iMaax/flickr
One problem that modern cartographers cannot easily escape isprojecting a three-dimensional world on a flat surface. Every...
A Mercator projection             Wikimedia Commons
A Winkel III projection                 Wikimedia Commons
A Peters Projection                      Perno.com
Political map of the world, 2001                                                       Boston Public LibraryProbably the m...
Samuel Huntington‟s “Clash of Civilizations”                                                         Wikimedia CommonsOne ...
The Dystopian Geography of George Orwell’s 1984                                               Southern Cross UniversityAno...
The earth following a polar ice melt                                                           Kevin Gill/flickrSpeaking o...
Thomas Barnett‟s “Core” and “Gap”                                                                    eaves.caThis map depi...
The Earth at Night                                                                     NASAA complementary, less either/or...
World map of activity on Flickr and Twitter                                                  Eric Fischer/flickrAnd yet an...
The World, Based on Military Spending – A Neo-Realist View?                                                               ...
The global arms tradeArms exportsArms imports                                  Worldmapper
1 AD                                        1500 AD            1960 AD                                       2015 AD      ...
An Alternative Middle East?                  Armed Forces Journal
An Alternative Middle East?Much like the three previous maps, this one goes to the heart of criticalgeopolitical critiques...
An Alternative North America?                                                Wikimedia CommonsThere is no shortage of maps...
An Alternative United States?                                             The Wallstreet JournalFor more than a decade, Ru...
The world according to Standard Oil, 1940                                                          Boston Public LibraryLe...
Critical Geopolitics – A Closing Reminder                            As noted in yesterday‟s lead article: “Because       ...
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Alternate Geographies

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In today's slideshow of ‘alternative geographies,’ we gently suggest that nothing about the geopolitical maps we use today is natural or inevitable. Our selection of maps make an entertaining case that they are indeed the product of human choices and that those choices can have policy-related consequences, for better as well as for worse.

To access the full article, please visit us at: http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Current-Affairs/Special-Feature/Detail?lng=en&id=134600&contextid774=134600&contextid775=134588&tabid=134588

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Alternate Geographies

  1. 1. iMaax/flickr
  2. 2. One problem that modern cartographers cannot easily escape isprojecting a three-dimensional world on a flat surface. Everysolution to this problem distorts the face of the Earth in someway. The most famous example is perhaps the MercatorProjection, which flattens the polar regions and notoriouslyinflates the sizes of Canada, Greenland and Antarctica. More„naturalistic‟ alternatives include the Winkel III Projection, inwhich distortions in direction, distance and area have beenminimized, and the Peters Projection, which now represents thetotal area of the world‟s countries most accurately. (The U.S.National Geographic Society, by the way, adopted the Winkel IIIas its preferred projection 1998.)
  3. 3. A Mercator projection Wikimedia Commons
  4. 4. A Winkel III projection Wikimedia Commons
  5. 5. A Peters Projection Perno.com
  6. 6. Political map of the world, 2001 Boston Public LibraryProbably the most familiar of all contemporary world maps are the political ones,including this representative example from 2001. They invariably divide the globeinto colored polygons that represent territorial states. As we discussed inyesterday‟s lead article, students of critical geopolitics argue that representationsof the world like this one – which emphasize territorial states to the exclusion ofother actors – are a contributing factor to our collective failure to understand newtransnational threats and respond to them effectively.
  7. 7. Samuel Huntington‟s “Clash of Civilizations” Wikimedia CommonsOne of the most influential and, yes, controversial representations of worldgeography that emerged in the uncertain political context immediately followingthe Cold War depicted Samuel Huntington‟s Clash of Civilizations thesis. Asshown here, Huntington divided the world into eight major „civilizations‟:Western, Slavic, Latin American, Islamic, African, Indic, Sinic, and Japonic. Hefamously argued that international cooperation would be more likely within thesame civilization and conflict more likely at the „fault lines‟ between civilizations.
  8. 8. The Dystopian Geography of George Orwell’s 1984 Southern Cross UniversityAnother famous representation of world geography appeared in GeorgeOrwell‟s 1984, where three monolithic political blocs (or World Islands)perpetually warred against each other.
  9. 9. The earth following a polar ice melt Kevin Gill/flickrSpeaking of dystopia, here is a depiction of what the world might eventuallylook like after the melting of the polar ice caps. The submerged areas includesome of the most densely populated and developed regions in the world: theEastern seaboard of the United States, Northern Europe and Eastern China.
  10. 10. Thomas Barnett‟s “Core” and “Gap” eaves.caThis map depicts Thomas Barnett‟s geopolitical vision of a world with aprosperous, „progressive‟ and politically integrated “core” and a comparativelyundeveloped, deprived and politically disconnected “gap.” Integrating the gap asmuch as possible with the core is the ultimate objective in this classicallyinformed view of geopolitics.
  11. 11. The Earth at Night NASAA complementary, less either/or depiction of Barnett‟s core and gapconstruct appears here. The picture contrasts the illuminated (e.g., moredeveloped) areas in the Global North with the large swathes of SouthAmerica, Africa, and Central Asia that remain in darkness.
  12. 12. World map of activity on Flickr and Twitter Eric Fischer/flickrAnd yet another variation on Barnett‟s construct, although this one is morestark than his map. The red dots are the locations of Flickr pictures, the bluedots are the locations of Twitter tweets, and the white dots are locations thathave been posted to both. Basically, the last three slides show that the core-gap construct is actually uneven when it comes to different forms ofdevelopment.
  13. 13. The World, Based on Military Spending – A Neo-Realist View? WorldmapperRepresented here – by way of a cartogram – is the world based on militaryspending. (In this case, the spending includes the costs of military personnel,including recruitment and training, supplies, weapons and equipment, andconstruction.) Since military spending is often used as a proxy for a state‟s„hard power,‟ does this map and the next one approximate a genuinely „neo-realist‟ picture of the world?
  14. 14. The global arms tradeArms exportsArms imports Worldmapper
  15. 15. 1 AD 1500 AD 1960 AD 2015 AD WorldmapperThis series of cartograms illustrates the national incomes of different parts of theworld in the years specified. Evidence of the „great divergence‟ can be seenbetween 1500 and 1960, but are we now seeing a great re-convergence?
  16. 16. An Alternative Middle East? Armed Forces Journal
  17. 17. An Alternative Middle East?Much like the three previous maps, this one goes to the heart of criticalgeopolitical critiques on the opportunities and dangers of geospatialrepresentation. It shows what the Middle East theoretically could look like if theregion‟s political borders, drawn by geometrically-minded 19th and early 20thcentury colonialists, actually reflected its ethnic and religious realities. Mapssuch as these are often highly controversial and politically charged, especiallyin the eyes of those who want to maintain various forms of the status quo. Byshowing that representation can treat political “reality” in different ways, mapssuch as these are not politically neutral, at least in the eyes of those whoharbor, believe in, and promote alternative forms of representation that rejectcartographic experiments such as this one.
  18. 18. An Alternative North America? Wikimedia CommonsThere is no shortage of maps showing alternative future representations ofNorth America. One of the most famous is Joel Garreau s the Nine Nations ofNorth America (1981)
  19. 19. An Alternative United States? The Wallstreet JournalFor more than a decade, Russian academic Igor Panarin has been predictingthe breakup of the United States. Economic and moral collapse, he argues (oris that hopes?), will trigger civil war, which will be the invitation for foreignpowers (including Canada and Mexico) to cut the country up into six pieces.This map depicts the envisioned results.
  20. 20. The world according to Standard Oil, 1940 Boston Public LibraryLest we forget, geospatial representations are not the sole domain of official orquasi-official bodies. Non-government and private actors have their own highlysubjective view of the world too, and they might not be particularly recent either.
  21. 21. Critical Geopolitics – A Closing Reminder As noted in yesterday‟s lead article: “Because the geography of the world is too vast and complex to grasp all at once, representations of geography – rather than geography itself – are what actually shape a state‟s foreign policy, or so students of critical geopolitics argue. These representations, in turn, inevitably distort or obscure what they represent, which make it critically important to pay close attention to this process. Indeed, the requirement is not only to prevent these distortions from misleading us about what policies to pursue in practice, but also to make explicit moral or aesthetic choices about how exactly to represent geography ourselves.” On an unrelated note: this Chinese map from the mid 19th century is a map of the world. If you look Boston Public Library carefully, you can make out Europe and the United States – squeezed into the top-left corner

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