A critical geopolitics of observant practice at British military airshows
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
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This paper demonstrates how visual cultures of militarism take shape as part of a ‘thick’ geopolitics of being-in-place. It draws on historical accounts of, and empirical observations at, British military airshows, which it interprets via the concept of ‘observant practice’. The paper argues that the imaginative and rhetorical force of military spectacle and popular militarism are tied to its markedly enclavic spatiality, i.e. to seeing and doing in-place. By taking seriously the spatial and sensory experience of British airshows, the paper extends recent work in critical geopolitics that questions the spatialised politics of experience, and brings them into dialogue with cultural geographies of tourism. It provides a brief history of the spectacular origins of aviation and of the use of airshows to the practice of statecraft, and demonstrates how airshows are an important element in the cultural phenomenon of militarisation. The paper takes forward debates around ‘the vision thing’ in critical geopolitics by illustrating why the notion of observant practice should not be dissociated from consideration of the spaces in and through which militaries become the object of visual curiosity. It expands, therefore, the potential of observant practice as a critique of popular military cultures.
Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Geographical Society (with The Institute of British Geographers)
Vol. 40, Iss. 4, pp. 536–548, October 2015