Rock, water, air and fire: Foregrounding the elements in the Gibraltar-Spain dispute

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Through the case study of the contested British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar, this paper contributes to discussions on ‘territorial volumes’ by exploring the role of the ‘elemental’ in the protracted sovereignty dispute between Spain and Gibraltar. Drawing on scholarship by Elden, Adey, McCormack and others in political and cultural geography, the paper highlights the value of foregrounding the elements of rock, water, air and fire (in the form of the sun) in attempts to understand the tensions between Gibraltar and Spain whilst also demonstrating the significant intersections between the elemental and the human body. Whilst avoiding the snares of environmental determinism, the paper makes the case for an elemental ontology that functions through and with the proclivities and molecular specificities of the elements in order to better understand the construct of the territorial volume, the relationship between elemental and bodily volumes, and the site specific geopolitical realities, fractures and possibilities that are laid bare as the elements are unearthed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)545-563
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space
Issue number3
Early online date23 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016

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