Invisible Countries Journeys to the Edge of Nationhood Joshua Keating

Publication date:
10 Jul 2018
Yale University Press
296 pages: 210 x 140 x 25mm
8 b-w illus.
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A thoughtful analysis of how our world’s borders came to be and why we may be emerging from a lengthy period of “cartographical stasis”

What is a country? While certain basic criteria—borders, a government, and recognition from other countries—seem obvious, journalist Joshua Keating’s book explores exceptions to these rules, including self-proclaimed countries such as Abkhazia, Kurdistan, and Somaliland, a Mohawk reservation straddling the U.S.-Canada border, and an island nation whose very existence is threatened by climate change. Through stories about these would-be countries’ efforts at self-determination, as well as their respective challenges, Keating shows that there is no universal legal authority determining what a country is. He argues that although our current world map appears fairly static, economic, cultural, and environmental forces in the places he describes may spark change. Keating ably ties history to incisive and sympathetic observations drawn from his travels and personal interviews with residents, political leaders, and scholars in each of these “invisible countries.”

Joshua Keating is a foreign policy analyst, staff writer, and editor at Slate. Previously he was an editor at Foreign Policy.

“Mr. Keating offers few answers, but he raises good questions. As secessionist movements flourish in Europe, and climate change threatens to obliterate littoral states, the issue of what it means to be a nation is acquiring new salience.”—The Economist

“Fascinating, thought-provoking read” —Brian Maye, Irish Times

"Invisible Countries is a serious, indefatigable attempt to explore the vexing issue of national identity."--Robert D. Kaplan, author of The Revenge of Geography

"Invisible Countries takes its readers on an incredible journey to some of the world's most unlikely, fragile but determined would-be nations. It's also a wonderfully humane and urgent intellectual quest to find out why countries and borders still matter so much in our supposedly globalizing era."--Alastair Bonnett, author of Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies

"Through fascinating journeys to quasi-states and nations lacking UN membership, Keating deftly illustrates his case: we must remember our current set of countries are means to the good life, not ends in themselves."--Charles Kenny [either Senior Fellow, the Center for Global Development and/or author Getting Better: How Global Development is Succeeding].

"With sharp reporting and a far-flung sense of adventure, Joshua Keating provides an unprecedented examination of what it means to be a nation in the twenty-first century. You’ll never look at the world map the same way after reading this thought-provoking book.—Doug Mack, author of The Not-Quite States of America