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The Sovereignty of Non-Sovereign Tribes =

By Martin W. Lewis | March 30, 2010 |

The federally recognized Native American groups of the United States are held to possess “tribal sovereignty.” The autonomy they enjoy is obviously limited, as the U.S. government maintains considerable control. But as we saw in yesterday’s post, sovereignty in practice is a divisible bundle of powers, which can be shared between a supreme political

The Sovereignty of Non-Sovereign States

By Martin W. Lewis | March 29, 2010 | 2 Comments

The concept of sovereignty is a foundation of global politics. The countries that constitute the international system are supposedly defined by their ability to exercise supreme political authority over their entire territorial domains. But sovereignty in practice is often qualified, its limits varying as the context changes. This is particularly true in the United States

Mining Scars & Smokestacks: Industrial Topography Illustrated in Google Earth

By Samuel Raphael Franco | |

Our Geocurrentcast this week, aims to illustrate some of the most awe-inspriing images of the impact of industrialization. This week’s Google Earth tour looks at man’s physical impact on the surface of the earth through our thirst for mining ore, gold, boron, diamonds, uranium salt, natural gas, oil, and even the wind.The tour takes time to stop with

The Oromo and the Unrecognized Nations and Peoples Organization

By Martin W. Lewis | March 26, 2010 |

The Kurds, who number some 30 million, are often describes as the world’s largest nation without a state of their own. They have also often been depicted as a “forgotten people,” generally overlooked by the global media. Yet the Oromo of Ethiopia and environs also number some 30 million, and they too have national aspiration

Sudan: Africa’s New Breadbasket?

By Martin W. Lewis | March 25, 2010 |

As yesterday’s post discussed, Ethiopia’s western lowlands have significant agricultural potential. The agricultural resources of neighboring Sudan, however, are much greater. Vast clay plains cover much of east-central and southern Sudan; although they are not easy to farm, their soils are fertile and they have abundant – often too abundant – supplies of water.

Gambella: Ethiopia’s Troubled Western Lowlands

By Martin W. Lewis | March 24, 2010 | One Comment

Ethiopia is well known as a plateau country. Its cultural and political core areas have always been in the highlands. But Ethiopia also includes extensive lowlands, a legacy of the imperial conquests in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Ethnic conflicts plague much of Ethiopia’s lowland fringe, as do tensions with the central government

New Language Blog – Languages of the World by Asya Pereltsvaig

By Martin W. Lewis | March 23, 2010 | 2 Comments
New Language Blog – Languages of the World by Asya Pereltsvaig

Geocurrents readers interested in linguistic matters should note Asya Pereltsvaig’s new blog, Languages of the World. Asya has commented insightfully on linguistic issues in a number of Geocurrents posts, and her new blog promises to be interesting and informative

Ethiopia’s Failed Ethnic Federalism

By Martin W. Lewis | |

Ethiopia is known for a venerable Christian tradition and a record of successful resistance to nineteenth-century European colonization. Less often discussed is the depth of Islam in the country, whose population today is more than one third Muslim. Also overlooked is Ethiopia’s transformation into an imperial state in its own right during the late

Troubled Times in the Kingdom of Buganda in the Country of Uganda

By Martin W. Lewis | March 22, 2010 |

As we saw in last Friday’s post, a single kingdom can include several countries, just as the realm of an individual monarch can encompass many sovereign states. But a kingdom can also form a subdivision of a much larger state. Uganda, for example, contains four, five, or six constituent kingdoms, the exact number depending

The Eyjafjallajokull Eruption Illustrated

By Samuel Raphael Franco | |

As a companion to this post, there is a short google earth tour that will enable you to explore the eruption area in Iceland, and fly to other eruption sites of the past. To access the tour, first download Google Earth, then download this KML file, and finally double click the video icon in the

Is a Country Necessarily a Sovereign State?

By Martin W. Lewis | March 19, 2010 |

In the United States, the most common word used to designate the sovereign entities that make up the world geopolitical order is “countries.” In common parlance, a country is the same thing as a sovereign state, which can also be called a “nation” or a “nation-state.” To be sure, the connotations of these words sometimes

The Knights of Malta: Sovereignty without Territory

By Martin W. Lewis | March 18, 2010 | One Comment

The global political system is founded upon the idea of sovereignty, defined by the Wikipedia as “the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a territory.” The independent countries that make up the geopolitical order are all purportedly sovereign entities, exercising complete power over their territorial domains. Such domains need not be large.

Mongolia and Taiwan: Geopolitical Ambiguity Squared

By Martin W. Lewis | March 17, 2010 | 2 Comments

As noted yesterday, Taiwan is recognized as the legitimate government of “China” by some two dozen countries. Most are small states in the Pacific, the Caribbean, and Central America. Taiwan has had no success in securing or maintaining recognition by other Asian countries. Most Asian states are too large to be swayed by aid

Taiwan and the Pacific: Contracting for Recognition

By Martin W. Lewis | March 16, 2010 | One Comment

On March 15, 2010, a number of newspapers announced that Taiwanese President Ma Ying-Jeou would visit his country’s allies in the South Pacific: Nauru, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau, Tuvalu, and Solomon Islands. Such headlines were doubly wrong. The region specified is not exactly in the South Pacific, and the countries mentioned are not exactly

Jiangsu and Zhejiang: The World’s Most Important Ignored Places

By Martin W. Lewis | March 15, 2010 | 4 Comments

The standard geographical model of the world, as this blog seeks to demonstrate, unduly emphasizes the sovereign state (or “country”). States, of course, are vitally important, but so too are other geographical entities. The fixation on the independent country, compounded by the myth of continents, elevates some parts of the world while slighting others