Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Song, A.M.
Pawns, pirates or peacemakers: Fishing boats in the inter-Korean maritime boundary dispute and ambivalent governmentality
(2015) Political Geography, 48, pp. 60-71.

DOI: 10.1016/j.polgeo.2015.06.002

Extractive activities such as oil drilling, mining and fishing often appear implicated in international maritime boundary disputes. While natural resources’ crucial role as a catalyst for conflict has been well-noted in the literature, such an approach has typically assumed a contextual and passive position of natural resources with little political agency for altering the dynamics of a confrontation. This paper provides an alternative perspective in which resource activities constitute a willful agent that works in part to govern the course of the boundary dispute. Drawing on Foucault’s notion of governmentality, I look at how South Korean fishing activities near a disputed maritime border between the two Koreas, called the Northern Limit Line, may be imbued with intentionality representing an indirect arm of the state’s geopolitical agenda. Mobilizing the realist narrative of an immovable border and the mundane tactics of education sessions and at-sea radio communication, I suggest that the South Korean government is seeking to create subjects in fishers to reinforce the state objectives of boundary legitimization and defense of claimed waters. The analysis, however, also demonstrates an ambivalent nature of governmentality, with fishers muddling the state interventions through their own conduct and rationale. The South Korean government thus faces a delicate task of managing the fishing operation vis-à-vis the boundary dispute. Taking the seemingly innocuous resource activity such as fishing to the center stage of power relations, this paper also tables one way of engaging with maritime boundaries, one of the understudied domains in political geography. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.

Author Keywords
Ambivalent governmentality; Government-at-a-distance; Korea; Maritime boundary dispute; Northern Limit Line; Small-scale fisheries

Index Keywords
boundary dispute, fishing community, geopolitics, governance approach, marine resource, maritime boundary, political geography, power relations, territorial delimitation; North Korea, South Korea

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