# THE FUNAMBULIST PAPERS 46 /// Chamayou’s Manhunts: From Territory to Space? by Stuart Elden


Royal Air Force Nimrod XV230 named after the biblical character of Nimrod

The forty-sixth Funambulist Papers comes from one of the most important current thinkers in political geography: Stuart Elden who is the author of five books, as well as the editor of seven others (see the photo) including the very useful Space, Knowledge and Power: Foucault and Geography (Ashgate, 2007.). In the following text he interprets and critique the notion of territory — he recently wrote a book entitled The Birth of Territory (University of Chicago Press, 2013.) — in the philosophical-historical work of Grégoire Chamayou, and more specifically in the book Manhunts (Princeton University Press, 2012.). The reader is invited to also consult the two articles dedicated to Chamayou on The Funambulist: “The Body as a Terrain of Experiments: Medicine and Vile Bodies” and “The Body of the Prey is the Battlefield.” The three books written by Chamayou, Vile Bodies, Manhunts and Drone Theory are indeed centered on the question of body and the “genealogy” — to use Michel Foucault’s terminology — of the mechanisms of power that surrounds it. Stuart’s text helps us to place this body within a legal and physical territory where these mechanisms operate.

The Funambulist Papers 46 /// Chamayou’s Manhunts: From Territory to Space?

by Stuart Elden

This brief article discusses Grégoire Chamayou’s Manhunts, a powerful account of human inhumanity, the tracking down and killing of other humans. As he says in his second paragraph:

“To write the history of manhunts is to write one fragment of a long history of violence on the part of the dominant. It is also to write a history of the technologies of predation indispensable for the establishment and reproduction of relationships of domination”.[1]

Chamayou is insistent that his focus is not on a metaphor, but on “concrete historical phenomena in which human beings were tracked down, captured, or killed in accord with the forms of the hunt”.[2]

“The main problem has to do with the fact that the hunter and the hunted do not belong to different species. Since the distinction between the predator and his prey is not inscribed in nature, the hunting relationship is always susceptible to a reversal of positions. Prey sometimes band together to become hunters in their turn. The history of a power is also the history of the struggles to overthrow it”.[3]

His examples are wide-ranging, from Ancient Greece to the Bible, from exile to slavery to colonialism, and to zombies. The book is strikingly illustrated and has plenty of powerful examples. It proceeds in a non-systematic manner, and is suggestive rather than comprehensive in its cases and references. Nonetheless it is a striking and original analysis.

Chamayou is inspired by some of Foucault’s claims, especially the contrast Foucault draws between mechanisms of exile and exclusion and incarceration and inclusion. As Chamayou notes, Foucault describes this in History of Madness as ‘the great confinement’, le grand renfermement,[4] but it also figures in his contrasting analyses of medicine. In lectures delivered in 1974 in Rio Foucault contrasts the exile of the leper and the partitioning and quarantine of the plague town; a comparison he would reuse in his Collège de France lecture course The Abnormals and in the ‘Panopticism’ chapter of Discipline and Punish.[5] However Chamayou also distances himself from elements of Foucault’s work. One striking example is when he suggests that Foucault’s notion of pastoral power, the power of the shepherd over his flock,[6] should be seen as working in opposition to another figure, the hunter of men. If Abraham is the iconic figure of pastoral power, Nimrod is the parallel for what he calls “cynegetic power”.[7] Nimrod was Noah’s great-grandson and acclaimed as a mighty hunter. He was also, on some traditions, King of Babylon and thus the ruler of Babel.

In Chamayou’s summary, Foucault’s pastoral power is “exercised over a multiplicity in movement (a flock); it is fundamentally beneficent (caring for the flock), and it individualizes its subjects (knowing each member of the flock individually)”. It is thus “a mobile, beneficent, and individualising power”.[8] Chamayou suggests that “cynegetic power is opposed term for term by this triple characterization”.[9] Instead of leading the flock, the hunter follows to seize; it is a territorial power, but one that fluctuates between the fixed space of the city and the exterior, a power that is “not limited in its predatory extent by any external boundary. It is exercised, from a territory of accumulation, on the resources of an indefinite exteriority”.[10] Chamayou therefore distinguishes between territory, which he understands as fixed, bordered and to an extent immobile, from a wider “space of capture”. This leads him to the first contrast: “Thus, whereas pastoral power guides and accompanies a multiplicity in movement, cynegetic power extends itself, on the basis of a territory of accumulation, over a space of capture”.[11]

Chamayou sees modern developments to have caused “a rupture with respect to the old principle of territorial sovereignty that maintains that everything is on the territory belongs to the territory, given that residing on the territory no longer suffices to be completely subject, de facto, to the law that applies to it”.[12] But this “old principle of territorial sovereignty” is not, actually, all that old. While elements of its can be traced back through the history of political thought, the bringing together of these different elements as a notion of ‘territorial sovereignty’ is really only as old as the seventeenth century. The idea that the king was an emperor in his kingdom, i.e. that he has no superior in temporal power, is late medieval; but that the boundaries of that kingdom were known and fixed is much later. Indeed, attempts to fix boundaries of states was one of the major international projects of the first half of the twentieth century; really only being enshrined in legal order in the Charter of the United Nations in the principle of territorial integrity. In a note Chamayou suggests that

“The medieval principle of territorial sovereignty was expressed in the formula quidquid est in territorio est de territorio. This maxim meant that the sovereign reigned over the whole territory and over everything in it. The principle was then interpreted freely, making it the principle of protecting refugees: ‘Qui est in territorio est de territorio. The foreigner being subject to the laws of the country where he resides, he must also enjoy the protection and advantages of these same laws’. Ivan Golovin, Esprit de l’économie politique (Paris: Didot, 1843), p. 382. See also Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, p. 280”.[13]

The reference is frustrating, because Golovin’s book ends on p. 368 in the copy of the 1843 edition I’ve seen; but the reference to Arendt certainly reinforces Chamayou’s point. Arendt is discussing the right of asylum being abolished.

“Its long and sacred history dates back to the very beginnings of regulated political life. Since ancient times it has protected both the refugee and the land of refuge from situations in which people were forced to become outlaws through circumstances beyond their control. It was the only modern remnant of the medieval principle that quid quid est in territorio est de territorio, for in all other cases the modern state tended to protect its citizens beyond its own borders and to make sure, by means of reciprocal treaties, that they remained subject to the laws of their own country”.[14]

The principle does seem to suggest that whoever is within the territory is subject to the territory, though the question of whether those rights extend outside the territory—and, necessarily today, into other territories—is of course open to question. However, Arendt is wrong to date this to the medieval period; and Chamayou is wrong to follow her. That the principle is expressed in Latin does not make it medieval, much less Roman. Indeed, the classical Roman thinkers very rarely used the word territorium, which tended to apply to agricultural lands surrounding a city; and those that did – land surveyors and lawyers – saw the territorium as land of quite small extent, part of the overall imperium, rather than defining its spatial extent. There was certainly not the exclusive relation between territory and sovereignty that we have today. Only in the reappropriation of Roman law in the later part of the fourteenth century did territorium and jurisdiction become tied together; and this had little impact on political theory until seventeenth century debates in the Holy Roman Empire about the distinction between majesty and sovereignty. The best discussion of the (modern) principle I have found is in Jennings and Watts’s volume on peace in Oppenheim’s International Law. There, they state that

According to the maxim quidquid est in territorio est etiam de territorio, all individuals and all property within the territory of a state are under its dominion and sway, and foreign individuals and property fall at once under the territorial authority of a state when they cross its frontiers.[15]

This comes in a discussion of “the territorial authority of a state over everything within its territory…”;[16] suggesting that sovereignty needs to be understood “as comprising the power of a state to exercise supreme authority over all persons and things within its territory, [thus] sovereignty involves territorial authority (dominium, territorial sovereignty)”.[17] Yet while this is certainly the case in the late modern period, earlier times did not hold to these rigid, bounded definitions. I have discussed these historical lineages at length in The Birth of Territory.[18]  The implications for Chamayou’s argument are not profound, in that they do not invalidate his claim that something significant is changing. But they do suggest that the situation being unravelled was never as secure or long-standing as might be implied.

The second and third contrast is easier to grasp: “pastoral power is fundamentally beneficent, cynegetic power is essentially predatory”;[19] and while pastoral power is individualising, “cynegetic power, although it proceeds by division, does so with a view to accumulation… Cynegetic power accumulates; it does not individualise”.[20]The third, though, becomes more complicated when we bring it into relation with the first.

“What emerges with the story of Nimrod is a forgotten continent of Western political thought. If Foucault could say that beginning with the rise of Hebrew, and then Christian, pastoralism, politics has been largely considered a matter of the sheepfold, we can add that it was also, though in accord with a parallel and opposed genealogy, a matter of hunting”.[21]

Chamayou’s book provides a sketch-map of this “forgotten continent”, a chart that others can use to explore more fully. In that way it works like Giorgio Agamben’s writings,[22] or, indeed, those of Foucault himself in the governmentality lectures from which Chamayou takes the notion of pastoral power.[23]

In a 2011 commentary for Radical Philosophy, Chamayou connected the arguments he had made in that book with contemporary politics in a much more explicit way.[24] He suggests that the doctrine of the manhunt is a break with previous ways of conventional warfare, “which rests on the concept of fronts, linear battles, and face-to-face opposition”.[25] We might challenge that description of conventional warfare, which is long out-dated and has not accurately described US military policy for several decades, but Chamayou’s point is worth pursuing. Chamayou contrasts the new developments with Clausewitz’s classic understandings (he is a French translator of Clausewitz).[26] The point is that in conventional war both sides want to achieve the same thing—victory. In cynegetic war one side wants to locate, capture and kill; the other to evade, to hide, to escape. The hunter cannot respect sovereign boundaries, as these are “among the greatest allies” of a fugitive.[27] Accordingly, “the hunter’s power has no regard for borders. It allows itself the right of universal trespassing, in defiance of territorial integrity of sovereign states”.[28] In a nod to Daniel Heller-Roazen’s genealogy of piracy, Chamayou suggests that to do this fully would require a resuscitation of “the archaic category of common enemies of humanity”.[29]Accordingly, much of the ‘war on terror’ is “more like a vast campaign of extrajudicial executions: a strategy of targeted assassinations, of lethal manhunts, which make up the ‘rogue’ and unilateral counterpart to the manhunts carried out under the aegis of international criminal justice”.[30]

Again, we might want to challenge the idea of conventional war being about both sides achieving the same thing. In the modern era, for example, some wars are fought to gain territory, with the other side seeking to preserve it. Victory may be the aim for both, but it might mean different things – gaining versus not losing, accumulating versus preserving. But the opposition between locating, capturing and killing and evading, hiding, escaping may still be helpful. It is clear what the analysis is leading towards. For Chamayou, “the drone is the emblem of contemporary cynegetic war. It is the mechanical, flying and robotic heir of the dog of war. It creates to perfection the ideal of asymmetry: to be able to kill without being able to be killed; to be able to see without being seen. To become absolutely invulnerable while the other is placed in a state of absolute vulnerability. ‘Predator’, ‘Global Hawk’, ‘Reaper’ – birds of prey and angels of death, drones bear their names well. Only death can kill without ever dying itself. Facing such an enemy, there is no way out.[31] These arguments are considerably developed in his 2013 study Théorie du drone.[32] In that book, Chamayou provides a “genealogy of the predator”[33] as part of his overall analysis. In general terms I am most interested in the background to his study:

“I will begin with this question: where does the drone come from? What is its tactical and technological genealogy? What are, following from this, its fundamental characteristics?”[34]

But politically, this analysis is especially interesting in terms of linking the argument made about political space and territory in Manhunts.

Chamayou’s framework makes sense of some of the issues I have been trying to think about in terms of territory, or more specifically, the fracturing on the legal notion of territorial integrity. Territorial integrity is mentioned by Chamayou when he suggests the hunter has “no regard for borders”, and claims “the right of universal trespassing, in defiance of territorial integrity of sovereign states”.[35] What is interesting about Chamayou’s use of the term here is that he detaches it from changing the borders of states, changing the territory, but links it to the temporary violation of those borders or territorial sovereignty. Territorial integrity crucially comprises at least these two, distinct, elements: that a state is sovereign within its territory, within clearly demarcated borders – territorial sovereignty; and that those borders, that territory, is fixed – territorial preservation. These two elements have distinct historical lineages, which come together in the twentieth century. When territorial integrity is invoked today it is often used simply to refer to territorial preservation. Tony Blair, for example, frequently made an explicit point of invoking the importance of preserving the territorial integrity of states he was about to bomb or invade. He could only have meant this in the sense of preserving the existing territorial settlement; hardly in the sense of respecting territorial sovereignty.

This is part of a wider pattern, in that today, there is a concerted attempt by dominant states and the United Nations to preserve existing territorial settlements as much as possible – the breakup of empires along lines of existing borders, such as the application of the principle of uti possidetis in the African continent; the fracturing of Yugoslavia and the USSR along the lines, broadly, of their constituent republics; and so on. South Sudan and Kosovo are the two most recent exceptions, but they are in a short list of breaks from the general principle since the end of the Second World War. The occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, long after the Taliban or Saddam Hussein were deposed, were, at least in part, to try to prevent a fracturing of the territory of these states. Yet, at the same time, and often in the very same places, the sovereignty of states within their borders has come increasingly under pressure. This can be for treatment of civilian populations, pursuit of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ or harbouring terrorist groups. The extension of the arguments made for the first—so-called humanitarian intervention—to the second and third characterised the US-led ‘war on terror’, even though other dominant states have appropriated the logic and language. I tried to make sense of these questions in my 2009 book Terror and Territory,[36] and to trace the historical lineages in The Birth of Territory. Chamayou’s argument – along with that of Derek Gregory in his forthcoming The Everywhere War – helps to make sense of how the US claims this right to intervene, by force, drone or ‘humanitarian intervention’ in places all over the world, while at the same time trying to preserve existing territorial settlements, and, of course, rigidly reinforcing its own borders and territorial sovereignty.


1. Grégoire Chamayou, Les chasses à l’homme: Histoire et philosophie du pouvoir cynégétique, Paris: La fabrique éditions, 2010, p. 7; Manhunts: A Philosophical History, translated by Steven Rendell, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012, p. 1. On Manhunts, see also Jean Bérard, “Predatory Power”, translated by Arthur Goldhammer, Books and Ideas, 3 June 2011; and on Chamayou’s work generally Kieran Aarons, “Cartographies of Capture”, Theory & Event, Vol 16 No 2, 2013.

2. Chamayou, Les chasses à l’homme, p. 7; Manhunts, p. 1.

3. Chamayou, Les chasses à l’homme, p. 9; Manhunts, p. 3.

4. Chamayou, Les chasses à l’homme, pp. 116-7; Manhunts, p. 80. See Michel Foucault, History of Madness, translated by Jonathan Murphy and Jean Khalfa, London: Routledge, 2006.

5. Michel Foucault, “The Birth of Social Medicine”, in Power: Essential Work Volume 3, edited by James D. Faubion, London: Penguin, 2001, pp. 134-56; Abnormal: Lectures at the Collège de France 1974-75, translated by Graham Burchell, New York: Picador, 2003, Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, translated by Alan Sheridan, London: Penguin, 1979.

6. See Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France 1977-78, translated by Graham Burchell, London: Palgrave, 2009.

7. Chamayou, Les chasses à l’homme, pp. 24-5; Manhunts, pp. 14-15.

8. Chamayou, Les chasses à l’homme, p. 25-6; Manhunts, p. 15.

9. Chamayou, Les chasses à l’homme, p. 26; Manhunts, p. 15.

10. Chamayou, Les chasses à l’homme, p. 27; Manhunts, pp. 15-16.

11. Chamayou, Les chasses à l’homme, p. 27; Manhunts, p. 16.

12. Chamayou, Les chasses à l’homme, p. 198; Manhunts, p. 138.

13. Chamayou, Les chasses à l’homme, p. 242 n. 330; Manhunts, pp. 180-1 n. 13.

14. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, San Diego: Harvest, 1968, p. 280.

15. Sir Robert Jennings and Sir Arthur Watts (eds.), Oppenheim’s International Law, Vol. 1 Peace. Introduction and Part 1, London: Longman, 9th edition, 1996, p. 384.

16. Jennings and Watts (eds.), Oppenheim’s International Law, Vol I, p. 384.

17. Jennings and Watts (eds.), Oppenheim’s International Law, Vol I, p. 382.

18. Stuart Elden, The Birth of Territory, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013.

19. Chamayou, Les chasses à l’homme, p. 28; Manhunts, p. 16.

20. Chamayou, Les chasses à l’homme, pp. 28-9; Manhunts, p. 17.

21. Chamayou, Les chasses à l’homme, pp. 30-1; Manhunts, p. 18.

22. Such as Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, translated by Daniel Heller-Roazen, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998; The Kingdom and the Glory: For a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government, translated by Lorezo Chiesa and Matteo Mandarini, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011.

23. This is one of the ways I’ve engaged with Foucault’s governmentality lectures, suggesting that while what Foucault says explicitly on territory is misleading, he is nonetheless extremely helpful in thinking about territory. See Stuart Elden, “How should we do the history of territory?” Territory, Politics, Governance, Vol 1 No 1, 2013, pp. 5-20; and “Governmentality, Calculation, Territory”, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, Vol 25 No 3, 2007, pp. 562-80.

24. Grégoire Chamayou, “The Manhunt Doctrine”, translated by Shane Lillis, Radical Philosophy, No 169, 2011, pp. 2-6.

25. Chamayou, “The Manhunt Doctrine”, p. 2.

26. Carl von Clausewitz, Principes fondamentaux de stratégie militaire, translated by Grégoire Chamayou, Paris: Mille et une nuits, 2006. He has also translated some of Marx’s historical writings.

27. Chamayou, “The Manhunt Doctrine”, p. 3, citing Steven Marks, Thomas Meer and Matthew Nilson, Manhunting: A Methodology for Finding Persons of National Interest, thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey CA, June 2005, p. 28.

28. Chamayou, “The Manhunt Doctrine”, p. 3.

29. Chamayou, “The Manhunt Doctrine”, p. 3; Daniel Heller-Roazen, The Enemy of All: Piracy and the Law of Nations, Zone Books, New York, 2009.

30. Chamayou, “The Manhunt Doctrine”, p. 3.

31. Chamayou, “The Manhunt Doctrine”, p. 4.

32. Chamayou, Théorie du drone, Paris: La fabrique éditions, 2013. On Théorie du drone, it is well worth reading Derek Gregory’s excellent series of posts at his blog geographicalimaginations.com

33. Chamayou, Théorie du drone, p. 41.

34. Chamayou, Théorie du drone, p. 29.

35. Chamayou, “The Manhunt Doctrine”, p. 3.

36. Stuart Elden, Terror and Territory: The Spatial Extent of Sovereignty, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.