Locating regimes

'Locating regime' is a key concept in Crosslocations, but it is also an idea in the progress of being developed through the research. Here, we explain a little more about our the basic idea, and how we will go about researching it. 

Drawing on the skills of a professional photographer Lena Malm, the project will provide a visual account of locations and the workings of locating regimes across the Mediterranean region as the other researchers analyse the more social elements. See the Photography pages.

'Locating regime' refers to a knowledge system and/or structure that calibrates the relative value, significance and meaning of locations. The basic idea is that all places in the world are both linked to and separated from other places in a range of different ways. We start from the premise that the disconnections are as important as the connections, which is one element that makes this approach different from most network analyses. We also start from the idea that these multiple connections and disconnections, which regularly shift and change, generate relative values and significance of any given place. In short: rather than focus on what places are, in themselves, we are focusing on how they gain different values and meanings according to a range of different ways to measure and compare their value in relation to other places.

Different logics. Each locating regime will have a particular logic to it. For example, there are many types of law that affect the Mediterranean region: European Union law, the law of each of the states that has a Mediterranean coast, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and international law. There are also different underlying legal premises, such as Napoleonic law, Roman law and Sharia law. These are all different forms of law, and sometimes they can be mutually contradictory, but they share a similar logic: they define places, and the relations between places, people and things, in legal terms. Those terms are different from the logic informing religious institutions; or the logic informing finance, banking and trade. Of course, there are many overlaps between these different logics, both conceptual and in practice; but the premise of Crosslocations is that the logic underlying each locating regime will be significantly different from the others, and that this difference generates diverse relative values, significance and meaning to locations. 

Many locations in one place. This means that any one place can, and usually does, have many different locations, and that each location has a relative, rather than absolute, value (i.e. its value is calibrated according to a particular yardstick - e.g. legal or infrastructural). 

How does it work? Looking at locations this way raises some obvious questions. How do these different regimes operate in practice, how do they change, and how do they interact with one another? Crosslocations aims to first identify these regimes for the Mediterranean region and then research both how they work in different places, and then look at how they engage with one another.

The list below outlines the locating regimes that we have initially identified, and that we think draw on different ways of providing relative values of different locations. We will spend the first year both checking whether our hunch is right, and then 'mapping' them: drawing on expert knowledge to get an idea how they work in the Mediterranean region, and in particular, how they connect and separate different places. 

This is about locations, not people's identities. Much social science research on the relation between people and places focuses on people's identities. In borders studies research, the identity question often involves the transformations generated by migration or other forms of movement; or it has involved trying to understand nationalism of various types. This has been important work, and our team has both contributed to the debates, and learned a lot from scholars working in this field. Yet that work has had to focus on certain elements of the relation between people and place (the way that spatial location becomes involved in cultural or social identities), and not others. Crosslocations takes the view that there are many different kinds of relations between people and where they are in the world that operate simultaneously, and only some of them are related to questions of identity. The others can be equally important to people's lives: the second languages people speak determines people's connections with other parts of the world; the level of internet connectivity and its cost determines both how well or badly different places are interconnected; religious structures and organizations determine particular types of connection and disconnection; legal restrictions, border controls, financial and banking systems and environmental conditions also have profound effects on how people experience their location and its relative value. 

So Crosslocations will turn the question of location upside down: rather than begin with people and their identities, we begin with the places and the variety of ways in which they are connected and disconnected with other places, and how these structures, regimes or systems create relative values and meanings for places. Then we will look at how that affects people's social lives. 

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The world is full of regulations that direct how things should be done, what is allowed and not allowed, and that manage, organize and control movement, exchange and practices. To date, the most intense research within anthropology on politically-inflected relations between people and places has been related to these areas: both formal and informal techniques for defining rights, obligations, control over and ownership of land and territories. Bureaucratic techniques and regulations about moving across space can be debilitating or enabling; different legal regimes can come into conflict - especially in the sea, and especially between states, but in other contexts as well; and the structures and dynamics of border regimes are often the most visible, and most visceral, bureaucratic and legal elements that control, maintain and define the difference between here and somewhere else.

In Crosslocations, border refers specifically to politically-defined demarcations between locations; the many and various symbolic and metaphorical uses of the term 'border' are familiar to us, especially as these are also embedded within the formal political borders with which we are mostly concerned; but as this project concerns the Mediterranean region and the importance and value of being somewhere in particular within it, we are limiting our interest in the concept to the entities and processes associated with polity borders. In terms of the Mediterranean, maritime borders are as important as land borders, and the borders set in the air, in space and along the sea bed are equally significant. Many of these are not experienced at all by people in their everyday lives; but regulations relating to them do affect people.

Here, cartography has a big part to play in our work. Cartography is not only a means we will use to map this 'borderly' locating regime: it is also a technology that has been used to actually create border regimes. It is not usually possible to see borders on the ground, and certainly not in their entirety: they are only visible in maps. Looking at how borders are depicted in maps and how that relates to their operation in practice will also be part of our work. For example, maritime borders are almost never shown in the same maps as land borders. 

The law is a crucial part of defining the difference between here and somewhere else, and law does this in a particular way - concerning rights, obligations, property, use, exchange, ways of resolving disputes, and so on. As mentioned above, within the Mediterranean region, there are a number of legal systems that operate simultaneously, and we will both study these and their implications for the relations and separations betweeen places, as well as looking at their mutual compatibilities and incompatibilities. We are particularly interested in the logic and principles behind different legal systems - the law of the sea, EU law, state law, Sharia law, Roman law, Napoleonic law and international law. We are further interested in comparing the contemporary legal structures with the past, most especially the Ottoman period and parts of the Classical period. One of the advantages of working within the Mediterranean region in this research is that we have lengthy historical records to draw upon.

We will be mapping these legal, bureaucratic and border structures for the Mediterranean region to gain an understanding of both how the logic of these systems imposes certain relative values and meanings to diverse parts of the Mediterranean. And we will also look at how these legal regimes connect and separate both different parts of the Mediterranean, but also how they connect and separate the Mediterranean region from other places.  

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Intensification of Infrastructure

Infrastructure has attracted a lot of attention in recent years in social research: roads, railways, sewage systems, electricity grids, oil and gas pipelines, flight paths, sea lanes, lighting, public facilities and, perhaps more than almost anything else, the internet and other digital connection structures. The reasons for this renewed attention are obvious: infrastructures have changed radically over the last thirty years or so, most particularly in digital technologies, but also in many other areas. There have been thousands of miles of new asphalt roads constructed; high speed railway links between China and Europe have been built; the politics of oil and gas pipelines have intensified; and the spread of digital technologies, accompanied by apparently ever higher speeds, ever greater data processing power (the Big Data era has been with us for a while now), and ever more complex use of social media, have changed relations between places, and between people, substantially. 

Past and present entanglements

Yet traces of the past seem to become regularly entangled in these new infrastructural developments. The cables that run along the Mediterranean sea bed (and the beds of all the oceans around the planet) often trace past colonial relations; the tensions between the north and south Mediterranean, as well as the East Mediterranean and northern Europe, concerns oil as much as it concerns refugees. One of the new rail links between China and Europe (the Trans-Asia Railway Network, or TAR,)  follows the old Silk Route, and has now reached Istanbul. The Turkish government made a point of asserting that this entirely new infrastructure was effectively 'reviving' the Silk Route.

Crosscutting lines

Some aspects of infrastructure trace state and national boundaries; others, however, cross and even contradict those boundaries. For example, there have been decades of tensions between the southern and northern parts of Cyprus; yet both sides collaborate on their raw sewage system.

The logic of infrastructure

The logic of infrastructure, as a locating regime, is obviously dependent upon many other things - political, legal, economic and even environmental. But infrastructural processes have a dynamic of their own as well, particularly in terms of generating distinctive relations and separations between places. So Crosslocations will focus on how infrastructure works across the Mediterranean region, both in terms of the inequalities, separations and connections within the region and between the region and elsewhere. 

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Over the centuries, a range of different trading, banking and financial structures have operated within the Mediterranean region, which again both connects and separates different parts of the region, and also links different parts to other parts of the world, as well as disconnecting some areas.  The Mediterranean's trading routes are still highly important for maritime trade, even though the region is most famous for trading during Classical and Ottoman times.

The logic of trading, finance and banking locating regimes overlaps with, but is not the same as the others discussed above: how banks and financial institutions link and separate the world often crosscuts the logic by which border regimes work, for example, and also frequently differs from the way religious institutions relate to location. Some suggest that what most people mean when they talk about 'globalization' is trade, finance and banking, rather than (for example), the globalised movement of people.

At the same time, while logistics companies would like to imagine the world as a seamless web of connectivity with no borders, in practice, the business of moving things, money and debt from one place to another is a highly complex matter that is crosscut by a variety of interfaces - places where things must stop before passing on. This is as true on the internet as it is anywhere else, and that is one area where the importance of location spreads to the structure and design of digital technologies.

Of course, trade and financial transactions have both formal and informal versions, ranging from the entirely legal, to the somewhat questionable (e.g. the use of tax havens and offshore banking), to the explicitly illegal (e.g. fraud, money laundering and trade in banned substances). This range has been present probably for as long as there has been trade, finance and banking.

The interest of Crosslocations here is to look at how the underlying logic of trade, finance and banking generates different types of separation and connection between places across the Mediterranean, and between the region and other parts of the world.  

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A highly significant part of being somewhere in particular involves environmental conditions and relations. The 'environment' covers a wide range of topics of course, from issues relating to climate change and pollution (especially in the Mediterranean sea), to questions of access to water, urban design, privatization of public space and the price of renting and owning land, to questions of wellbeing, and much more. It also includes less directly politically debated issues which nevertheless affect people's everyday lives, covered within topography, topology, geology, geophysics, marine science and ecology. 

In Crosslocations, our focus will be on how environmental issues connect, separate and crosscut different parts of the Mediterranean region, both in material and epistemological terms. For example: some parts of the region are connected to others through tectonic faults.  An earthquake in one part is likely to have knock-on effects all the way down the fault, either immediately or over time. These faults cross-cut just about every other politically, socially, economically or even ecologically constituted connections and separations. Drawing together the dynamics of tectonic faults (which have enormous time scales) with those of other types of relations and separations between regions is part of the work that we will be doing. 

Questions of agriculture could take up the entirety of our project, given that the issue is not only involved with the production of food and other products, but also is highly politically, socially, ecologically and economically significant, and often also a highly contentious, issue.  In Crosslocations, our key focus will be on the way the agricultural sector is involved in connections and disconnections between different parts of the Mediterranean region and beyond. Here, we will be particularly concerned with how other regimes - especially law, bureaucracy and borders, but also religious structures - become entangled with this one. 

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In Crosslocations, the aspect of language that is of most interest is the part it plays in connecting and disconnecting different parts of the Mediterranean and beyond. People often have a sense of closeness to, or distance from, other parts of the world according to their sense of familiarity with the languages spoken there. Here, traces of past relations and separations between places play as much of a part as contemporary ones.

In the Mediterranean region, it is easy to see that dominant languages did not, and still do not, align with the borders of nations. Many peoples in the region are multilingual to varying degrees, and have been so for centuries. Which languages become people's second (and often third) language tells an important story about how different parts of the world are connected and separated. So we will be paying particular attention to second languages in Crosslocations: the language that people speak best after their first language. In the Mediterranean, there appear to be four: French, Spanish, Arabic and, of course, English. The first three have strong regional 'footprints' and provide a means for people to connect to certain parts of the rest of the world, but not others. English is exceptional, in that it is the language often used in the media, entertainment industry, digital technologies and businesses as a kind of 'generic' language. The implication is that English is somehow less located, less fixed in place, than the others. Yet we do not yet know the degree to which English also generates separations, as well as connections, between different regions: those populations for whom English is not their second language may experience the 'global' character of English very differently from those for whom English is their second language.

The focus on social relations Crosslocations will involve exploring how social connections and separations between places both crosscuts and aligns with other ways of relating, separating and locating people in this region. For example, ways of establishing social belonging and how that relates to location can be quite different from legal forms of belonging; countries that are in conflict often contain populations that are nevertheless closely socially related; people who send remittances from different parts of the world to relatives in other parts of the world generate relations that are different from those who travel away from their own families in order to take care of the children of wealthier families (transnational care work). Moreover, existing research shows that social relations in terms of kinship have been undergoing substantial changes over the last decades, but differently in different regions. For example, in the north Mediterranean region, debates about equal marriage rights have divided some regions and brought others into relation, and not always in the ways that might have been assumed. In general, questions surrounding birth, maturity, sexuality, marriage, divorce, old age and death, as well as questions of relatedness, friendship and collegiality, have had important parts to play in questions of the relative significance and value of location. We will be intensely ethnographically researching these issues.

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Religious organizations and structures in the Mediterranean region have existed for considerably longer that nations or states, and both their involvement with, and separations from, political arrangements of territory, has been amongst the most important tensions in the relations between people, places and institutions that have existed in the Mediterranean region, both in the past and in the present. That religious structures and organizations cross-cuts political and social borders and boundaries hardly needs saying; however, the way in which the logic and ideals of diverse organized religions overlap with, or differ from, political and social logic and ideals, and particularly in terms of how that connects and disconnects different parts of the world, is rather less researched.

Obviously, this is a crucially important issue in the Mediterranean region, both today and in the past. Crosslocations will be particularly focusing on how different religious structures and organizations generate certain overlaps and separations between places and peoples. There will be no effort to judge or adjudicate differences between faiths; the aim is only to consider how diverse organizational structures generate relations with some places and separations from others.

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