Calculable territory and the West German census boycott movements of the 1980s

Matthew G. Hannah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Citations (SciVal)


This paper argues that recent signs of a hesitant convergence between discourses on sovereignty and territory and discourses on power/knowledge point to ways in which both discourse of power are linked to calculable territory. Both sovereignty and power/knowledge are based upon intervention, and intervention in turn presupposes these two general forms of power. But intervention is also inherently territorial. The historical context for these claims is set through a brief account of the general sciences of order emerging in the early modern period. The theoretical argument is then given a platform by means of a heuristic model of calculable territory, which, while incomplete and partly counter-factual, provides an overarching framework for understanding a range of recent studies of spatial power relations as contributions to a collective genealogy of calculable territory. An important recent change in the genealogy of calculable territory was brought on by the widespread adoption of electronic information and communications technologies in state institutions and other large organizations over the past quarter century. Both the continued relevance of calculable territory and recent changes in its composition and significance for power relations are illustrated by chronicling one important early set of controversies in the emergence of the ‘information age’: the mass boycott movements in West Germany in 1983 and 1987 aimed at blocking the federal census in that country. These boycotts clearly show the links between sovereignty, power/knowledge, intervention and calculable territory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-75
Number of pages10
JournalPolitical Geography
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009


  • Calculable territory
  • Sovereignty
  • West Germany
  • Census
  • Foucault
  • Governmentality


Dive into the research topics of 'Calculable territory and the West German census boycott movements of the 1980s'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this