This inquiry emerges from an ongoing territorial dispute between Korea and Japan over a series of islets in the Pacific Ocean, referred to as “Dokdo” in Korean and “Takeshima” in Japanese. Lee attends to the islets in the context of their widespread allusiveness across Korean global space and in relation to their contingency on scalar work. The wager of this present inquiry is that the islets, as precarious material objects, direct us to the possibility that territorial aspirations need not operate at the level of territory in terms of how it is sensed and understood through its tangibility, usability, or even ontology. The islets, while deployed and pursued in the interest in the maintenance of the nation form, present a crisis to the very principle of nationality as such insofar as such rituals of nationness occur not only irrespective of physical space, as countless theorists of globalization have suggested but, instead, across homogeneous, empty territory. The notion of homogeneous, empty territory adapts Walter Benjamin’s homogeneous, empty time in order to conceptualize the possibility of any number of narratives about or representations of territory coexisting in dialogic coordination with, and even contrary to, any ontological “facts” about the very same territory. This results in a condition of spatiality in which national territory is simultaneously pursued but unattainable and unoccupiable, which in turn invites us to question the very possibility of territory being “national” in the first place.

 

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