Shaping Territories

Published in Ameli Barikin and Helen Hughes (Eds.), Making Worlds: Art and Science Fiction. Melbourne: Surpllus, 2013, pp. 124-140.  ISBN: 978-1-922099-07-5

outposts and frontiers

conditions and consequences

layers, veins and connection

Devil in the Dark (Stark Trek - Original Series) Original Airdate: March 9, 1967
Stardate 3196.1. The Enterprise is in orbit around Janus VI. On the planet below a Federation mining colony is under attack from an unknown life form.

CHIEF ENGINEER VANDERBERG: That thing has killed fifty of my men.

CAPTAIN KIRK: You’ve killed thousands of her children.


KIRK: Those round silicon nodules that you’ve been collecting and destroying? They’re her eggs. Tell them, Mister Spock.

SPOCK: There have been many generations of Horta on this planet. Every fifty thousand years, the entire race dies, all but one, like this one, but the eggs live. She cares for them, protects them. And when they hatch, she is the mother to them, thousands of them. This creature here is the mother of her race.

KIRK: The Horta is intelligent, peaceful, mild. She had no objection to sharing this planet with you, till you broke into her nursery and started destroying her eggs. Then she fought back in the only way she knew how, as any mother would fight when her children are in danger.

VANDERBERG: We didn’t know. How could we? You mean if these eggs hatch, there’ll be thousands of those things crawling around down here?

KIRK: This is where they live. They digest rock, they tunnel for nourishment.

SPOCK: And they are the most inoffensive of creatures. They harbour ill will towards no one.

APPEL: Now look, we have pergium to deliver.

KIRK: Yes, I know. Here’s your circulating pump. You’ve complained this planet is a mineralogical treasure house if you had the equipment to get at it. Gentlemen, the Horta moves through rock the way we move through air, and it leaves tunnels. The greatest natural miners in the universe. It seems to me we could make an agreement, reach a modus vivendi. They tunnel. You collect and process, and your process operation would be a thousand times more profitable.

VANDERBERG: Sounds all right, if it will work.

SPOCK: Except for one thing. The Horta is badly wounded. It may die.

DOCTOR MCCOY: It won’t die. By golly, Jim, I’m beginning to think I can cure a rainy day.

KIRK: Can you help it?

MCCOY: Help it? I cured it.

KIRK: How?

MCCOY: Well, I had the ship beam down a hundred pounds of that thermoconcrete. You know, the kind we use to build emergency shelters out of. It’s mostly silicone. So I just trowelled it into the wound, and it’ll act like a bandage until it heals. Take a look. It’s as good as new.

KIRK: Well, Spock, I’m going to have to ask you to get in touch with the Horta again. Tell her our proposition. She and her children can do all the tunnelling they want. Our people will remove the minerals, and each side will leave the other alone. Think she’ll go for it?

SPOCK: It seems logical, Captain. The Horta has a very logical mind. And after close association with humans, I find that curiously refreshing.

Force of Nature (Star Trek - Next Generation) Original Airdate: Nov 15, 1993
Stardate: 47310.2. In the Hekaras Corridor, an unstable region of space, the crew of the Enterprise discover that warp engines are damaging the fabric of space-time.

CHIEF ENGINEER LAFORGE: Yeah. Maybe I was taking the whole thing personally.

DATA: I do not understand.

LAFORGE: Maybe I was a little threatened. The thought that warp engines might be doing some kind of damage…

RABAL: I don’t think we can look at space travel the same way anymore. We’re going to have to change.

LAFORGE: I’ve been in Starfleet for a long time. We depend on warp drive. I just don’t know how easy it’s going to be to change.

RABAL: It won’t be easy at all...

PICARD: You know, Geordi, I spent the better part of my life exploring space. I’ve charted new worlds,
I’ve met dozens of new species. And I believe that these were all valuable ends in themselves. Now it seems that all this while, I was helping to damage the thing that I hold most dear.

Prodigal Daughter (Star Trek - Deep Space Nine) Original Airdate: Jan 14, 1999
Stardate 52300 (approx). On a planet near New Sydney in the Sappora System the Tigan family discuss recent events at their pergium mining facility.

YANAS: Why was this woman on our payroll?

JANEL: We were returning a favour.

YANAS: To whom?

JANEL: To the Orion Syndicate.

YANAS: And what favour did they do for us?

JANEL: Remember when the Ferengis opened up the Timor Two mine and there was a ten point drop in the price of pergium? Well, that came at a bad moment. We were overextended on some loans, our cash reserves were depleted, and a Jem’Hadar raid destroyed an entire shipment before it reached the refinery on Rigel Four.

EZRI: So you turned to the Syndicate?

JANEL: They came to me! They offered us a way out and I took it. I did what I had to do. And I don’t remember you asking a lot of questions when our cash problems were resolved overnight.

YANAS: Because I trusted you. Obviously it was a mistake.

EZRI: What about Morica?

JANEL: About a month after Bokar arranged the loan, he came to me and said it was time to return the favour. There was a woman who needed a job with a salary, but without any actual work involved. He said she was the widow of one of their associates and they needed to take care of her. I didn’t feel like I was in a position to say no. So I started making the payments. No one would’ve been the wiser if Norvo had altered the payroll records like I asked him.

YANAS: You dragged your little brother into this?

JANEL: You’re the one who says there’s nothing more important than the company. Well, that’s all I was thinking about. The company. You dumped it in my lap and I saved it, so don’t start complaining now. if it weren’t for me, we would have been finished.
Homestead (Star Trek - Voyager) Original Airdate: May 9, 2001

Stardate 54868.6. In the briefing room on the Starship Voyager negotiations between a Talaxian colony and a mining operation are taking place.

CAPTAIN JANEWAY: Isn’t there enough to mine here, without destroying their home?

COMMANDER NOCONA: Their home contains more than thirty percent of the field’s ore. Without that asteroid the operation isn’t worth the expense.

NEELIX: Would you be open to some kind of compensation?

NOCONA: All we want are the minerals.

OXILON: And you’d kill us to get them.

NEELIX: Wait. The Talaxians have found a way to produce a lot of geothermal energy. Maybe they could share it with you.

NOCONA: What do you mean, share?

NEELIX: You could convert it into fuel to power your ships.

NOCONA: The energy they generate isn’t compatible with our technology.

JANEWAY: We’d be willing to help you make the modifications.

NOCONA: We have quotas to meet. We don’t have time for that.

JANEWAY: Commander, the future of more than five hundred people is at stake here.

Hemp and war
The establishment of a colony at Port Jackson in 1790’s was set against the background of a series of major conflicts in Europe sparked by the French Revolution. These conflicts, following on from the American War of Independence, dominated the final decade of the 18th century and extended through to 1815. The significance of these conflicts to the settlement of Australia is usually explained in terms of the United Kingdom’s need to find a new home for it’s growing criminal class following its losses in America. However historian Dr John Jiggens argues it has more to do with the central role of hemp to the maritime power of the empire (Jiggens 2012). Noting the word canvas comes from the Dutch word for cannabis, Jiggens points out to fit out a first rate man-of-war sailing ship required 80 tons of hemp for sails, rigging, anchor ropes, cargo nets etc., and that these needed to be replaced every three or four years. To produce that much hemp from the long vegetable fibers of cannabis sativa 320 acres had to be grown.

Navel power was crucial to the United Kingdom during the course of the Napoleonic War when the UK blocked the English channel in order to restrict French access to Atlantic ports and the Mediterranean. Napoleon attempted to break the blockade by signing a treaty with Czar Alexander in 1807 restricting the UK’s access to Russian hemp. The United Kingdom responded by seizing American ships, threatening to confiscate their cargo and press their crews into service in the British navy, unless they help bypass Napoleon’s trade restriction under the cover of the supposedly neutral American flag. During this time hemp, which normally sold for £25 per ton, reached a price of £118 per ton.

Jiggens argues the crisis in hemp supply was a recurrent theme in British strategic thinking during the Georgian era making hemp production as significant as oil has been for the last century. He suggests that colonizing Australia was not primarily motivated by the need to find a replacement prison but by the need for hemp. Numerous schemes to grow hemp were tried in the early years of colonization with settlers being offered free seeds and bounties, and convicts employed in its cultivation and processing. Despite set backs hemp production increased and by the turn of the century new mechanical means of harvesting and retting allowed hemp to be manufactured much more efficiently. However this new era of industrialization also brought about steel cable and steam powered ships which rendered much of the hemp industry obsolete. Hemp production went into decline as cotton became easier to produce and petrochemical industries introduced synthetic textiles such as nylon.

Scramble for Africa
In 1884-5 fifteen nations gathered for the Berlin West Africa Conference in order to settle existing territorial disputes and lay down the rules for subsequent annexations that resulted in a partitioning of Africa. The gathering was dominated by Great Britain, Germany, France and Portugal and focused on sub Saharan Africa. Of the nations present none were African. This gathering followed at least four centuries of imperialism that had seen countries such as Portugal and Great Britain exploit Africa’s populations as slaves (some 12 million between the 1440s and 1867) along with its raw materials especially gold, ivory and rubber.

Following the conference there was a headlong race between the European nations to extend ‘effective occupation’ from their respective coastal enclaves to the interior hinterland. This expansion was motivated by “a heady mix of self-interest, racial arrogance, and missionary zeal” (Parker & Rathbone 96), it effectively remapped the African continent into fifty different colonies paying no attention to the rich diversity of existing cultural or linguistic borders.

Although the scramble for territory was driven by imperial rivalries, with the aim of excluding opponents from potentially lucrative regions, it also took place against the backdrop of a worldwide financial crisis. Initially marked by the collapse of the Vienna Stock Exchange in 1873 and followed by bank failures, this crisis is sometimes referred to as the Long Depression. Numerous factors were at play: France was struggling with war reparations to Germany, while Germany saw unsustainable growth driving booming stock prices resulting from the unification and the influx of capital. The U.S. witnessed bank closures in part due to a tightening of monetary policy in an effort to return to the gold standard as a result of a demonetization of silver initiated by Germany in 1873; but also as a consequence of speculative investments in building railroads, driven by government land grants and subsides. The period of deflation lasted until 1879 and is the longest period of contraction in U.S. history. Some countries such as the Great Britain suffered until 1896 as trade slumped and its economy stagnated with little investment in infrastructure. Overall the period was characterized by falling prices, tariff wars and protectionist policies driven by fierce nationalism. While the value of trade with Africa was small, during this time of a significant economic downturn imperial expansion and the lure of potential wealth from recourses were considered viable alternatives.

Although land remained the legal property of the Africans and occupation was often secured by negotiation and treaty, it was also accompanied by coercion and violence or dubious offers of ‘protection’ (Parker & Rathbone 91). Despite European forces encountering considerable opposition in some regions in the face of European industrial technology, such as repeating rifles and the Maxim Gun (precursor to the modern-day machine gun), resistance proved futile. The conquering ‘tools of empire’ also included “medicines, steamships, railways, telegraphs, and the organizational capabilities of the industrial state” (Parker & Rathbone 97). These had disastrous consequences for large numbers of Africans who lacked a mechanism through which to organize a united resistance; it was not until 1900 when the first Pan-African Conference was held in London.

Struggles continue in Africa over who should profit from its natural recourses. The people of Nigeria see little benefit from their petro-chemical industry dominated by multinational corporations, such as Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron. In the Nzérékoré region of southeastern Guinea companies such as Rio Tinto are forging contracts with Chinalco to develop the Simandou iron ore reserve. While mineral reserves in African rank first or second in in the world for bauxite, cobalt, diamonds, phosphate rocks, platinum-group metals (PGM), vermiculite, and zirconium.(1) Africa remains the world’s poorest inhabited continent, as measured by gross domestic product per capita.(2)

Current freehold property rights in Australia allow for the utilization of land at the surface, however exploitation of mineral resources on or below ground level are generally not included. The extraction of mineral reserves such as petroleum, natural gas and precious metals requires a mining lease, which were first introduced in the Australian colonies in 1851 during the gold rush. Prior to 1851 English common law prevailed, whereby the owner of the land was also entitled to the resources on, above or below the surface - “to whomsoever the soil belongs, he owns also to the sky and to the depths” (Fitzgerald 93). While common law established a distinction between soil and mineral deposits it stated that “whatever is affixed to the soil belongs to the soil” (Fitzgerald 93). Exceptions to these rights were the “royal metals” of gold and silver of which the Crown retained absolute possession. In 1840 the British Secretary of State issued a direction to the colony of NSW to include all mineral rights in future grants of Crown lands however mining laws of 1851 reversed this decision and English common law was “progressively superseded in accordance with the policy that the Crown should own all minerals whether in private or public land” (Fitzgerald 95). This policy of public ownership of minerals sets Australia apart from countries such as the US and Canada where private ownership of mines and minerals is prevalent.

The legalities governing the exploitation of mineral reserves in Australia relate directly to the initial formative engagement with the land during its annexation by Great Britain. In regarding the country as terra nullius, and ignoring all pre-existing social laws and cultural practices of Indigenous peoples, the land and the wealth embedded within it were automatically vested in the Crown. However the concept of terra nullius was overturned as a consequence of the second Mabo case in 1992 where legal recognition of common law title to land on the Murray Islands in Torres Strait was successfully argued. The subsequent Native Title Act of 1993 recognizes the rights and interests to land held by Indigenous people under their traditional laws and customs and gave them the right to negotiate access to their land (3). The changing and at times contentious relationships between Aboriginal communities and mining companies that Native Title has enabled is addressed by Professor Marcia Langton in her 2012 Boyer lecturers “The Quiet Revolution: Indigenous People and the Resources Boom”. Langton challenges assumptions that Aboriginal people are simply ‘caretakers of wilderness,’ and argues for the benefits economic development from resources can bring to Indigenous communities largely neglected by mainstream Australia.

The complex relationship between freehold and leasehold rights is also dramatized in the context of coal seam gas extraction rapidly developing in the eastern states of Australia. For example the Queensland Gas Company currently holds more than 800 agreements with landholders and is planning to sink around 6,000 new wells across 4,500 square kilometres over the next 20 years (Andersen). Farmers whose land has gas reserves are generally unable to restrict mining on their property with state and federal governments entitled to sell mining rights to third parties without the consent of the landholder (Hepburn). Growing tension between farmers with private freehold and mining companies with leases seeking access to gas reserves below the surface reveal the complexity of ownership rights and highlight the difficulty in taking into account long-term effects, such as the water quality in the Great Artesian Basin.

(1) MIA_p1.1-3


(3)Native Title, Australian Government attorney-General’s Department. default/aspx

Andersen, Bridget. “Landholders to know their rights on CSG,” ABC 
News, Friday 30th September, 2011. 30/coal-sem-gas-rights-feature/3193850 (accessed December 6th, 2012)

Fitzgerald, Professor Anne. “Mining Agreements: Negotiated frameworks in the Australian minerals sector,” QUT Faculty of law, Fitzgerald.pdf

Jiggens, John. Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp, Sea- Power and Empire 1776-1815, John Jiggens Clarence Park, SA, 2012

Hepburn, Samanth. “Coal seam gas expansion: devastating farmers and the environment, Right Now: Human rights in Australia,” September 1, 2012. (accessed December 6th, 2012)

Parker John and Richard Rathbone. African History: a very short introduction Oxford University Press, Oxford 2007

The succession of scripts, observations and commentary gathered here can be framed by something like an expanded geological diagram, similar to that advanced by Manuel De Landa in A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History. With reference to complexity theory and the philosophy of Giles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, De Landa describes physical and biological systems in economic and social terms. His approach characterizes differentiating flows of matter-energy, organic and inorganic information, force and intensity, across a broad spectrum including rocks, plants, animals, genetic code, language, social, cultural and discursive practices. Through accumulative processes - binding, connecting, folding, thickening, hardening - these flows yield formations across different durations, before dissipating again into transitory singularities or reforming. For De Landa this dynamic movement of forces and constraints, change and stasis is a mixture of co-existent intermingling hierarchies comprising uniform elements and what he terms ‘meshworks’ or self-consistent aggregates [De Landa 1997 32].

These events of formation are the beneficial but also disastrous, and ultimately unavoidable processes of stratification described by Deleuze and Guattari in terms of a double articulation [Deleuze and Guattari 1987 40]. This formulation has a tetravalent structure, borrowed from the linguist Louis Hjelmslev, that sees the paired terms content and expression, substance and form delineate a field within which the two intertwined movements pass. It is through this articulation that Deleuze and Guattari avoid a simple dualist relationship between form and substance, as each operation is doubled such that both content and expression have substance and form. Significantly substance is understood as “nothing other than formed matters,” a residue of specific accumulations and codings at work in a particular process of territorialization and deterritorialization [Deleuze and Guattari 1987 41]. These formed matters comprise layers or stratum that are always at least in pairs and open to change, as the substance of expression on one stratum serves as a new substratum for another and so on.

This understanding allows us to observe amid various registers - organic, inorganic, social or economic - specific historical assemblages. Whether the assemblage is mining or slavery  
the processes of accumulation, sedimentation and coding operate according to various supple and rigid processes of stratification. For example De Landa maps the intensification in food production and other energy sources that saw European countries digest the world as vast regions were turned into its supply zones [De Landa 1997 162]. Through the surplus extracted from the ground and the unpaid labour of slaves the New World contributed to the transformations underway in eighteenth century European urban environments, as much as European colonization transformed the New World. Historically ‘land’ has been one of the most important mechanisms of capture through which the state exercises monopoly over territory, so as to, amongst other things, control mining rights. Through a refinement of legal understandings mining rights encode processes of segmentation that have given rise to a peculiar distinction between the soil of the earth and the minerals it contains. While this codification may be configured differently, it should not be assumed that mechanisms of capture can be simply overcome. Rather Deleuze and Guattari propose various paths towards triggering transformative energies and forces through which power might operate as life-affirming rather than life-denying [Deleuze 2006 85].

The geo-logically inspired schema De Landa draws from Deleuze and Guattari presents ways to think about the connections between thought and materiality as movements and flows that take into account non-linguistic expression. To this can be added Deleuze and Guattari’s understanding of territory in a geographical sense that extends Friedrich Nietzsche’s privileging of milieus over origins, and sees them nominate him as the founder of a geophilosophy [Deleuze and Guattari 1994 102]. For Deleuze and Guattari geography emphasizes the irreducibility of contingency and proposes thinking isn’t what takes place in, around or between subjects and objects, but rather “takes place in the relationship of territory and the earth” [Deleuze and Guattari 1994 85]. In this relationship earth isn’t understood as the primal layer of the world nor the ultimate substrate; the layers of stratums described by geology make evident the contingency of foundations. Rather, earth, ground, land, and territory, as John Protevi writes “express manners of occupying terrestrial space by different social machines: the nomad war machine, the territorial tribe, the overcoding State” [Protevi 2005 80-1].

The creative potential of this understanding lies in an experimental engagement with material systems to form divergent consistencies that emphasis a nonlinear dynamic in and between ‘natural’ and social systems. In place of an image of thought that uncovers or constructs universals, or establishes values, the layering of geophilosophy is constituted by a double becoming, a zone of exchange that refuses to see creativity as something essentially human and therefore non-natural [Bonta and Protevi 2006 5]. Amongst other things geophilosophy invites a consideration of the limits of territory zones of anomalous dimensions where an outside is encountered. Whether the outside is another race, entity, territory, time, or as Deleuze and Guattari find in a short story by H. P. Lovecraft, “the ultimate regions of a Continuum inhabited by unnameable waves and unfindable particles” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987 248). These regions can be characterized by the hard edges of boundaries between fixed states of being, or as Protevi and Bonta suggests, a borderline activated by processes of bordering. As they maintain, “bordering is effected by individuals that reach a zone characterized by a threshold of density beyond which they sense that it is ‘unsafe ‘ to venture” [Bonta and Protevi 2006 65]. It is in this encounter with that which is unrecognizable that Deleuze and Guattari argue we are compelled to think, to pass beyond habits and clichés to negotiate alternate ways of being or experiences of time and space.

Bonta, Mark and John Protevi. Deleuze and Geophilosophy. A Guide and Glossary, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2006.

De Landa, Manuel. A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History, Zone Books, New York, 1997.

Deleuze, Gilles. Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson, Columbia University Press, New York, 2006.

Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Massumi, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1987.

Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. What is Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell, Columbia University Press, New York, 1994.

Protevi, John “Earth/Land (Terre)” in Adrian Parr ed. The Deleuze Dictionary, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2005. pp 80- 82.