Leslie Gelb advocated dividing Iraq into three ethnically based regions. At the… – Read More

Forgotten Modern Kingdoms of the Arabian Peninsula, Part 1

Stanford University’s history department recently took its old collection of instructional maps out of storage to hang on permanent display in the hallways. This was an inspired decision, as some of these maps are gems and even the more ordinary ones have some interesting and unusual features.

1923 Arabia MapA 1923 map of Asia by Denoyer Geppert Co. of Chicago, for example, is unexceptional, but its depiction of the Arabian Peninsula is intriguing (see the detail posted to the left). It shows, for example, the small, independent state of Asir… – Read More

Mapping the Unlikely Break-Up of Nigeria

 

As the previous post argued, electoral geography indicates that Nigeria has a problem with national unity, as the winning candidate in the 2015 presidential election received extremely few votes in the southeastern corner of the country. Such evidence, however, should not be unduly emphasized, as a sense of national identity is well established across most of the country. As a result, I certainly do not expect Nigeria to collapse and be replaced by a group of successor states.

But that said, it remains true that quite a few Nigerians would like to see the dismantling of their… – Read More

Final Maps on “Geopolitical Anomalies”

This post merely contains some of the additional maps that I prepared for my March 31 lecture on the history and geography of current global events. These maps, like those in the two preceding posts, focus on geopolitical irregularities and anomalies in a region of the world that might be called the “Greater Middle East” (for lack of a better term). The maps in this post, in general, depict anomalies that are less pronounced than those considered in the previous posts.

Unfortunately, I do not have time to prepare explanatory text to accompany these maps. I must be ready to… – Read More

Geopolitical Anomalies in the “Greater Middle East,” Part 2

(note: The introduction to this post is found in the post of April 1)

Thus far we have examined a number of geopolitical anomalies in a sizable region of the world centered on Saudi Arabia. We have not yet looked at the most serious challenge to the standard model, however, that of state collapse. Other important issues remain to be considered as well.

Feeble States MapAs mentioned in the introduction to this series, Somalia has not functioned as a coherent state since 1991. Although its internationally recognized federal government… – Read More

Geopolitical Anomalies in the “Greater Middle East,” Part I

(Note: The introduction to this post is found in the previous post, that of April 1))

U.N. Greater Middle East MapA detail from the Wikipedia map of United Nations members, discussed in the previous post, shows only one non-member in the region that we might crudely dub the “greater Middle East,” which is the focus of today’s post. That non-member is the Palestinian geopolitical anomalies map 1territory, composed of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as can be seen the… – Read More

Regional Stereotypes in Brazil

As noted in the previous post, the Brazilian states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have distinctive voting patterns. In the 2014 presidential election, São Paulo voted strongly for the center-right challenger Aécio Neves, whereas Rio de Janeiro was the only state in southeastern Brazil to support the incumbent, Dilma Rousseff. The two states are similar in some respects, as they are both prosperous by Brazilian standards, densely populated, and located in the same general area. But the rivalry between the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro—and between their two main cities of the same names—is intense… – Read More

My Error on Ukraine’s Political Divisions

Ukraine Political Regions 1Several months ago, I posted an article and a map on GeoCurrents in which I divided Ukraine into a “nationalist” region and a “Russian-oriented” region. In retrospect, it seems that most of the area that I had designated as “Russian-Oriented Ukraine” does not actually fit that category. Despite the fact that a few pro-Russian demonstrations have occurred in a number of cities in this region, the bulk of it has remained calm and shows no signs of giving substantial to support pro-Russian separatists. A recent Harvard

ISIS Advances and the Kurds Retreat In Northern Syria

Kobane Military SituationThe struggle involving the Islamic State (alternatively, ISIS or ISIL) in northern and eastern Syria and northern Iraq is finally receiving abundant coverage in the global media. Today’s (Sept. 21) New York Times, for example, features several articles on the issue, focused mostly on the international complications generated by the conflict. Many publications in the U.S., however—including the Times—have either downplayed or ignored altogether the major offensive that the Islamic State is currently conducting against Kurdish forces in the Kobanê region of northern Syria. A major Kurdish enclave is… – Read More

GeoCurrents Editorial: The Genocide of the Yezidis Begins, and the United States is Complicit

(Note: GeoCurrents is still technically on summer vacation, allowing me time to catch up with other obligations that I have neglected. My recent essays on eco-modernism, written for the Breakthrough Institute, can be found here and here. I am interrupting this GeoCurrents hiatus, however, to address a highly disturbing and significant development. This post also violates the GeoCurrents policy on political editorializing. In general, this website strives to be as politically neutral as possible, but exceptions are made. One reason for my reluctance to express opinion is the fact that many of my views are somewhat extreme, although… – Read More

Robin Wright’s Audacious Remapping of the Middle East

Robin Wright's Remapped Middle EastI was taken aback this past Sunday (September 29) by Robin Wright’s colorful map of a politically re-divided Middle East in the New York Times, which illustrated her article “Imagining a Remapped Middle East.” The map, entitled “How 5 Could Become 14,” shows a hypothetical future division of Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia into 14 potential new countries along with two additional city-states. I was immediately reminded of Ralph Peters’ troublesome remapping of the same region. As explained in a previous GeoCurrents post