University of Leicester
2017TRAYNORCMPhD.pdf (14.65 MB)

Mapping Neutrality: Critical Geographies of The Hague

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posted on 2017-06-26, 11:47 authored by Catherine Mary Traynor
This thesis takes the reader on an emotional journey, through offices, buildings, streets, cities, countries, past and present, to explore what makes things neutral. It addresses a question currently lacking in the discipline, that if geographies are essentially emotional-affective, material, geopolitical and organised (if fluid), is there such thing as a geography of neutrality? Based on a case study of the World Forum Area of The Hague, and specifically a war crimes courtroom, headquarters building and International Zone, it shows how various forms of neutrality are peopled and placed. By doing so, it also confronts what constitutes "The Hague International City of Peace and Justice." The research was autoethnographic, involving semi-structured interviews, walking tours, observation and texts. Developing current analytical debates in geography, including emotions and affects, architecture, critical geopolitics and organisational anthropology, the thesis reveals three distinct yet overlapping socio-spatial forms, namely neutrality-as-competence, international-as-neutral and neutrality-as(un)organised. These three 'neutralities' matter politically since they fuel and challenge, liberal democracy, sovereignty and power relations. They also matter theoretically, as they uncover a complex relationship between absence and presence, in the constitution of a recognizable entity. Neutralities are an achievement of staged and unstaged significance along with staged and unstaged insignificance. Through the deliberate and inadvertent enactment of a lack of certain elements as much as a supply of others, intricate 'neutral' practices produce power(less) (un)organisations, that can justify political action and inaction, intimately and globally. With showcase trials performing emotional control, architecture downplaying its importance, and coherency that appears without strategy, 'The Hague International City of Peace and Justice' is one such multiscalar, organisational effect. Nevertheless, it contains people 'at the coalface,' negotiating neutrality's inherent contradictions, continually stretching its meanings and practices. Future work could tell their stories to enrich geographies of peace (McConnell, Williams and Megoran 2014).



Coles, Benjamin; Matulis, Brett

Date of award


Author affiliation

Department of Geography

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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