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Räume des Ausnahmezustands. Carl Schmitts Raumphilosophie, Frontiers und Ungoverned Territories

Benedikt Korf, Conrad Schetter

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Schlagwörter: Landnahme, unregierte Räume, Gewalt, Carl Schmitt, Giorgio Agamben


Spaces of Exception: Carl Schmitt’s Philosophy of Space, Frontiers and Ungoverned Territories.


Although the social sciences have experienced a spatial turn, the  philosophy of space pertinent in the work of Carl Schmitt has largely been absent in this agenda. Through critically reviewing Schmitt’s theory of space and its subsequent elaboration in the work of Giorgio Agamben, we investigate contested spaces as empirical sites where “spaces of  exception” manifest themselves in specific forms of (de-)territorialisation. Looking specifically at the example of state-supported land appropriation in the Somali frontier in Ethiopia and spatial imaginations of ungoverned territories in Afghanistan pertinent in US think tanks, we come to argue that both empirical sites are characterized by a geographical imagination of space, or what Carl Schmitt termed “herrenloses Land” (space without a ruler). “Frontier” and “ungoverned territories” as spatial imaginations and spatial practices (of states, of occupying forces) nevertheless trigger  diverging formations of territorialization. While spatial practices are still territorial (“Landnahme”) in the case of the (Somali) frontier, spatial imaginations of ungoverned territories legitimate localized, network-based and temporary impositions of control. Theoretically, these different formations of territorialization are reflected in the different  conceptualizations of the “state of exception” that Carl Schmitt and Giorgio Agamben propose; thus, while for Schmitt, the state of exception is topographic (containerized in time and space), for Agamben it is topological, and, therefore, it escapes such defined boundaries.

Keywords: land appropriation, ungoverned territories, violence, Carl Schmitt, Giorgio Agamben