Monday, April 8th 2013 - 00:40 UTC

What do the Falkland Islands continue to tell us about territorial world views?

By Klaus Dodds (*) - The last couple of weeks have been busy ones when it comes to news about the Falkland Islands. Or Islas Malvinas as Argentine and other readers might insist upon. For others, the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) is the preferred naming option — highlighting as it does their continued contested status.

Dr Dodds was accredited as an observer at the Falklands referendum

We have had the Falkland Islands referendum. I was fortunate enough to be an accredited observer and spent a very interesting few days watching the voting and counting unfold in Stanley and the wider Islands. Shortly afterwards, an Argentine bishop was appointed the next Pope, Francis I, and this encouraged speculation about what the pontiff might have to say on the question of the Islas Malvinas. President Cristina Kirchner of Argentina was quick off the mark and paid her respects at the Vatican. Whatever special powers the Pope possesses, it won’t be enough to alter the sovereignty dynamic in the case of these South Atlantic islands. As Margaret Thatcher might have said the current UK government is not for turning — sovereignty is not up for discussion. And, most recently, new archival papers released in the UK revealed that members of the Thatcher government were divided over how to respond to the Argentine invasion of April 1982. For all the talk of an ‘Iron Lady’ and dispatching a ‘task force’ to recover the Islands, there was clearly the possibility at one stage or another of a deal being done. Raising in the process the enticing question of how British politics, let alone the fate of the Falkland Islanders, might have been different if war was avoided and some kind of settlement secured.

But that was April 1982 and things have moved on since then. Indeed, in the last two years, relations between Britain and Argentina have worsened and there is no reason to think that any settlement will be forthcoming. Whatever some newspaper columnists might think, the referendum was intended to send a clear message to Argentina and the wider world that the Falklands community is not looking to its nearest neighbour when considering future options. And, at the moment, it does not need to. The UK government has reiterated its support for respecting the ‘wishes’ of the Falkland Islands community and that other neighbours such as Chile and Uruguay are a benign presence. Brazil, while offering some rhetorical support to Argentina, is not unhelpful to the UK position. So the imbroglio continues.

At this stage, attention often turns to other kinds of options, beyond the continuation of the status quo i.e. the Falklands continuing as a UK overseas territory. While laudable, I think what continues to fascinate me about these Islands is perhaps what insights they have to offer us more generally. As other geographers such as Alec Murphy note, territory continues to exercise an extraordinary ‘allure’ in our contemporary world. Noting all the claims made in the 1990s about globalization and border-free worlds, the idea of territory remains popular with political leaders and publics alike. For one thing, and perhaps other islands such as Cyprus animate this issue as well, territory helps to consolidate a view of political life being container like. Islands, with their apparently clear-cut distinctions between land and sea seem to lend themselves well to the containerization of political thought.

Second, we might think about territory as a flexible resource, which enables the socio-spatial education of citizens. In the case of the Falklands, there is a vast array of materials ranging from postage stamps, computer games and atlases to commemoration and museum displays that play their part in the geographical education of citizenry. They play their part in creating regimes of territorial legitimation and reinforce particular spatial commitments. The end result is to remind us perhaps that states rarely give up territory and usually only do so under extreme circumstances. Even when the territory in question was poorly understood and arguably neglected, as was the case of the Falklands in 1982, there was still sufficient allure in the territory itself combined with a sense of protecting the small resident community to ensure that the UK committed itself to resisting the Argentine occupation. The invading Argentine forces, on the other hand, while undoubtedly aware of the Falklands as a geographical component of Argentina, were remarkably ignorant of the English speaking community residing on the Islands. Islanders still recall of Argentine amazement when they discovered that their first language was English and not Spanish.

What was striking in the aftermath of the 1982 conflict, was the billions of pounds the UK was prepared to invest in the Falklands, and the wider commitment to bolster a presence in the South Atlantic and Antarctic. The idea of giving up the territory in question was now unthinkable, and if anything the Falklands is more embedded in UK stories about its extra-territorial scope and responsibilities (as well as histories of war and commemoration). UK governments use the term ‘overseas territories’ to acknowledge that distance need not be any kind of barrier to their continued connection with the UK.

Finally, we should not under-estimate the power of territorially based world-views and the ease in which many territorial disputes seem unable to make much progress when it comes to promoting alternative imaginations — joint sovereignty, parallel statehood, cross citizenships, and other kinds of free associations. This does not mean such things are not possible or even desirable in the case of some of the most violent and apparently intractable disputes. But one should not under-estimate how keenly many people feel around the world about lines on the maps and barriers on the ground. Perhaps they offer a modicum of reassurance in a world, where to paraphrase Marx and Engels, all that appears solid melts into air. And this would apply to both Britain and Argentina.

(*) Klaus Dodds is Professor of Geopolitics at Royal Holloway, University of London and a Visiting Fellow at St Cross College, University of Oxford. He is editor of The Geographical Journal and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He is the author and editor of a number of books including the Geopolitics: a very short introduction (OUP, 2007) and The Antarctic: a very short introduction (OUP, 2012). He was a visiting fellow at Gateway Antarctica, University of Canterbury and has worked with national and international polar organizations including British Antarctic Survey, Antarctica New Zealand, International Polar Foundation, and the Australian Antarctic Division.

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1 Devolverislas (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 01:48 am Report abuse
It would seem that the purpose of Klaus Dodd’s article was to explore the geopolitical significance of territory. In the case of the dispute over the teritory of the Falkland Islands|Malvinas there are two sides, are there not? Bar mentioning that the Argentine forces were “undoubtedly aware of the Falklands as a geographical component of Argentina”, Dodds surprisingly gives no consideration to the Argentinian and the South American perspectives.

The islands may be the subject of postage stamps, computer games and tourist souvenirs for the islanders and the British. They have a much deeper historical significance here in the south of south America. Hence the profusion of public squares and streets, just in Argentina, which are named after the Islas Malvinas. Not to mention the many monuments, through-out the country, to the “gesto” (gesture) of 1982 and Argentina’s fallen. Then there is a hymn and a march to the Malvinas,both pre-dating the conflict. The national cause of Argentina, inscribed in the revised Constitution of 1994, is the recovery of the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. There is a sense, which goes much deeper than the poltical banter, that the islands belong to Argentina by right and that the present population are “usurpadores”.

From the mainland of South American and from the standpoint of history, it is easy to see why the territory of the Falkland Islands/Malvinas will always be regarded as a British colony, as a thorn in the side, so long as its sovereignty is not returned to Argentina. The islanders’ tampering with the historical and legal facts through devices like a doctored constitution, self-determination and the referendum cannot conceal that essential truth
2 La Patria (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 03:43 am Report abuse
The essential truth is that the level of indoctrination in Argentine schools and society has led to brainwashed nation unable to accept any view that differs from theirs. Your mention of street names, public square and hymns etc underlines my point. Just because you have been constantly told the Malvinas son argentinas, doesn’t mean that they are.

History sides with the British claim, the referendum result reinforces the UN line that the islanders are a people with the right to choose for themselves. Being as belligerent and pig-headed as CFK has been just removes any logic from the Argentine argument.

If Argentinians seriously believe their own argument, why don’t they offer to give back land to the indigenous Indians who were massacred when the European colonists took their land?
3 Monkeymagic (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 06:44 am Report abuse

“the essential truth” now there is a novel philosophy..and until the “essential truth” is explained to the Argentine population in the same manner, for the same period of time, with the same shrill determination as the “doctored” version of events is currently, then the false idea of the islands being “argentine by right” will not change.

This is the sadness.

Argenina was usurped by the current population in the 16th-17th century through genocide. At the time, based on morality of the time, ok...and the world recognised their rights to self-determination in 1814.

Patagonia was usurped in the genocide of the desert in the 1880s, based on the morality of the time, dodgy at best, yet again, today, we recognise that the land can only be owned by the current population through self-determination.

However, to suggest that Argentine could usurp the Falklands at the expense of the current population in the 21st century, would deny the islanders the self-same rights that Argenina used to justify its own existence in 1814 and 1880.

To suggest that the islanders are usurpadores for the eviction of Argentine authorities in 1833 (or 50 murdering rapists who'd been there 2 months) and not to see the hypocrisy of Argentines far far worse usurption is brainwashing greed and dismorphia that is hard to hide.

you can put up as many street names and hold as many cermonies as you like, the genocidal usurption of Argentina is many millions of times more profound and shameful than the events of january 6th 1833, and that is where the “essential truth” really lies.
4 Terence Hill (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 08:58 am Report abuse
So the Islands were could never be Argentinean, according to the original sovereignty holders

Nootka Convention

The first Nootka Convention plays a role in the disputed sovereignty of the Falkland Islands between the United Kingdom and Argentina. Article VI provided that neither party would form new establishments on any of the islands adjacent to the east and west coasts of South America then occupied by Spain. Both retained the right to land and erect temporary structures on the coasts and islands for fishery-related purposes. However, there was an additional secret article which stipulated that Article VI shall remain in force only so long as no establishment shall have been formed by the subjects of any other power on the coasts in question. This secret article had the same force as if it were inserted in the convention. The Nootka Convention's applicability to the Falklands dispute is controversial and complicated. The United Provinces of the River Plate was not a party to the convention. Therefore it is defined in the convention as 'other power' and the occupation of the settlement (at Port Louis) by subjects of any other power negated Article VI and allowed Great Britain to re-assert prior sovereignty and form new settlements.[5]

Nor where they Argentinean based on proximity.

Under the Palmas decision, three important rules for resolving island territorial disputes were decided:
Firstly, title based on contiguity has no standing in international law.

The Falklands/Malvinas Case Breaking the Deadlock in the Anglo-Argentine...
By Roberto C. Laver


International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the North Sea continental shelf cases, in which Denmark and the Netherlands based their claim inter alia on the doctrine of proximity, i.e., that the part of the continental shelf closest to the part of the state in question falls automatically under that state's jurisdiction. In these cases the ICJ rejected any contigu
5 lsolde (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 09:09 am Report abuse
Very well said, Monkeymagic.
@ 1 Devolverislas,
Your reasoning is entirely suspect & we cannot be “returned” to you because you have never owned these lslands.
As Monkeymagic has said, you can put up as many memorials as you like.
Name streets after us etc etc, it doesn't make one bit of difference because this is NOT your land.
lt is OURS.
6 downunder (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 09:25 am Report abuse
A good article from Professor Dodds and, thus far, good commentary from the posters.

“Finally, we should not under-estimate the power of territorially based world-views and the ease in which many territorial disputes seem unable to make much progress when it comes to promoting alternative imaginations — joint sovereignty, parallel statehood, cross citizenships, and other kinds of free associations. This does not mean such things are not possible or even desirable in the case of some of the most violent and apparently intractable disputes.”

While lateral thinking and 'alternative imaginations' may be possible in many territorial disputes, they require a large degree of trust between the parties. This is especially so in regard to the Falklands where one party (Argentina) is much bigger and powerful than the other party (the Falkland Islanders) and, unfortunately, by its bullying and belligerence, Argentina has well and truly destroyed any trust the Falkland Islanders may have developed in developing an alternative solution. The traumatizing events of 1982 and the inconsistent approach of subsequent Argentine administrations towards the Islanders does not engender trust.

So, for the forseable future, (an more than likely forever) it looks as if the Islands will remain 'lost Malvinas' as far as the Argentine is concerned.
7 Doveoverdover (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 09:43 am Report abuse
@5 Where “ours” is shorthand for “the United Kingdom's”.
8 Anglotino (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 11:29 am Report abuse
As the Islanders have the power to decide their own future and also control the resources of the territory, then OURS is not shorthand for the UK.
9 Anbar (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 11:56 am Report abuse
“”“”The islanders’ tampering with the historical and legal facts through devices like a doctored constitution, self-determination and the referendum cannot conceal that essential truth“”“”

The essential truth that Argentine gave up on the Falklands in 1850 you mean?

Or the essential truth that the inhabitants of the Falklands have the right of self-determination?

Or the essential truth that most Argentinians are an implanted population, squatting on the land of the South American Indians?

Or the essential truth that Argentina never cared about the Falklands until the second world war?

Or the essential truth that Argentine history, taught in schools, is deliberately incorrect, blinkered and one-sided?

Or some other essential truths that you just happened to completely per usual.. in your quest for Argentina's insatiable desire for the land of other peoples?
10 Redrow (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 12:03 pm Report abuse
@ 7 Think

As a Brit permanently resident the UK I can promise you that the islands are not mine. I do not decide what happens there and nor do I wish to - those imperial days are long over. The islands belong to the islanders. Should they eventually declare independence I would wish them well and hope they remained within the Commonwealth, but even if they rejected that then we would still wish to remain on good terms with them as we do with Ireland and the US.

Your repeated attempts to denigrate the Falkland Islanders as some kind of colony are looking increasingly tired and difficult to substantiate.
11 Terence Hill (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 12:18 pm Report abuse
#4 continued

In these cases the ICJ rejected any contiguity type of approach. As for continuity, it is argued, the 1958 Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf and Contiguous Zone, Article 1, now contained in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, Article 76, does not support the view that coastal states have sovereignty over islands above the continental shelf. On the contary it laid down doctrine that islands had their own “continental shelves,”
12 Doveoverdover (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 01:08 pm Report abuse
@10 No one is expecting or inviting you to decide what happens which, given your evident intellectual strength, is no bad thing. Anyway, your income tax helps pay the salary of the Governor who does and that of CBF, not to mention the entire military garrison, who make sure he can.
13 Faulconbridge (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 01:39 pm Report abuse
Well, Devolverislas @1, as it seems the lack of 'LasMalvinas' and the desire to possess them is the sole unifying factor in Argentine politics it is obviously the UK's duty to retain them for the benefit of Argentina. If Argentina ever had them no-one wouldknow what to do with them.
14 Redrow (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 03:01 pm Report abuse
@12 Think

You question my “intellectual strength” but think nothing of having discussions with yourself on here as if you were actually two (or more) people. You even replied as DoD when I posted to Think. Let's just say that this does not help your credibility.
15 Raul (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 03:08 pm Report abuse
1 Devolverisla

Very good analysis.

The true historical facts show that the specificity of the Falklands is that Britain occupied the islands by force in 1833, expelled the original population and did not allow their return, thus violating the territorial integrity of the Republic of Argentina.
Always contextualize the conflict and social processes.
That is racism, colonialism and imperialism 18th century English and 19. Something the British forumers never find answers and want to hide.
Argentina suffered four 1806-1807-1833-1845 British invasions. Besides the well-known English cultural and economic colonialism that Argentines suffered during the 19th and 20th century. Recalling the Roca-Runciman, who starved the people of Argentina and support the English patriotic fraud.
In the 20th century the UK supporting dictatorships Argentinas in applying the doctrine of national deseguridad the result of torture and disappearances. Before the 1982 war UK Videla and Galtieri support in implementing the economic plan of Martinez de Hoz and state terrorism with 30,000 missing.
I recommend reading the book: British Policy in the Rio de la Plata written by Raúl Scalabrini Ortiz.
Alli is proven by historical facts economic genocide by the United Kingdom for the Argentine people.

“The international community is more than ever convinced that colonialism has no place in the modern world,” said Ban-Moon. “The eradication of colonialism, according to the principles of the Charter and the relevant resolutions of the United Nations, it is our common effort.”
He was referring to racism, colonialism and imperialism in the 21st century English. . The committee considers UN decolonization to the Falkland Islands as a colony. Of the 16 cases of colonialism in the world, 10 are for the UK
16 Redrow (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 04:16 pm Report abuse
@15 Raul

“expelled the original population and did not allow their return”

Even your government has stopped saying “population” but now says “administration”, as their own documents show that most of the remaining settlers stayed on.

“thus violating the territorial integrity of the Republic of Argentina.”

Not according to the Argentine Latzina map. Anyway you are invoking a post-1945 legal terminology that does not apply to 1833.
17 Conqueror (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 05:33 pm Report abuse
@15 No, it was rubbish. But let's contextualise the conflist and social processes. In 1820, the United Provinces sent a pirate, David Jewett, to prey upon Spanish shipping. There is NO evidence that he was ever authorised to visit the Falkland Islands. In any event, a criminal cannot carry out an “official” act on a territory that already belongs to someone else. But let's move on. In 1823, the United Provinces of the River Plate granted Vernet and his partner fishing rights in territory over which it had no legal jurisdiction. How does that work? Then, after obtaining BRITISH permission, Vernet managed to establish a settlement at the third try in 1829. For the purpose of a commercial venture. In the same year he was “appointed” Military and Civil Commander of the Falkland Islands by the Republic of Buenos Aires. An “appointment” that was protested by Britain. Where did Buenos Aires get involved? Just a bit of opportunism. In any event, Vernet descended to piracy against US vessels. And let's not forget that the Falkland Islands had legally been British since 1690. So, in fact, it was two competing ex-colonies that indulged in colonialism and imperialism. Argentina has NOT suffered four British invasions. That is an outright lie. In 1806/7 the relevant territory was SPANISH. In 1833, it was BRITISH territory being recovered and in 1845, it was a BLOCKADE.
If you can manage to read the article you quote, you will find that the UNSG called for the constructive involvement of “the Special Committee, the administering Powers and the Non-Self-Governing Territories”. Which one of those three parties describes argieland? And so, once again, you are proven to be a mouthy fool. Besides, as I have told you but you are too stupid to understand, 1982 ended the whole matter. “Uti possidetis”. Let's see whether you have the brain to look it up and understand what it means.
Oh, and no-one gives a stuff what the C24 “thinks”.
18 andy65 (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 06:01 pm Report abuse
@Doveoverdover Still bitter and twisted I see
19 Islander1 (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 06:08 pm Report abuse
15 Raul - Have you not read your own Argentine Naval Archives of 1833 yet? Please answer me ont his - they will tell you who left and who stayed in the Islands in 1833!
I really am sorry for you - but your current Govt just spins lies after lies!
Do us a favour - go and read up and get the correct facts - and stop telling lies!
20 Brit Bob (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 06:31 pm Report abuse
@15 You are obviously getting your history from the same place where INDEC get's its inflation figures from.

Little wonder why Argentina is rated down in 102nd place in the Global Transparency Index.
21 briton (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 06:55 pm Report abuse
boy these desperate argies will try anything to make the falklands look bad,

yet they fail at every turn,
[your money paying for this or that]

yet would not argentine tax payers be paying the same,
or are we lead to belive that argentiuna will get it for free,

desperation breads desperation..
22 lsolde (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 09:36 pm Report abuse
@15 Raul,
Stop telling lies, Raul.
Check, do a bit of research, then come back on here.
Lying will get you nowhere.
23 ernest shackleton (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 10:23 pm Report abuse
@ Raul & senor numero uno,

OK, since so you are both such historical and constitutional experts, aside from GREED and ARROGANCE and OPPORTUNISM, what is the basis for the Argentine claim to South Georgia and the S.Shetlands? Non-response will be taken as an admission of said GREED and ARROGANCE and OPPORTUNISM..!
24 St.John (#) Apr 08th, 2013 - 10:47 pm Report abuse
@ 15 Raul

“The true historical facts show that the specificity of the Falklands is that Britain occupied the islands by force in 1833, expelled the original population and did not allow their return, thus violating the territorial integrity of the Republic of Argentina.”

As usual completely fact resistent.

It has been shown many time in the mercopress forum, using Argentine sources, that no original population was expelled in 1833.

Only the Buenos Aires GARRISON was expelled - not surprisingly as no state wants house foreign soldiers on their land except after an expressed request.

If an “original population” was expelled from the Falkland Islands, Spain did that in 1767, when de Bougainville's and the Saint Malo Company's French settlement was forced out of Îles Malouines.
25 briton (#) Apr 09th, 2013 - 06:12 pm Report abuse
is mixed up between Britain and Spain/ Argentina

See,, a continent was invaded [south America]
The aggressor was Spain, not Britain,

We created the Falklands, Spain created argentina and other countries,

It was Spain and thus Argentina that took the land by force, not Britain,
It was Argentina that expelled the original peoples and slaughtering what was left, not Britain,
And it is Argentina that will not give back the land to the original population, and thus violating territorial integrity [of the original population,
Not Great Britain,

Nice history lesson was it not.
26 screenname (#) Apr 09th, 2013 - 09:03 pm Report abuse
Klaus Dodds: 'The idea of giving up the territory in question was now unthinkable.'

I disagree. In my mind the idea of working against the interests/wishes of the actual Island population is pretty much unthinkable. In the modern world, the Islands have already been 'given up' by the the inhabitants.

It is now just a matter of trying to place them in such a position where outright independence is a possibility.

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