Monday, September 15, 2014

Canada in Confusion

In today's post we return to the always vexed question of Canadian borders and explore how the contemporary map of Canada took shape. Do the country's unremarkable borders, imposed by British imperialists a century ago, explain the unremarkable depths into which it subsequently plunged? Did the Durham - Sydenham Union Act sow the seeds of the region's present-day boringness? What if the map of Canada contained 14 provinces instead of however many provinces it actually has? And could the presence of an independent Athabasca have prevented the tensions that subsequently consumed mini-Manitoba? What if Keewatin and Ungava still maintained their sovereignty in the face of Quebecoise and Ontarian irredentism? Today's map forces us to consider the slightly more interesting country Canada could have been and ask "was a different future possible for our northern neighbor?"

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Central Asia in Flux

A map that finally captures the confusion of the 1920s Soviet national delimitation in Central Asia, with the names of the region's new states super-imposed in red over an older map of the area. Even more exciting, it shows the region at the moment that Tajikistan has been upgraded to the status of full republic and the map-makers can't even find space to write its name in. Anyways, if you're interested, check out our short paper on the delimitation or a nice bit of 1950s Soviet Tajik propaganda.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Roderic Davison Tells Us How the Middle East Got to Be Where It Is Today

Recently I had the misfortune to read two articles that sought to explain the history of the "Middle East" a geographic construct. Both argued at length that the term "Middle East" was an externally imposed one, reflecting the strategic interests of Western powers rather than the perspectives of the region's inhabitants themselves. So far so good. But neither article bothered to explain exactly what strategic interests led to the region being defined the way it is today, or why Western powers didn't impose some other definition of the region. Fortunately, Roderic Davison does in his 1960 "Where is the Middle East." Davison elegantly explains how the original division between Near and Middle East gave way to our present-day use of the Middle East to refer to the whole region. And by following the writer's dictum "show, don't tell," Davison also offers a reminder that you can be far more radical by using words and research to actually say something than by using Foucauldian jargon and insinuation to say nothing.  Anyways, you can read the whole article here. Basically, Davison explains how the breakdown of the Near East Middle East split seen in the map above broke down with the fall of the Ottoman Empire and British colonization of the Levant:

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

East and West through the Ages

Karl Sturm created this vastly improved version of one of our first maps for a collection of maps about the Middle East that appeared in the Atlantic recently. While I would hope that this map challenges the notion of there being some kind of consistent and meaningful divide between East and West throughout history, I also think it helps call into question the particularly strange claim, made in Orientalism, that Western stereotypes or prejudices about the East have somehow remained consistent despite these changes from the 4th century bc up through today. Unless I'm fundamentally misunderstanding something, which is always a possibility, it seems inexplicable that a work which took the fundamental connection between knowledge and power as its starting point would nonetheless argue that European views of the Ottoman Empire were basically the same in the 16th century, when the Ottomans were terrorizing Europe, as they were in the 19th century, when they really weren't. Much less suggest that these had anything to do with Greek stereotypes about Persians.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

First Ottoman Map of America

This is apparently the first Ottoman map of the newly formed USA, printed in 1803. It turned up in the collection of the Osher Map Library in Portland ME (see the close up of Ingiltere Jadid below). A zoommable version with a little more information is available here. Mehr_Bluebeard, at the always entertaining Map Porn, took the trouble of going through and offering some transcriptions: Manitoba is written as جنوب ویلز جدید meaning "New South Wales." Scattered names west of the States are: Algonquin, Abitibi, Ottawas, Chippawa, Western Sioux, Eastern Sioux, Qara panlis (Blackfoot), Aq panlis(Whitefoot), Illinois, Missouries, Chickasaw, Kentucky, Tennessee, etc. Florida is "Eastern Florida" and Louisiana state is "Western Florida" However, the entire area west of Mississippi river is called Louisiana The States, from top: New England, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia. Approximately where Texas is, it reads: "The land of Mexico."

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Germans Are Coming Part II

Afternoon Map has always been alert to the danger posed by German militarism. We warned of it in one of our first posts, and continue to think tapping Angela Merkel's phone is an eminently sensible precaution. "Once a German, always a German," we like to say. So we were delighted when Beth Mercurio sent us this map, which she found in her grandfather's copy of Hermann Rauschning's 1939 "The Revolution of Nihilism: Warning to the West." Beth explained: "I'd vaguely heard of [Rausching's] book "Conversations with Hitler" and how historians were concerned it was bogus, but I hadn't seen his writing anywhere else. [Based on some superficial research, which is all I have time for with the semester beginning, it seems like neo-Nazi historians definitely think Rausching's work is fake, but it's a little less clear what real historians think. If anyone knows more let us know - ed] This book was apparently the one before Conversations with Hitler, detailing the rise of Nazi ideology and the author's thoughts on how it would eventually implode (he was a former leader within the party and later broke away/left Germany in the late 1930s)."

I don't have much more to add to add, except that more maps should include a "Doubtful" category.  And while I think our collective interest in the way Mercator projections exaggerate the size of Greenland is a little silly, it certainly does make this map seem more ominous. The Italians, of course, are still scheming to get Turkey, while America doesn't make out that badly either.

Finally, a few nice World War One posters to remind everyone just what the Germans are capable of. "Remember Belgium" might not be the catchiest propaganda slogan, but the picture is compelling. In all seriousness, though, while people often lament the fact that Americans weren't quick enough to believe reports of Nazi atrocities during World War Two or take action to in response to evidence of concentration camps, it's worth remembering that the American public had become cynical after all the exaggerated anti-German propaganda they had been subjected to during the previous war. It's like the famous story of the boy who cried German.  Americans, having been repeatedly told that the WWI-era Germans were basically behaving like Nazis only to discover that maybe they hadn't been that much worse than the British and French, became overly skeptical and hesitant to believe it when, in the next war, the Germans actually were Nazis.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Every Day Eating in the Eastern Mediterranean

Today we have a version of our Ottoman Food Map that appeared in the Guerrilla Cartography project Food: An Atlas with the help of actual cartographer Ryan Cooper. And if that weren't enough, there's also a podcast about it. I think it's mostly me talking about octopus while Chris Gratien tries not to laugh.