Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History


“Rationalities” highlights the logics of space and time that distinguish one spatiality from another. The fraught interplay between territorial and market rationalities, for example, arguably constitutes a core dynamic of the modern capitalist world order, if not of much of human history (Diener and Hagen (2012) frame this as a tension between “security” and “opportunity”). Though they exist in the same time and place, the spatio-temporality of a spatial structure governed by a “vital rationality,” for example, differs significantly from one governed by a “territorial rationality.” In the former, the time that a given living being can survive determines distance, including the meaning of adjectives such as “near” and “far.” In the latter, the ability of the bureaucratic and social structures of the state to demarcate and manage territorial boundaries determines the difference between “here” and “there” or “domestic” and “foreign.” Rationalities also manifest as logics that justify particular actions in space and ways of thinking about space. For example, the concept of vital rationality has been used to justify projects of territorial defense or expansion and genocide, such as the idea of Manchuria as Japan’s “lifeline” (seimeisen) or the concept of Lebensraum. Taxonomic rationality has been used to justify racialized hierarchies of humanity, ideologies of enslavement, and acts of genocide. Here, we highlight vital rationality and taxonomic rationality to illuminate how physiological constraints shape the particular spatio-temporalities of biota and human efforts to manage them, and how taxonomic logics structure imaginative geographies, environments, and flows and immobilities, and borders.

Fundamentally, the difference between rationalities is not one that can be defined through comparisons within categories. Instead, Rationalities shows that different spatial logics define space and time by prioritizing completely different categories.

In Conversation with Other Crossings

Rationalities inform how different actors (individuals, communities, states) use Figures, Imaginative Geographies, Environments, and Vehicles to produce particular Flows and Immobilities and Boundaries. Rationalities likewise inform how different actors define difference within each of these categories. As noted above, Rationalities can also intersect with Figures and Imaginative Geographies to justify particular projects and actions.


Diener, Alexander C., and Joshua Hagen. Borders: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

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