RGS-IBG18: A Critical Geopolitics of Data? Territories, topologies, atmospherics?

Nick Robinson and I have put together a cfp for the RGS-IBG Conference that is below. This sort of movement to considering geopolitics is something that is becoming far more dominant in my work, and to have such a session helps to bring together some ideas that I’ve been having for many years, and particularly from the start of my PhD, on data and its relationship to territory (particularly after some excellent lecturing in my undergraduate days from Stuart Elden). However I look forward to understanding how data is/are constructive of geopolitics and how this may tie into some of the historical genealogies of the term.

A Critical Geopolitics of Data? Territories, topologies, atmospherics?

Sponsored by the Political Geography Research Group (PolGRG) and the Digital Geographies Working Group (DGWG)

Convened by Andrew Dwyer (University of Oxford) and Nick Robinson (Royal Holloway, University of London)

This session aims to invigorate lively discussions that are emergent at the intersection between political and digital geographies on the performativities of data and geopolitics. In particular, we grant an attentiveness to the emergent practices, performances, and perturbations of the potentials of the agencies of data. Yet, in concerning ourselves with data, we must not recede from the concrete technologies that assist in technological agencements that explicitly partake in a relationship with data, such as through drone warfare (Gregory, 2011), in cloud computing (Amoore, 2016), or even through the Estonian government’s use of ‘data embassies’ (Robinson and Martin, 2017).  Recent literature from critical data studies has supported an acute awareness of the serious and contentious politics of the everyday and the personal, with geographers utilising this such as around surveillance and anxiety (Leszczynski, 2015). In recent scholarship, a geopolitical sensitivity has considered the contingent nature of data, the possibilities of risk and the performances of sovereignties (Amoore, 2013), or even the certain dichotomies found in data’s ‘mobility’ and ‘circulation’, and its subsequent impact upon governing risk (O’Grady, 2017). In this, we wish to draw together insights from those on affective and more-than-human approaches in their many guises, to experiment and ‘map’ new trajectories, that emulsify with the more conventional concerns of geopolitics to express what a critical attention to data brings forth.


In this broadening of scope, how we question, and even attempt, to capture and absorb the complex ‘landscapes’ of data is fluid. How do our current theorisations and trajectories of territory, topology and atmospheres both elude and highlight data? Do we need to move beyond these terms to something new, turn to something else such as ‘volume’ (Elden, 2013) or indeed move away from a ‘vertical geopolitics’ in the tenor of Amoore and Raley (2017)? Do we wish to work and make difficult the complex lineages and histories that our current analogies provide us? Has geopolitical discourse, until now, negated the multitude of powers and affects that data exude? In this session, we invite submissions that offer a more critical introspection of data – its performativity, its affectivities, its more-than-human agencies – upon geopolitical scholarship, and even reconfigure what geopolitics is/are/should be.


Themes might include:

  • Data mobilities
  • Data through, across, and beyond the border
  • Data and its reconfigurations upon notions of sovereignty and territory
  • Vibrancies and new materialism
  • Legalities and net neutrality
  • Affectivities and non-representational approaches
  • Visceralities and broader attentiveness to the body
  • Atmospheres
  • Infrastructures
  • Diplomacy
  • Popular geopolitics


Session information

This session will take the form of multiple paper presentations of 15 minutes, each followed by 5 minutes of questions.

Please send a 200-word abstract, along with name and affiliation, to Andrew (andrew.dwyer@ouce.ox.ac.uk) AND Nick (Nicholas.Robinson.2014@live.rhul.ac.uk) by Monday 5thFebruary 2018.

Further information can be found on the RGS-IBG website here.



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