Title

A Relational Geography of War: Actor-Context Interaction and the Spread of World War I

Document Type

Article

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Annals of the Association of American Geographers

Volume

103

Issue

6

Publisher

Routledge

Publication Date

9-30-2013

First Page

1468

Last Page

1484

Abstract

Claims by geographers that the geopolitical context of international politics matters requires that context be defined and operationalized in a way that enables analyses illustrating that actors' behavior varies across different contextual settings. A geographic understanding of embeddedness and relational power is meshed with a well-established contextual theory of international politics to create an operationalization of context that helps to explain the diffusion of war. Using the case of World War I, we investigate the expansion of the war from a localized political crisis in Austria-Hungary to a disastrous global scale conflict involving dozens of states. We integrate contemporary geographic thinking on context with the foundational texts of the war diffusion literature to hypothesize that war-joining behavior is explained by a political entity's relative position in a simultaneously spatial and social network context. Using social network analysis-based methodologies to develop measures of context and evaluate our hypothesis, we find that context had an important impact on states' war-joining behavior during World War I. An understanding of context that fuses simultaneous embeddedness in network and geographic space with relational power and the methodology of blockmodeling can be used to explore the diffusion of other wars and even other phenomena across geographically situated actors. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

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