Navigation, Connectivity, and the Opening of (Global) Spaces

  • Lobo-Guerrero, Luis (PI)
  • Gäckle, Nicolas (PI)
  • Hamati-Ataya, Inanna (PI)
  • Acevedo, Juan (Member)
  • Ryan, Barry (Member)
  • Favila Vazquez, Mariana (Member)
  • van Netten, Djouke (Collaborator)

Project Details


Navigation can evoke imaginaries of adventure and exploration where frontiers are transcended (Fernandez-Armesto 2006), spaces are created (Soler 2003), and Fortuna is tempted (Wolf 2020). Historically, it is associated with images and narratives of heroism and duress, with the encounter of places, peoples, and unknown conditions of life, as well as with the creation of (novel) spaces of governance. Its everyday use can also evoke mundane repetitive practices of pathfinding within established routes, and is intrinsically related to cartographic representations of space and mapping practices.

Navigation, however, is not simply a practical problem of directed and coordinated movement through an environment with the intention to reach a known or expected location. It is tightly related to how people understand themselves to be in their world.

Paleolithic seafaring has started to provide clues about this (Simmons 2014). Archaic navigation technologies such as ornaments, mythological scenes, and sacral traditions, have, for example, been explored to reveal spatial rhythms based on early astronomic navigation as factors of cultural genesis and sapientation (Paranina 2020). Navigation for indigenous Polynesian people has been an intricate part of their culture in a similar way in which landscapes have been for landed societies (e.g. Ingersoll 2016; Genz 2014; Finney 1970). Prehispanic navigation was very much tied to observation of the landscape and to celestial observation as confirmation of being (e.g. Favila Vásquez 2016; Muñoz 2020; Espinoza 2019; Jaramillo Arango 2016; Urton 1983). Arabic navigation with its diversity across time and technological sophistication, related mostly to a culture of trade which later takes on a religious connotation (e.g. Hourani 1995; e.g. Hasan 2017; Aleem 1980). In the European Renaissance, navigation became a scientific matter with commercial and Christian features where Iberian powers combined Arab and European knowledge to compete in their division of the globe (e.g. Sánchez 2019; Sánchez and Leitão 2016; Leitão and Sánchez 2017). In the seventeenth century, with the advent of the great trading companies (e.g. Schilder and Kok 2010), navigation acquires a private-public character with patriotic tones (e.g. Grier 2018) leading to the invention of the marine chronometer towards the end of the eighteenth century and the narrative of British naval superiority so prominent in the literature (Seidelmann and Hohenkerk 2020; Rodger 2006). In more contemporary settings, in artificial intelligence, it relates to the design of forms of interaction to create sociality between robots (e.g. Scales, Aycard, and Aubergé 2020). In outer space, it relates to deep positioning and timing which challenge terrestrial historical spatio-temporalisations (e.g. Wood 2008; 2008).

In its diversity and complexity in different temporal and physical registers, navigation as a practice of being in the world can be explored by a common feature. Navigation is a practice of connectivity that brings together an awareness of being located in space, a capacity to identify location in relation to a cosmos, a specific design and purpose (teleology) of mobility, a pragmatic strategy which resourcefully combines intervening elements to reach a destination, and an experience of operating all of the above into a route. As a practice of connectivity, navigation is approached in relation to the terms under which something is connected or disconnected, which in turn helps understand the being of that which connects. Such awareness of being, capacity to locate, teleology of destination, and pragmatic strategy of mobility, are not universals. They relate to very particular conditions in time and space and have a history that can reveal the specific terms under which these connections are made possible.

As a practice of connectivity, navigation does not simply operate in space but contributes to the creation of spatiality. Through practices of navigation, spatial imaginaries are created, mapped, transformed, replaced, imposed, and questioned. However, the creation and depiction of space, and reflections about it, result in turn from knowledge formations. Ideas, beliefs, knowledge practices, communities of knowledge, and approaches towards encountering the new, all intervene in making imaginaries knowable as space. Hence, interrogating the relationship between navigation, connectivity, and space demands attention to the epistemological character of the problem.

In that spirit, this book seeks to make the first collective contribution to reflect about the relationships between navigation, connectivity, and the opening of (global) spaces by focusing on the knowledge formations that have made specific practices of navigation possible in time. As such, the book is presented as a problem-based reflection that, although making a contribution to the understanding of the problem in different disciplinary fields, is not discipline-specific, but rather deploys the multiple and complementary frames of analysis and scholarly sensibilities needed to capture the richness of the object in time, space, and culture
Effective start/end date01/02/2022 → …


  • connectivity
  • navigation
  • spatiality
  • international relations
  • geopolitics
  • historical epistemology


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.