Geography Critical Military Geographies
Rachel Woodward, Alice Cree
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 August 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 August 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0271


‘Critical military geography’ can be loosely defined as a subsection of critical military studies that is attuned to space and place. Critical military studies (CMS) as a broader project is interdisciplinary in its approach, and is concerned primarily with an examination of militaries, militarism, and military power. Scholarship in CMS spans across international relations, politics, sociology, history, the creative arts, and of course geography. Critical military geography emerged in counterpoint to a more traditional military geography which emerged at the end of the nineteenth century and which is concerned with the application of geographic information, tools, and techniques to the solution of military problems. The critical military geography approach, in contrast, centers the power relations through which military phenomena are geographically constituted and expressed. For this reason, critical military geography parallels the approaches of critical geopolitics and critical sociologies of the military as responses to older traditions within, respectively, political geography and sociology. Geographers have shed light on the myriad ways in which military phenomena are innately geographical; how they are rooted in place and spatially and temporally contingent, as well as practiced through and in particular bodies.


Rech, et al. 2015 provides a clear overview of the relationship between the critical military studies project and geographical scholarship, but this work is very much shaped and influenced by Woodward 2004 and Woodward 2005 (setting out the distinctions between traditional military geography and a more critical contemporary military geographies approach), and of course others. Basham, et al. 2015 focuses on introducing critical military studies more broadly, while Enloe 2015 similarly seeks to introduce this project but through a feminist lens. Woodward 2019 on the other hand looks beyond the groundwork laid out in these works, to the future of military geography.

  • Basham, Victoria M., Aaron Belkin, and Jess Gifkins. “What is Critical Military Studies?” Critical Military Studies 1.1 (2015): 1–2.

    DOI: 10.1080/23337486.2015.1006879

    From the very first issue of the Critical Military Studies journal, this editorial provides a concise introduction to the critical military studies project.

  • Enloe, Cynthia. “The Recruiter and the Sceptic: A Critical Feminist Approach to Military Studies.” Critical Military Studies 1.1 (2015): 3–10.

    DOI: 10.1080/23337486.2014.961746

    Also from the first issue of Critical Military Studies, in this paper Cynthia Enloe encourages us to center “sceptical curiosity” in critical feminist approaches to military research. Following her earlier work (e.g., Bananas, Beaches, and Bases[Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000]; Does Khaki Become You?[London: Pandora, 1988]; and Maneuvers [Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000]), the perspective that Enloe puts forward again in this piece is one which orientates much feminist military scholarship that followed, particularly when it came to work on militarism and spaces of everyday life.

  • Rech, Matthew, Daniel Bos, K. Neil Jenkings, Alison Williams, and Rachel Woodward. “Geography, Military Geography, and Critical Military Studies.” Critical Military Studies 1.1 (2015): 47–60.

    DOI: 10.1080/23337486.2014.963416

    An introduction to the critical military studies project through a distinctly geographical lens. The paper argues that military phenomena are inherently geographical in how they are constituted and expressed, and so an attention to spatiality is important when considering what critical military studies is and can be.

  • Woodward, Rachel. Military Geographies. Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1002/9780470774793

    A cornerstone piece of scholarship in military geography. The book highlights how space, place, environment, and landscape are enmeshed with the practices and processes of military activities and phenomena, and that (crucially) military geographies are everywhere.

  • Woodward, Rachel. “From Military Geography to Militarism’s Geographies: Disciplinary Engagements with the Geographies of Militarism and Military Activities.” Progress in Human Geography 29.6 (2005): 718–740.

    DOI: 10.1191/0309132505ph579oa

    Provides a comprehensive overview of how geographers (and contemporary approaches in human geography) have engaged with the study of militaries, militarism, and military activities. The paper ends by highlighting the need to more fully understand the nuances, intricacies, and even mundane elements of how militarism, militaries, and military power function.

  • Woodward, Rachel, ed. A Research Agenda for Military Geographies. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2019.

    This more contemporary edited collection brings together diverse chapters from across military geographical scholarship to think about what the future of the subdiscipline could or should look like.

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