Thursday, October 05, 2006

"The map is not the territory"

SELECTIONS FOR READING FOR MAPS FREAKS: "Maps are never value-free images; except in the narrowest Euclidean sense they are not in themselves either true or false. Both in the selectivity of their content and in their signs and styles of representation, maps are a way of conceiving, articulating and structuring the human world which is biased towards, promoted by, and exerts influence upon sets of social relations. By accepting such premises it becomes easier to see how appropriate they are to manipulation by the powerful in society." Harley. J. B. "Maps, Knowledge, and Power," The Iconography of Landscape, ed. Denis Cosgrove and Stephen Daniels. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1994. The Map is not the Territory by Claudio Gatti "In the nineteenth century, as maps became further institutionalised and linked to the growth of geography as a discipline, their power effects are again manifest in the continuing tide of European imperialism. The scramble for Africa, in which the European powers fragmented the identity of indigenous territorial organisation, has become almost a textbook example of these effects. And in our own century, in the British partition of India in 1947, we can see how the stroke of a pen across a map could determine the lives and deaths of millions of people. There are innumerable contexts in which maps became the currency of political 'bargains', leases, partitions, sales, and treaties struck over colonial territory and, once made permanent in the image, these maps more than often acquired the force of law in the landscape." J. B. Harley (283) "Map knowledge allows the conduct of warfare by remote control so that, we may speculate, killing is that more easily contemplated. Military maps not only facilitate the technical conduct of warfare, but also palliate the sense of guilt which arises from its conduct: the silent lines of the paper landscape foster the notion of socially empty space." (284) . . . . "Decisions about the exercise of power are removed from the realm of immediate face-to-face contacts." (303) J. B. Harley Michele Turre - map of Cambridge and its Watershed "Eurocentrism, like Renaissance perspectives in painting, envisions the world from a single privileged point. . . . Eurocentrism bifurcates the world into the "West and the Rest" and organizes everyday language into binaristic heirarchies implicitly flattering to Europe: our 'nations,' their 'tribes'; our 'religions,' their 'superstitions'; our 'culture,' their 'folklore'; our 'art,' their 'artifacts'; our 'demonstrations,' their 'riots'; our 'defense,' their 'terrorism.' " Shohat, Ella and Robert Stam. Unthinking Eurocentrism. Routledge. London and New York, 1994. p.2 "Maps made it easy for European states to carve up Africa and other heathen lands, to lay claim to land and rsources, and to ignore existing social and political structure. Knowledge is power and crude explorers' maps made possible treaties between nations with conflicting claims. That maps drawn up by diplomats and generals became a political reality lends an unintended irony to the aphorism that the pen is mightier than the sword." Monmonier, Mark. How to Lie with Maps. University of Chicago Press. Chicago and London, 1991. "Aboriginal maps can only be properly read or understood by the initiated, since some of the information they contain is secret. This secrecy concerns the ways in which the map is linked to the whole body of knowledge that constitutes Aboriginal culture. For Aborigines, the acquisition of knowledge is a slow ritualized process of becoming initiated in the power-knowledge network, essentially a process open only to those who have passed through the earlier stages. By contrast, the Western knowledge system has the appearance of being open to all, in that nothing is secret. . . . In the Western tradition the way to imbue a claim with authority is to attempt to eradicate all signs of its local, contingent, social and individual production." "In the light of these considerations we should perhaps recognize that all maps, and indeed all representations, can be related to experience and instead of rating them in terms of accuracy or scienticity we should consider only their "workability" -- how successful they are in achieving the aims for which they were drawn. . . ." David Turnbull in Denis Wood, The Power of MapsThe Guldford Press. New York and London, 1992. p.40.