Marco Antonsich: Geographical determinism, Arctic exploitation, Geopolitica

Introducing Marco Antonsich

AntonsichDr Marco Antonsich currently works as Research Fellow for the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences of the University of Birmingham.

He holds two PhDs in Geography (“The Territorial Imprint of Power: Urban Iconographies in Ethiopia, 1936-41” and “Territory and Identity in the Age of Globalization: The Case of Western Europe”).

Dr. Antonsich holds the Italian nationality and is member of the editorial board of the Italian geopolitical journal Limes, rivista italiana di geopolitica.

Geopolitical Passport

Your relationship with geopolitics

At what age did you discover geopolitics and what attracted you to it?

It was during my Master degree in Italy, in the early 1980s. I came across the term ‘geopolitics’ in a textbook on the history of diplomacy by Enrico Serra. The Author was referring to geopolitics as an attempt to combine politics and geography. At that time I think it was its ‘deterministic’ character which captured my attention: a foreign policy which can be determined by mountains, seas, geographical location etc. appeared as a whole new field of exploration, something which very few in Italy at that time were familiar with.

Which geopolitical topics have you focussed on and why did you choose especially these?

Later on, during my PhD in political geography at the University of Trieste, I have investigated at large the history of geopolitics in the Western world and adopted a more critical stance towards this determinism. Before critical geopolitics, though, it was Lacoste and Hérodote which stimulated my reflection on geopolitics. The history of Western geopolitical thought was therefore my first research passion – I felt that this was the necessary step to do, if I had ever had to deal with geopolitics.

What do you consider your most important contribution to geopolitics?

There are three papers which still today I consider as my major contribution to the field. Unfortunately they appeared in a minor publication series from the University of Trieste (Quaderni del Dottorato in Geografia Politica) – a booklet produced in a very ‘artisanal’ way by the doctoral students in Trieste.

The first paper addresses the ways in which in the 1940s scholars in the USA operated an ideological transformation of the German Geopolitik to create a Geopolitics for the USA (this article has been translated into French and published in Stratégique, 1995, n. 4, pp. 53-87).

The second paper is an attempt to follow the production of formal geopolitics in the Western world after 1945 – when geopolitics was ostracized for well-known reasons.

The third and last piece is an historical account of Italian geopolitics and political geography from the early 20th century until the early 1990s. These are what I call my ‘triptych’, which, despite the years, I think still offers a good reference source.

My geopolitical preferences

What is your favourite definition of geopolitics?

‘A vision of the world’. It is the only way to capture the contextual, subjective, partial, plural and instrumental way of any geopolitical script.

Which geopolitical scientist do you admire the most?

Gerard Toal by far. He is the one who has transformed the way to look at geopolitics.

What is your favourite geopolitical book?

“Critical Geopolitics” by Toal (1996), which has revolutionized the way to think of geopolitics. It carried out an epistemological analysis which no other previous author has done. It has exposed the fallacy of any geopolitical reasoning which pretend to present itself as neutral, objective, and impartial.

What is your favourite geopolitical website?

I don’t have any.

The geopolitical future

In what direction(s) will geopolitical science be heading the coming decades?

I don’t believe in any geopolitical science.

Which geopolitical subject has been too little in the spotlight and needs further research?

I think practitioners of traditional geopolitics will try to explore further the ways in which China might arise as a global actor. I think the Artic will become a hot topic and sooner or later we will have new geopolitical ruminations about stars war (a sort of geopolitics of the outer space) and an intensification of theories on the conquest, control and exploitation of the seas – with bona pace of Huig [Hugo] de Groot.

What will be the largest geopolitical challenge for the world in the 21st century?

To reach an equilibrium of power among the new global players. Not that an equilibrium is the optimum in terms of peace and well-being for humanity, but it is difficult to predict a world without antagonistic global players.

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