Thursday, September 19, 2013

David Pinder: The Power and Politics of Maps

How can the power and politics of maps be uncovered, given their common mask of neutrality? A starting point is to approach maps as texts and a form of language. Maps employ rhetorical devices to make statements about the world, advancing particular propositions and arguments. Interpretation therefore entails decoding that language in terms of the visible as well as hidden codes, signs, rules and conventions through which maps are constructed. It is not a case of trying to expose how maps are somehow ‘wrong’ or ‘untrue.’ Such a stance assumes that it is possible to produce a value-free image that leaves an external world ‘undistorted.’ As I have argued, that claim is untenable. More to the point for the position that I am advocating here is to analyse how claims to truth or the truth-effects’ of maps are constituted, to address how they are part of a discourse of cartography through which they derive their authority and work as a form of knowledge and of power (175).

Pinder, David. “Mapping Worlds: Cartography and the Politics of Representation.” Cultural Geography in Practice. Ed. Alison Blunt, et al. NY: Oxford UP, 2003: 172-187.

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