Jason Rhys Parry: Island Interventions — Strategies of Territorial and Legal Redistribution

Island Interventions: Strategies of Territorial and Legal Redistribution

Jason Rhys Parry

In this paper, Parry claims that Rockall, Johnson South Reef, and Christmas Island are three contested spaces that embody distinct techniques of legal and territorial redistribution: incorporation, reclamation, and excision. In each case, the territorial status of the island has been changed in order to reshape the legal landscape and facilitate the pursuit of military and security objectives. He argues that these three cases are representative of more general strategies for redistributing national sovereignty through the acquisition, abandonment, and creation of territory. The changes in the legal status of these islands not only serve as an index of larger geopolitical conflicts (the Cold War, the global migrant crisis, and control of the South China Sea, respectively) but also have effects on the materiality of the islands themselves: Rockall has had a brass plaque attached and is occasionally home to demonstrators and explorers, Christmas Island now features a detention center, and Johnson South Reef has had military facilities, a concrete runway, and a missile-defense system installed. Moreover, each of these examples raises the question of “what or when is an island?” and exposes glaring limitations in existing legal instruments to adjudicate such seemingly simple queries.

Jason Rhys Parry is a PhD candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature at Binghamton University in New York. His research and teaching interests are in design, geopolitics, and ecology. His writing, inspired by fieldwork undertaken in both Taiwan and the Arctic, focuses on the entanglement of buildings, laws, bodies, and landscapes in contemporary conflict zones.


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