Post-Sovereign Territoriality

The European Union and Its Space

In sociological, political and historical research on the transformation of statehood in the (post-)modern era, the concept of sovereignty is often at the center of theorizing and conceptualization. But the interdependence between post-sovereign statehood and territorial order is usually not taken into account. In other words, it is this interface, where changes are currently being observed in claims to sovereignty, theories of statehood, and concepts of spatial order, that the project "Post-Sovereignty Territoriality" takes as its starting point. The project focuses on a process of change in the context of advancing Europeanization, in which not only individual legal rights and conditions of access to markets and welfare benefits are dramatically changing, but regional, national, and international affiliations in particular are being varied and configured in different ways. The concept of post-sovereignty, which is based on the assumption of a shared, overlapping, and therefore no long classic-autonomous sovereignty, reopens the question of the territorial character of systems of order and, as a result, the question of their respective concepts of belonging. Existing national constitutions are increasingly "superseded internationally or undermined ethnically and regionally" (Claus Leggewie) without these changes being shaped by conscious political decisions, much less appropriately accompanied by academic reflection and research. With increasing frequency, classic territorial markers of difference are being replaced by "invisible frontiers" that are no longer based on conventional parameters of space but instead on institutionalized and regulatory procedures within and beyond the regimes of nation-states.

To what extent concepts of belonging, final authority, and the power monopoly can be conceptualized in territorial terms in political systems like the European Union is a research perspective that has not been adequately applied to date, even though supranational systems like the European Union effectively counteract territorial concepts grounded in the nation-state in the long term. In such supranational structures, territoriality can no longer be defined without qualifications as a principle of spatial organization and thus as a core element of state sovereignty. Perhaps territoriality must now be considered outdated as a constitutive element of European sovereignty concepts. Or at best, as a characteristic that is required for recognition under international law, territoriality is no more than a material component of what is now "pooled and shared sovereignty" (Aleksandra Lewicki).

On the basis of a conference held in November 2011 at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research, the topic of post-sovereign territoriality will be explored theoretically and empirically from various research perspectives. Heterogeneous approaches from different independent disciplines highlight the fact that perspectives informed by spatial theories can be very fertile strategies for examining the EU’s concept of self and its integration and enlargement policies. A complex process of Europeanization comes into view which, although it repeatedly refers to traditional concepts of space, simultaneously moves beyond them without reflecting on this shift. This project focuses on a significant process of transformation and provides impetus for a much-needed debate on post-sovereign territoriality that has at best barely begun.

(Last modified March 2013)