4.1       Introduction to Political Geography

  • Independent states are the primary building blocks of the world political map.
  • Types of political entities include nations, nation-states, stateless nations, multinational states, multistate nations, and autonomous and semi-autonomous regions, such as American Indian reservations.

4.2       Political Processes

  • The concepts of sovereignty, nation-states, and self-determination shape the contemporary world.
  • Colonialism, imperialism, independence movements, and devolution along national lines have influenced contemporary political boundaries.

4.3       Political Power and Territoriality

4.4.      Defining Political Boundaries

  • Types of political boundaries include relic, superimposed, subsequent, antecedent, geometric, and consequent boundaries.
  • Boundaries are defined, delimited, demarcated, and administered to establish limits of sovereignty, but they are often contested.

4.5       The Function of Political Boundaries

  • Political boundaries often coincide with cultural, national, or economic divisions. However, some boundaries are created by demilitarized zones or policy, such as the Berlin Conference.
  • Land and maritime boundaries and international agreements can influence national or regional identity and encourage or discourage international or internal interactions and disputes over resources.
  • The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in the use of international waters, established territorial seas, and exclusive economic zones.

4.6       Internal Boundaries

4.7       Forms of Governance

  • Forms of governance include unitary states and federal states.
  • Unitary states tend to have a more top-down, centralized form of governance, while federal states have more locally based, dispersed power centers.

4.8       Defining Devolutionary Factors

  • Factors that can lead to the devolution of states include the division of groups by physical geography, ethnic separatism, ethnic cleansing, terrorism, economic and social problems, and irredentism.
  • Devolution occurs when states fragment into autonomous regions; subnational political-territorial units, such as those within Spain, Belgium, Canada, and Nigeria; or when states disintegrate, as happened in Eritrea, South Sudan, East Timor, and states that were a part of the former Soviet Union.
  • Advances in communication technology have facilitated devolution, supranationalism, and democratization.

4.9       Challenges to Sovereignty

  • Global efforts to address transnational and environmental challenges and to create economies of scale, trade agreements, and military alliances help to further supranationalism.
  • Supranational organizations- including the UN, NATO, EU, ASEAN Arctic Council and African Union- can challenge state sovereignty by limiting the economic or political actions of member states.

4.10     Consequences of Centrifugal and Centripetal Forces

  • Centrifugal forces may lead to failed states, uneven development, stateless nations, and ethnic nationalist movements.
  • Centripetal forces can lead to ethnonationalism, more equitable infrastructure development, and increased cultural cohesion.

Favorite Specific Resources for the Unit (links in progress):