How maps fixed the fluid world?

Isn't it interesting once upon a time in history someone created a map and now the whole history is being created through maps? The map drawn on paper created lines in the heart of the minds of people and with the map of their residence their identities. But was the world always like that? What if Map would have not been available have we seen history in the same manner in which we see it now?


We today identify all the countries, continents, seas and oceans all through maps. We identify all that belongs to us and where we belong with the help of maps. We study history through stories of countries and see countries through maps. We often forget in our studies that there was a world before the creation of maps and thus see everything of the past through that map only. Cartography changed the world and the power dynamics behind it shaped the world. The boundaries on the globe today seem so natural but they were not always there now these boundaries imprints are on everyone around the world.

History seen through maps-

The small lines straight and zigzag drawn on the piece of paper called "maps" now control the history of and around the world. Based on the history created through maps emerges conflicts.
Conflicts of countries because of boundaries on the map,
We still see nations and states fighting over an inch of land on the map, but nobody questions the creation of the map itself. Every country claims a particular piece of land based on their historicity and that historicity through the maps created in the past. The created boundaries around the world separating territory are now so deeply rooted in the identity and politics of people that it has led to so many wars. For example- Indo China war of 1962, all Indo-Pak Wars be it 1947, 1964, 1971 or 1999. In the root of all is the map and territory defined by it.

How past was different from today in terms of Map-

In ancient times the people were more mobile be it traders, learners, scholars, pilgrims and even cultivators, these people did not have the notion of a territorially defined nation as we see today. In the past, there was no concept of conformity one had to show with the people around. With the modern notion of territorially bounded notion came the need to define oneself in a particular geography and to have something common and form a community. A community bounded in the geography of a map often identifies itself about others either by ethnicity, race and some cases language. And whenever this conformity is not there it is often imposed from above by various state apparatus. In the past, there was no one forcefully putting down the notion of conformity down anyone's throat based on the bounded geography and citizenry within that boundary. This process of rigidifying boundaries and enforcing conformity has led to the crisis of refugees, mass exodus and oppression of mobile people who are seen as suspects everywhere he goes. Mobility beyond the boundaries of maps is seen associated with criminality. It is due to the result of imposed notions of the map that continuous conflicts keep happening around the world for restructuring of already defined boundaries on the map.

Modern Science of cartography made everyone outside fixed territory a suspect-

With cartography, mobility began to be viewed as something deviant, wrong and associated with a criminal. The extent of the fear of mobility was such that many of the wandering tribes and nomads were given the status of criminal at their birth by the colonial masters of that particular region who were often involved in the process of map-making. The expansion by the colonial power and then urge to solidify those annexations resulted in the creation of maps in society that never saw itself linked to any single homogenous identity. Especially in the case of Asia and Africa where colonial powers created such maps as per their whims and fancies. They scrambled the continents into many small pieces divided through maps, the race of more possession of colonies among the imperialist powers without thinking about people living in those areas and then sudden departure once they could not retain power without resolving border conflicts. With boundaries etched on the paper, they also created boundaries in the mind of people living in those areas which are still as sharp as made by colonial masters.

Maps as a tool of power-

Maps since their inception have become a tool of power. Those who are in power keep on doing structuring and restructuring of maps, and every time there is a threat to their power they show any external elements trying to restructure those boundaries and win over people.


Is it correct for people to be so much obsessed with boundaries? Shouldn't there be love for the land and feelings of patriotism instead of a fixed territory bounded area and love for the created boundaries? We need to ask such questions before fighting with someone over territorial issues. We should be aware of the historical significance of present conflicts which often traces their roots in the created entities and boundaries before getting into debates of claim over any such boundaries based on maps available.

Article by Neelam
"Opportunities are like sunrises if you wait too long you can miss them"

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