Cartographies of the Present: ‘Contingent Sovereignty’ and Territorial Integrity

  • Sara KendallEmail author
Part of the Netherlands Yearbook of International Law book series (NYIL, volume 47)


Sovereignty as territorial integrity has been recast by state legal advisors, diplomats and scholars, who employ terms and principles from international law while disregarding the content of the law. This chapter takes up the apparent permeability of borders in contemporary discourses and practices of military intervention. In spaces of alleged terrorist activity the relationship between state and territory has been called into question, and the global legal imaginary of sovereign states is separated de facto into actual sovereigns and ‘contingent’ sovereigns. The claim that ineffective internal sovereignty may justify intervention forms part of a broader reconfiguration of the relationship between sovereignty and territory. Drawing upon insights from political geography, this chapter uses ‘contingent sovereignty’ as a critical diagnosis. It focuses on contemporary practices of drone warfare and emerging justifications for intervention that are premised upon a state’s unwillingness or inability to confront internal threats. It argues that the international legal order is recast in these cartographic projections, where territory operates as a political technology for preserving certain populations.


Territory Sovereignty Drones Asymmetrical warfare Biopolitics 


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Copyright information

© T.M.C. Asser Press and the authors 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of KentCanterburyUK

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