Jason Dittmer is a professor of political geography at University College London. His research is currently exploring the role of materiality in geopolitics. His recent book, Diplomatic Material: Affect, assemblage, and foreign policy (Duke, 2017), explores the world of diplomacy through the lens of assemblage, arguing that diplomacy ought to be understood as more-than-discursive, with material infrastructures underpinning the emergence of fields of power that shape political cognition among foreign policy elites. He is the author or co-author of Popular Culture, Geopolitics, and Identity, 2nd edition (Rowman and Littlefield, 2019) and Captain America and the Nationalist Superhero (Temple, 2013).


Gibraltar and the Making and Re-making of Empire

This paper argues that the idea that Gibraltar is “strategic” is itself the product of a form of geopolitical thinking that pre-dates the origins of geopolitical discourse as traditionally understood in the historiography of the term. The occupation of Gibraltar in 1703 is the materialisation of that discourse, with the stones, cannons, and tunnels installed on the Rock a performance of imperial geopolitics. However, almost immediately that discourse was demonstrated to be exaggerated, and the British state has been anxious since then to justify the political and economic cost of keeping Gibraltar. The last century has seen rapid technological/military evolution, with Gibraltar’s contribution to empire shifting from a primarily naval function to one dominated by signals intelligence and the “special relationship” with the United States. This hints at a different kind of empire than the one Gibraltar originally sustained, in which power is exercised not through occupation but through the air.

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