Spatial terms such as core and periphery, territory and location have become increasingly popular as locutions in the social sciences and humanities. Perhaps this is related to an emerging sensitivity to spatial difference after a period in which the various social sciences and humanities tended to privilege temporal development over geographical differentiation. By and large, however, the use of geographical terms has been descriptive or metaphorical rather than ontological. Territory and location can evoke images of power and wealth differentials without reference to any geographical basis to these differentials themselves. Difference is still thought of as produced extra-geographically by abstract forces of class, ethnicity or discursive hegemony even as it is now acknowledged as manifesting itself geographically. Geography matters, but only as the moment in which abstract (and usually, universal) social processes, such as social stratification, state-building and ideological hegemony, are revealed to us "on the ground."
One of the great virtues of Paul Routledge's analysis of the Chipko and Baliapal movements in India lies in its explicit commitment to a spatial ontology. The concept of "terrains of resistance" is not just an evocative metaphor or figure of speech. It signifies the real geographical ground upon which the process of development sponsored by the Indian state meets with the resistance of groups devoted to other objectives. The nature of the geographical places in which social movements originate and put down roots as they engage in conflict with space-spanning organizations, such as states, is thus the key to understanding these