Setting the Agenda

We said we would post our opening comments to the blog and I’m (JWC) posting these below. We also hope to take the project forward and are working on some plans for this. In the meantime, I’d like to request permission to post the Powerpoints I have, and perhaps the best way to do this is for you to leave a comment below this post if it’s OK to post your slides. Thanks!

Opening comments to Territory and Cartography AAG Sessions

Territory and Cartography

The relation between cartography and territory seems well-known. State territories are one of the key objects of cartographic work, both in terms of their depiction on geopolitical maps and in terms of the state agencies that produce maps of their territory. Here we want to reverse the question: to what extent is cartography productive of territory?

The call for the session came out of a discussion of our own work.

SE – working on a history of the concept of territory, and the contemporary relation between territory and sovereignty, especially under the ‘war on terror’ and the post-Cold War world more generally.

JC – recent book on Mapping: A Critical Introduction to Cartography and GIS, and a series of Progress reports on cartography. The last of which is entitled ‘Cartographical Calculations of Territory’.

Our previous work together – AAG sessions from Philadelphia on ‘Space, Politics, Calculation’ that became a theme issue of Social and Cultural Geography, and a co-edited book on Foucault and Geography.

SE has made the claim that territory needs to be understood somewhat differently to the standard ways geography has tended to describe it: territory is a bounded space, under the control of a group; territory is an outcome of territoriality. But rather than come up with a fixed definition, the aim is to try to think the issues in understanding how it has been understood at different times and places.

Three propositions –

  1. Territory must be approached as a topic in itself; rather than through territoriality. Indeed, it may well be the case that the notion of ‘territoriality’ with regard to humans can only be appropriately understood through a notion of territory.
  2. That territory can only be understood as a ‘bounded space’ if we are prepared to take ‘boundaries’ and ‘space’ as terms worthy of investigation in their own right as a preliminary step.
  3. That ‘land’ and ‘terrain’—as political-economic and political-strategic relations—are necessary but insufficient to grasp ‘territory’. ‘Territory’ must be approached in its political, historical, geographical and conceptual specificity.

An agenda for future work… mine, hopefully providing some conceptual tools that can used, supplemented, criticised and put to work by others broadening beyond a European focus, and taking a wide historical scope.

If territory can be understood as a political technology, comprising a range of techniques for the measurement of land and the control of terrain, then cartography, alongside land surveying and the military, is one of those techniques; part of what might be conceived of as state territorial strategies.

Notion of territory as extension is an old one. The Old Testament (Genesis) narrates the story of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth (Gr. Ἰάφεθ, Iapheth), who after the flood had the world divided among them. Japheth had his territory extended (Gen. 9:27) at the expense of Ham, who was cursed for seeing his father’s nakedness, and in the Hebrew Japheth sounds like “extend.” Traditionally, Japheth’s territories were Europe, whereas Ham was allocated to Africa and his descendents were to be Japheth’s slaves. So already we see territory, population and politics intertwined. But also a notion of territory as extension.

In the Middle Ages, Noahian  (Noah’s) races appeared in the form of mappae mundi (maps of the world) known as “T in O” maps. These maps presented a view of territorial division as a fundamental understanding of the world.

In the 18th and 19th C., when writers came to be concerned about race as continent-wide populations, and with natural history more generally (Darwin but also new geological findings), maps also played a critical role by mapping populations into their separate, areally bounded territories. A whole array of map types (maps as technologies of government) were invented in the 19th C. to calculate the (moral, criminal, etc.) health of the population.

By contrast, in the 20th C. anthropologists have mapped human variation not by area, but as geographically graded “clines” (a word coined by the biologist Julian Huxley in 1938, the same year cartographers (J.K. Wright) invented the term choropleth map). From Gr. khora, only inadequately translated as “space.” And the National Geographic’s Genographic Project is mapping human genetic diversity globally.

Counter-mappings (“map or be mapped” as geographer Bernard Nietschmann called it) have been used in the last few decades as the power relations of mapping have become more recognized for purposes of resistance.

Argument is that maps appropriate territory in certain ways, as calculation. Both in discourse and materially. For example, GIScience has increasingly turned to predicate ontology (the world as objects with properties) because these are computationally tractable. But is human life best understood in this way? Materially too, cartographic calculations have real effects with how we regulate space, appropriate nature, deal with movements across space and into privileged spaces, and solve political disputes. Eg., Schengen, border solutions for Bosnia, Israeli settlements in Palestine based on cartographic evidence of occupation in antiquity, etc.

*  *  *

The aim of this session is to bring together papers analysing maps politically in terms of their relation to the state and its territory, drawing on a range of historical and geographical contexts.

We asked the contributors to do a couple of things. One was that we welcomed a focus on the techniques involved in the production of territory; the second was that the papers should principally speak to the question: if we know that the map is not the territory, to what extent is it still productive of it?

Over these three sessions we have papers which look at conceptual issues, aerial sovereignty, maritime territory and underwater – the three dimensional approach (what JC has called ‘the volumetric’);  from antiquity to the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries; Rome, Paris, Alsace-Lorraine, Ireland and Denmark to the Philippines and Palestine; the use of maps in legal disputes; American empire… a wide range of historical and geographical contexts. Theory, politics and history.

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One thought on “Setting the Agenda

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