1 July 2002



Call for Papers

Critical GIS and September 11:
Security, Territory, and Politics

99th Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting
March 4-8, 2003, New Orleans, LA

Jeremy Crampton and Mei-Po Kwan

After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, unprecedented effort and financial resources have been committed to address the issue of protecting U.S. citizens and assets. The proposed Department of Homeland Security, if created, represents the most significant transformation of the U.S. government in over a half-century. While "homeland security" is now an overwhelming issue in the U.S., and GIS and geospatial technologies have been assigned a crucial role in the agenda, "homeland security" has remained a largely unexamined and unproblematized discourse.

The AAG session(s) we seek to organize will examine issues pertinent to the politics of security and GIS from critical perspectives broadly conceived. The session(s) will focus explicitly on legacies of September 11 and critical GIS, including (but not exclusively) the following themes:


1. The unexamined discourses of "security"; i.e., how political decision–making is framed within the theme of security; how security itself is constructed as an organizing theme.
2. How is security deployed as an organizing theme to emphasize an equivalency between security of the state and security of its population and territory? The fact that security of the population and its territory becomes equated with security of/for the state itself?
3. Does emphasizing security increase the dependence of the population on government? Is there an increasing reliance on the state for protection and informed decision-making which is conceded in the name of security (eg., the NIMA exclusive license of Space Imaging imagery)? Ie., is "security" just an aspect of "big government"?


1. State responses to threats often include a tremendous process of knowledge production and inventorying. How has GIS been deployed to produce spatial knowledges of resources in this light? What particular knowledges and databases are being assembled and how does this contribute to a sense of place and territory?
2. Risk assessment: a related issue is how GIS is used to make judgements about risk, both of "external" threats and of resources which are "at risk". These assessments are often quantitative and statistical. How is territory constituted in this calculable light? On the other hand, risk is often a result of fears and emotion put into play in various public debate and controversies: is there a politics of risk which contributes to the construction of "dangerousness" and how does GIS play a role in dampening or exacerbating risk perception? How can the quantitative and the constructed aspects of risk be reconciled?


1. Recent work on "governmentality" has emphasized the historical contingency of the state and its place within a whole complex of strategies of government (rather than vice versa). What are the implications of this for a geography of politics/political geography? Ie., is GIS a strategy of governmental rationality?
2. What conceptions of place and space are produced within GIS that bear upon political thought and decision–making? Does a discourse of security and territory necessarily produce knowledges of place which are constituted as exploitable or at–risk resources?
3. Are there ways, strategies or effects that can be deployed that resist or provide fruitful alternatives to the examples of knowledge production mentioned above? Are there critical alternatives to the unproblematic use of GIS in support of what is done in the name of "anti-terrorism"?

Please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words in AAG format to the organizers by August 2, 2002:

Jeremy Crampton ( or Mei-Po Kwan (