The Topological Multiplicities of Power: The Limits of Governing the Olympics



This article proposes that economic geography would benefit from a closer consideration of the topological multiplicities of power, that is, the multiple contending configurations of networks that make power a precarious accomplishment through creating constant overflows. It develops this argument by tracing how the circulation of knowledge in the preparation for the Olympic Games establishes sociomaterial networks that are meant to allow the International Olympic Committee to coordinate the organization of the event. On the basis of Bruno Latour's concept of the oligopticon, the article develops a sociomaterial notion of power to govern at a distance that emerges through the triple movement of collecting and mobilizing information, casting it into stable intermediaries, and recirculating knowledge. At the same time, a parallel narrative considers how this power and its spatial reach remain always partial and are transformed by overflows as elements move in and out of networks and how forces outside the network bear on it, creating “absent presences.” Giving adequate attention to these topological multiplicities of sociomaterial networks offers an important counterweight to the dominant notion of stable social networks in economic geography and is particularly useful when analyzing the governance of projects and various other forms of ephemeral, distributed organizing.