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Coherent unity or fracture and flow? The problematic island polity


Williams, S, Coherent unity or fracture and flow? The problematic island polity, The Political Economy of Divided Islands: Unified Geographies, Multiple Polities, Palgrave Macmillan, G Baldacchino (ed), New York, pp. 18-33. ISBN 9781137023124 (2013) [Research Book Chapter]

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It is exceptional when an island gets rent apart to create two separate polities. Yet it does occur. At the time of writing, plans to hold a long-awaited referendum on Scotland's secession from the United Kingdom in 2014 have just been announced. The change that could result from the outcome of such a referendum poses a major disruption to the island - in this case, Britain - as a basic unit of analysis.

The island polity has, however, always been a doubly difficult problematic. First, within the multi-disciplinary field of island studies, the empirical focus is explicitly on islands as well as the attendant notion of islandness. While islands tend to comprise singularly unique places of study, they can also offer up some useful generalisations. In particular, islands represent difference in terms of an otherness, and the ambiguous and paradoxical nature of islandness is therefore relevant here.

Second is a much more expressly political approach in line with the understandings and practices of international relations and political economy, as well as the theorisations of political philosophy and political geography. This approach reveals a similarly necessary shift in the conception as well as in the practice of the relevant notions of territory, sovereignty and identity. Their manifestation in and as nation states has been accepted as the distinct and solid foundation for an inter. nal domestic order on which is based the study of comparative politics. However, the nation state is today widely seen (rightly or wrongly) to be on the decline; this development has both presented opportunities and posed threats in relation to matters of political identity and sovereignty with their various de- and re-territorialisations.

This chapter first presents insights into how insular and political entities each comprise particular forms of problem. The next section then identifies borders or boundaries as a common critical component that warrants further attention; after all, it is with their use to delineate precisely the island as an internally consistent spatial container - including that of the nation state or sovereign entity - that problems arise.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Human geography
Research Field:Social geography
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in human society
UTAS Author:Williams, S (Dr Stewart Williams)
ID Code:79841
Year Published:2013
Deposited By:Geography and Environmental Studies
Deposited On:2012-10-05
Last Modified:2017-11-14

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