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Investigaciones geográficas

On-line version ISSN 2448-7279Print version ISSN 0188-4611


CASTILLO, Guillermo. Territory as sociopolitical appropriation of space. Between deterritorialization and multiterritoriality. Invest. Geog [online]. 2020, n.103, e60127.  Epub Mar 09, 2021. ISSN 2448-7279.

Despite its geographic origin, the concept of territory has been used primarily in various social-science disciplines to account for political, socioeconomic, and cultural processes in both urban and rural contexts. Building upon the concept of territory adopted by various geographic schools (Anglo-Saxon, French, and others), and following the approach of the Brazilian geographer Rogeiro Haesbaert, this article contends that, across different scales and frameworks of asymmetric power relationships between the government and other social actors, the concept of territory accounts for processes of land appropriation and conflict between different social groups and institutions, in various political and economic scenarios. Particularly important are the criticisms of Haesbaert on the dynamics of territory construction through de-territorialization processes and his proposal of multiterritoriality.

The first step of the theoretical-methodological strategy followed in this study was to examine the various concepts of territory, particularly those used by contemporary schools of geography in Europe, North America, and Latin America. This facilitated the analysis of various cultural, economic, and political proposals existent around this concept. Subsequently, the political formulations of territory (on which Haesbaert based his proposals) were addressed, based on the conceptual developments previously examined. This, supported in the conception of territory from the standpoint of the exercise of power, allowed focusing on the characteristics, scope, and limitations of the concepts of territory, deterritorialization, and multiterritoriality as formulated by the Brazilian author.

Following the approach described above, this article comprises the following sections. First, the place that the concept of territory holds in geography and social science in Latin America, Europe, and North America is described. Second, the genesis and history of the concept are reconstructed to show the various approaches used in this science. Subsequently, the ideas of Haesbaert on territory are reviewed, particularly his proposals on deterritorialization and multiterritoriality. Based on the above, the contributions of his concept of territory are assessed. The concluding section discusses the contributions of the concept of territory as a historically determined category with socio-political character.

Finally, the findings of this study fall in two areas: 1) the balance and theoretical development of the territory category and the deterritorialization and multiterritoriality proposals associated to it, and 2) the lines of work and research derived from Haesbaert’s proposals, as well as their validity within the literature on territory.

1) Regarding the first aspect, the territory is a category still under debate that has been addressed from various disciplinary fields. As proposed by Haesbaert, territory is a process still under construction, characterized by dynamics of spatial appropriation by various social groups and (government and economic) institutions, at various scales and in complex frameworks of power relations. Deterritorialization and multiterritoriality account for the historically changing character of territories. Deterritorialization allows conceiving the processes of territorial precarization of subaltern groups and the loss of territorial control by social subjects, within networks of asymmetric power relations with other agents or institutions. On the other hand, multiterritoriality opens up the possibility of conceiving the different social agents and institutions that fight for the control/management/use of a given space. With this, one of the most outstanding features of the concept of territory is its structurally political character.

2) Regarding the second aspect, territory has become a key category increasingly used in the analysis of various contemporary processes (economic change, productive restructuring, political reconfigurations, social order transformations, and identity dynamics) in the globalization framework. In particular reference to the proposals put forward by Haesbaert, recent works have used deterritorialization and multiterritoriality to analyze changes in contemporary territorial processes in rural and urban settings in various parts of Latin America. The analytical capability of these proposals for the conditions in Mexico still need to be tested in greater detail. Further studies are necessary that use the deterritorialization and multiterritoriality categories to analyse contemporary processes of territorial construction, tension, and conflict, at different scales (local, regional, national) in rural and urban contexts.

Keywords : territory; geography; deterritorialization; multiterritoriality; territorialization.

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