Bolivia, Snowden, and the Politics of Verticality

The extraordinary events of the last day–blow-by-blow live blog here from the Guardian–have certainly raised plenty of legal and diplomatic issues. What is the legality of diverting a head of state’s official plane, or even refusing airspace, despite the plane reporting being low on fuel? Did the US pressure European countries, especially France, Portugal, Spain and Italy to refuse landing rights on the suspicion that Edward Snowden was on board the Bolivian president’s flight?

Bolivia has labeled this an “act of aggression” and if the head of state’s plane counts as sovereign territory–in the way an embassy does–then they may well be justified in seeking some satisfaction (RT is reporting they will complain to the UN).

In not unrelated news, as the Guardian puts it, Ecuador will today announce who they think is behind the “bug” they found in their embassy in London last month. This is the embassy where Julian Assange has been granted political asylum for fears the US will extradite him to face charges of publishing leaks.

As several people have pointed out, this refusal of overflying airspace is in marked contrast to the extraordinary rendition permissions:

But I think this presents a great example of what several people, including Pete Adey and Stuart Elden, are calling the “politics of verticality,” a term attributed to Eyal Weizman in 2002. See this paper by Adey, Mark Whitehead and Alison J. Williams in Theory, Culture & Society for example. They ask specifically what is the nature of an “air target” (on the ground, but after last night’s events presumably also a target in the air); what cultural practices make up the air target; and finally what are the affective rationalities involved?

If their paper is more about targeting (from the air), last night’s events prompt us to reverse that and also enquire about aerial targets and vertical geopolitics.



3 responses to “Bolivia, Snowden, and the Politics of Verticality

  1. Reblogged this on Progressive Geographies and commented:
    Jeremy Crampton links recent events on security and surveillance to the ‘politics of verticality’.

  2. this opens a very interesting perspective for discussion on sovereignty, civilian, military or official aircraft, and airspace … of course, we must assume double standards when the USA is involved as a tragic national hubris contaminates the US public as well as its governing authorities & elites … all of which tracks back to protestant religion, predestination & a chosen people (God’s new covenant elect), America as a promised land (Zion) & a special divine dispensation for hegemony … see Kevin Phillips, Cousins Wars; although the NYT is not necessarily unbiased:,
    & American Theocracy –

  3. Reblogged this on rhulgeopolitics and commented:
    Back from a few weeks away and now catching up with emails and all the blogging. Jeremy Crampton’s posting caught my eye on the politics of airspace.

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