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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Negotiating nation-states: North American geographies of culture and capitalism Sparke, Matthew


The nation-state has for a long time appeared to have eluded the attempts of scholars to encapsulate its essence in theory. Rather than propose another attempt at encapsulation, this dissertation represents a form of geographical supplementation to these efforts. As a work of geography it focuses on the negotiation of nation-states, and, in doing so, traces a double displacement of encapsulation. Primarily, the four major studies comprising the dissertation represent geographical research which, using a wide range of archival and contemporary media material, makes manifest the irreducible complexity of the negotiations in, over and between nation-states at the end of the twentieth century. Focused on Canada and the USA, these studies trace how a diversity of cultural as well as political-economic processes come together in the inherently geographical negotiations of First Nations struggles, Canadian constitutional politics, continental free trade developments, and American patriotism. These are negotiations where no one process fully encapsulates an explanation of the events and where their collective but contested territorialization calls out for an open-ended and anti-essentialist analysis. Secondarily, while the dissertation's first and more central work of displacement is enabled by poststructuralist critiques of essentialist explanation, its other displacing effect comes in the form of a geographical deconstruction of so-called poststructuralist theory itself. This represents an attempt to turn the elusive nature of the nation-state vis-a-vis theory into a living and politicized site for investigating the limits of poststructuralist theorizing. Overall, the geographical investigations of the dissertation illustrate the value of anti-essentialist arguments for furthering geographical research into the nation-state while simultaneously calling these epistemological innovations into geographical question. Using such questioning to critique the limited geographical representation of the nationstate, it is concluded that geographers cannot not persistently examine such limits.

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