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Event Summaries
June 21, 2017

Event Summary: ‘Why Geopolitics Matter’

by
Henry Jackson Society

By Zainab Hussain

On the 19th June, the Henry Jackson Society welcomed Klaus Dodds: Professor of Geopolitics at Royal Holloway, University of London and a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences. Klaus writes on geopolitics and security – often using popular culture to inform such discussions, as well as the governance of the Polar Regions and South Atlantic. He also serves on a number of advisory committees and councils including the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions. He was here to present and discuss the thesis of his newly book – Geopolitics: A Very Short Introduction’.

Geopolitics is a way of looking at the world: one that considers the links between political power, geography, and cultural diversity. In certain places such as Iraq or Lebanon, moving a few feet either side of a territorial boundary can be a matter of life or death, dramatically highlighting the connections between place and politics. In an attempt to address the issues of these ‘danger zones’, ‘Geopolitics: A Very Short Introduction’ offers a straightforward analysis of why even far away from these ‘danger zones’ – in Europe or the US for example – geopolitics remains an important part of everyday life. For a country’s location and size as well as its sovereignty and resources all affect how the people that live there understand and interact with the wider world.

According to Dodds, geopolitics is ‘everywhere’ – it makes itself felt in particular areas more than others but sometimes, still remains to be surrounded by an element of ambiguity. Interestingly, certain concepts which seem dissimilar to one another can actually be deeply implicated in one another. For example, Dodds used the example of Russia and China: although both powers are seen as two separate political, as well as geographical states, they monitor each other extremely carefully, by way of trading and navigation routes. In this case, geopolitics can showcase how power represents itself over territory.

With this in mind, Dodds went on to expand on what we mean by the concept of ‘geopolitics’ in Britain, using the Government’s most recent political strategy of ‘Global Britain’ as an example. Post-Brexit, our geopolitical ‘culture’ has swung in favour of addressing the so-called rise of populism. This is also the case in America, regarding Trump’s victory: Dodds also noted how our Western powers are more so coy, in comparison to Russia and China, in our geopolitical critique.

Dodds then proceeded in stating how geopolitics affects people, places and communities on a daily basis. This is what Dodds considers as ‘everyday geopolitics’. An example of this is feminist politics on university campuses – the activeness of this political culture fluctuated from decade to decade as other political cultures become more ‘favorable’.

Referring back to ‘Global Britain’, Dodds noted that this recent political strategy can be found popping up on the Government’s Foreign Office, Department of Transport and various Culture and Media conferences. This assemblage of things, Dodds explained to the audience, is indicative of a new real of geopolitics at play.

Arriving at a concluding point, Dodds noted that geopolitical trends can be an investment for the nation state implementing such trends: in terms of Britain, as this was the main focus of the discussion, Dodds asked what ‘we’, as a society, can be doing to promote this culture of Britain being ahead of its game in the international world. Closing off on a lasting note, Dodds captured geopolitics in Britain as ‘predictive’ – what and where will Global Britain help us to achieve in the next few years?