STUART ELDEN /// Thinking the Volume: Subterranean, Atmospheric and Oblique Territories


Conversation recorded with Stuart Elden in New York on May 21, 2014

For many years, Stuart Elden has thoroughly examined the concept of territory. In order to enter into this quasi-exhaustive research, I invited him to talk about the idea of volumetric territory, both in general and in the specific case of the occupied Palestinian territories. We borrow the notion of “politics of verticality” from Eyal Weizman in order to describe how sovereignty enforces itself onto subterranean, surface, and atmospheric spaces. Later, we use the work of Paul Virilio and Claude Parent and their architectural concept of oblique to challenge our common perception of territories in their flat cartographic interpretation. Finally, we discuss about Stuart’s recent work to construct a Shakespearean concept of territory through King Lear, Coriolanus, Henry V, and more.

Stuart Elden is Professor of Political Theory and Geography at the University of Warwick. He is the author of five books, including Terror and Territory: The Spatial Extent of Sovereignty (University of Minnesota Press, 2009) and The Birth of Territory (University of Chicago Press, 2013). He has also edited seven books on a range of thinkers in social/spatial theory. He is one of the editors of the journal Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. He is currently working on a range of projects, including books on Foucault and Shakespeare, and thinking how his work on territory relates to urban questions and to geopolitics. He blogs at and is one of the contributors to



– Stuart Elden, “Secure the Volume: Vertical Geopolitics and the Depth of Power,” in Political Geography, 2013.
– Stuart Elden, “The Geopolitics of King Lear: Territory, Land, Earth,“ in Law and Literature, 2013; Vol 25 No 2.
– Stuart Elden, “Chamayou’s Manhunts: From Territory to Space?” for The Funambulist Papers: Volume 2 (forthcoming Punctum Books, 2014).


– Stuart Elden, Terror and Territory: The Spatial Extent of Sovereignty, University of Minnesota Press, 2009.
– Stuart Elden, The Birth of Territory, University of Chicago Press, 2013.
– Stuart Elden and Jeremy Crampton (eds), Space, Knowledge and Power: Foucault and Geography, Ashgate, 2007.
– Eyal Weizman, Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation, Verso, 2012.
– Paul Virilio, Bunker Archeology, Princeton Architectural Press, 1997.
– Paul Virilio and Claude Parent, Architecture Principe 1966-1996, Editions de l’Imprimeur, 2000.
– Christian Jacob, The Sovereign Map: Theoretical Approaches in Cartography throughout History, University of Chicago Press, 2006.


Gilo Viaduct Photo By Stuart Elden
Israeli viaduct of Gilo in the West Bank / Photograph by Stuart Elden in “Secure the Volume” (2013)
Bunker In France Photo By Stuart Elden
  Atlantic Wall Bunker in Audinghen, Pas-de-Calais, France / Photograph by Michel Wal in 2008 and used by permission,
Model and diagrams for the Oblique Function by Architecture Principe (Claude Parent and Paul Virilio)