The Question of the Political in Critical Geopolitics: Querying the ‘Child Soldier’ in the ‘War on Terror’

After two decades of scholarship on ‘critical geopolitics’, the question of whether it is largely a discursive critique of prevailing knowledge production and geopolitical texts or critique with an implicit, normative politics of its own remains open. These positions are not incommensurate, and much scholarship on critical geopolitics does both. This paper analyzes critical geopoliticians’ concern with this question in the present historical moment and probes the possibility of a post-foundational ethic as the basis for ‘the political’ in critical geopolitics and beyond. Empirically, this paper explores these theoretical tensions within ‘critical geopolitics’ by tracing the disparate fates of two young men, both child soldiers at the time of their capture. ‘Child soldier’ is an unstable category subject to geopolitical valence and stigma during the ‘war on terror’. The deployment of extra-legal tactics and spaces of violence, such as those faced by detainees at Guantanamo Bay, point to the rise of biopolitics combined with geopolitics, illustrating the intersection of sovereignty and governmentality as important political fodder for critical geopolitics two decades after its inception. The stories of Canadian Omar Khadr, one of the youngest prisoners at Guantanamo and the only citizen of a Western state still held there, and Ismael Beah, a rehabilitated soldier who fought as a boy from Sierra Leone, illustrate too how geographical imagination strongly shapes access to provisions of international law and the victimized status of ‘child soldier’ in particular. en

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