With Numbers in Place: Security, Territory, and the Production of Calculable Space

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Recent geographical scholarship on the politics of calculation has led to a reevaluation of the role of statistics, census-taking, and mapping as calculative techniques that have been of primary importance to the rise of the modern territorial state. The current study contributes to this literature by examining how the political technologies of street addressing have been employed to reconfigure the territory of the United States as a calculable space of security. Drawing on extensive archival research and thirty semistructured, in-depth interviews, this study provides a genealogy of calculable space, focusing particularly on the extension of city-style street addressing systems into rural communities to aid emergency management, homeland security, and various other governmental measures as part of the general process that Foucault (2007) has referred to as the “urbanization of the territory.” As a case study, I consider the campaign to readdress rural areas in West Virginia to illustrate the social and political processes at work in remaking the territory into a space of calculation by encoding the landscape with a spatial regime of inscriptions. The results presented here show how 911 addressing systems have been central to the reorganization of political space at a time when the apparatuses of security are being “enhanced” by the apparent marvels of geospatial technology. To the extent that such technologies are themselves implicated in reshaping the very spaces that they are designed to represent, this study calls our attention to the pervasive role that spatial calculation plays in the production of a geo-coded world.

Keywords: emergency response systems; geo-coding; geocodificación; gobernabilidad; governmentality; nomenclatura; security; seguridad; sistemas de respuesta de emergencia; street addressing

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00045608.2011.620503

Affiliations: Department of Geography,University of Victoria,

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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