they function given their geographical character, and how they relate to other economic, political, social, and environmental spaces (Gottmann, 1973; Sack, 1986; Paasi, 1996; Agnew, 2003). Researchers focusing on spatial orientation have also made significant contributions to the understanding of political developments, ranging from voting patterns (e.g., Shelley et al., 1996) to the distribution of armed conflicts (see Box 9.1).
In the geopolitical arena, work by geographical scientists has focused particularly on the cultural, political, and environmental impacts of boundaries (e.g., Rumley and Minghi, 1991; Newman and Paasi, 1998); the nature and implications of different geopolitical world views (e.g., Ó Tuathail, 1996; Dodds and Atkinson, 2000); and the relationship between territorial sources of authority and those that are not place specific (e.g., Flint, 2005a; Sparke, 2005). A study by Agnew and Min (2008) on the impacts of the U.S.-led surge in Iraq is suggestive of the value of probing the relationship between spaces of conflict and other geographical patterns. Using nighttime satellite images of Baghdad, Agnew and his colleagues were able to show that Sunni Arabs were driven out of many neighborhoods by militant Shiites in the lead-up to the surge. The research suggests that the reduction of conflict in the aftermath of the surge was not just a product of increased troop numbers, but of presurge ethnic cleansing and an associated spatial segregation of Sunnis and Shiites. Such
Spatial Distribution of Conflict
O’Loughlin, in collaboration with other researchers, has undertaken a series of studies on the spatial distribution of conflict that have provided insights into the causes and consequences of instability (e.g., O’Loughlin and Anselin, 1991; O’Loughlin and Raleigh, 2007). In one recent study O’Loughlin and Witmer (Forthcoming) compiled and mapped geocoded information on politically motivated violent events in the North Caucasus. Their research showed a steady spatial diffusion of military, rebel, and police engagements to the west and east from Chechnya’s capital into North Ossetia and close to Makhachkala in Dagestan, but much less expansion to the north and south (see Figure). Their study revealed how conflict diffused from Chechnya to neighboring republics and provided insight into both the spatial strategies of participants and the types of areas that are more prone to instability.