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About this book

International scholarship is increasingly aware that the ‘geographical tradition’ is a contentious and contested field: while critical reflections on the imperial past of the discipline are still ongoing, new tendencies including de-colonial studies and geographies of internationalism are focusing on the progressive aspects of plural geographical traditions. This volume contains selected papers presented at two Symposia of the Commission on the History of Geography of the International Geographical Union within the 25th International Congress of History of Science and Technology which took place in Rio de Janeiro in July 2017.

The papers address processes of ‘decolonising’ and ‘internationalising’ science in the 19th and 20th century, with a special emphasis on geography. Internationalization, circulation and dissemination of geographical concepts and ideas are in the focus. The volume includes case studies on Latin America, tropical regions as well as Europe and Japan. There is also an emphasis on the history of international congresses and organizations and on the international circulation of knowledge.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Mapping Cross-Cultural Exchange: Jaime Cortesão’s Dialogues and Documents on the Role of Indigenous Knowledge in Brazilian Exploration

This chapter aims to explore Jaime Cortesão’s textual and visual narratives about indigenous knowledge. Although many scholars investigated Cortesão’s production during his exile in Brazil (1940–1957), little attention has been given to study how he investigated the role of indigenous knowledge in territorial exploration and mapping. To address this topic, I will identify debates and documents explored by Cortesão to approach indigenous maps. The chapter is divided into two sections. First, I will explore Cortesão’s dialogues, considering how academic debates and references encouraged him to study indigenous people’s spatial knowledge. Then, I will stress some textual and visual documents selected by Cortesão to discuss indigenous maps as a specific category. In addition to explorer’s narratives, Cortesão presented a group of maps from 1721 to 1724, discovered by him at the National Library of Rio de Janeiro and classified as bandeirantes due to its indigenous influence. By identifying Cortesão’s dialogues and documents, my primary intention here is to discuss his comments on indigenous mapping in the light of postcolonial and decolonial approaches to understanding exploration maps as co-produced and hybrid artefacts.
André Reyes Novaes

Chapter 2. Pioneers of Latin American Critical Geography: Josué de Castro and Antonio Núñez Jiménez

This work aims at providing a regional look at the origins of the critical discourse within Latin American geography. It discusses the contributions made by two authors of the region, who worked on geography identifying and analyzing conditions of poverty, marginalization, lack of democracy, and denouncing the power holders who, consequently, were responsible for the inequality conditions that deprived the region. Under a critical look, several proposals were developed, proposals which exposed imperial, dependency and unequal relationships in Latin America. That is the case with the geographical writings by Josué de Castro and Antonio Núñez Jiménez, who, through their work, marked a milestone in territorial, regional and spatial knowledge of Brazil, Cuba and Latin America.
María Verónica Ibarra García, Edgar Talledos Sánchez

Chapter 3. After the Excitement of War: ‘Disabled Veterans’ in Modern Japan

‘Total war’ has had many effects on human bodies and ideas as well as socio-spatial formation of nation-state. It generated countless wounded soldiers on the battlefield who sometimes became ‘national heroes’ in their homeland. However, after the war these war veterans with disabilities faced serious difficulties in their local communities. This chapter investigates some effects of the Russo-Japanese War on the formation of the nation-state in modern Japan by focusing on the experiences, consciousness, and acts of disabled veterans and the geographical imaginations of the people. Such an approach allows us to have insights into the social and political connectedness of nested scales from body to nation, through community and urban space.
Akio Onjo

Chapter 4. Indian Ocean Small Islands Along the Postcolonial Trajectory: Chagos and the Maldives

In 2009, Robert Kaplan defined the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) as “the central internship for the challenges of the twenty-first century”. For Bouchard and Crumplin (2010), the issues now playing out in the Indian Ocean mean that it can be “neglected no longer” within world geopolitics. The crucial historic transition underway in the area is being driven by the network of relations among the “big players” on the regional chessboard: the USA, China, and India. Both the geographical nodes at which these relations unfold and new narratives shaping the geographical imaginary of the region are key to understanding these contemporary historical processes. In this essay, we examine the main historic and geographic processes that laid the ground for the current period of transition: the renewed centrality of the Indian Ocean, Sino-Indian rivalry (Brewster 2015) and the geopolitics of environmental crisis. We focus here on two archipelagos (the Chagos Islands and the Maldives) that have been described as “unsinkable aircraft carriers” within this scenario. In recent decades, Chagos and the Maldives have become key nodes in the new geopolitical cartography. In 1971, the US Navy built a military base on Diego Garcia and, since the beginning of the “Indian Ocean Cold War”, the Maldives have been situated at the fringe between Indian military supremacy and China’s influence on the economies of peripheral counties. This focus allows us to investigate contemporary transitions and to propose an alternative reading of the conflict for hegemony currently underway between the “big global players”.
Marcella Schmidt di Friedberg, Stefano Malatesta

Chapter 5. Do Not Cross. The ‘North/South’ Divide: A Means of Domination?

This paper would like to interrogate the concept of ‘North’, the concept of ‘South’ and the binary pattern which associates them: ‘North/South’. These two concepts, developed during the seventies and eighties, seem to be more neutral than other terms such as ‘underdeveloped countries’ or ‘rich countries’. But actually, it appears as a way to naturalize a division of the world in two categories of countries. This division, very stable for almost 40 years, is not a scientific way to think about the world. It is not a statistic division but more a heritage, and a vision of the world as immutable even against the facts.
Pascal Clerc

Chapter 6. Drone Photography and the Re-aestheticisation of Nature

Drones offer the possibility to depict places from perspectives difficult to achieve. They make visible an order of forms, patterns and relationships that, from the surface is either difficult or impossible to have. Although originally developed as a military technology, and hence highly restricted to military practices, drones are currently more accessible for a wider range of users. Perhaps, drone photography and its recent popularisation are the most outstanding evidences of how the use of this technology has experienced a shift from the military to the civil arena. Both, the altitude and the proximate perspective that drones achieve, make the drone picturing a renewed challenge. Assuming that each technology of vision organises what we observe with our eyes, I will explore how drone photography is picturing nature. By focusing on the visual universe displayed under the category Nature on Dronestagram, a website devoted to drone images, I will identify some of the mechanisms upon which drone photography is reshaping the geographical imaginations of nature.
Verónica C. Hollman

Chapter 7. “Our Field Is the World”: Geographical Societies in International Comparison, 1821–1914

As associations for the promotion and dissemination of geographical knowledge, Geographical Societies were the institutional basis of geography for the larger part of the “long” nineteenth century. Before 1914, up to 170 such Societies existed in all inhabited continents. Most historiographical research has focused on Geographical Societies in capital cities and/or dealt with them as being inside the “containers” of their respective nation-states, and as if they existed and operated in independence and isolation from one another. By contrast, in a research project launched in 2015/16 at the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography (IfL), Leipzig, within the framework of the Leipzig Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) 1199 “Processes of Spatialization under the Global Condition”, we seek to identify connections and draw comparisons among 34 Geographical Societies from all continents and of 13 languages, including Societies from minor cities and countries. Our data comes from the Societies’ yearly journals, which we record with a standardized method that we have developed. From a Society’s proceedings, we gather, rather qualitatively, its organizational structure including its networking with other Geographical Societies; from the geographical articles in its journal, we gather, rather quantitatively through codes, the Society’s subjects (e.g. “physical geography”: “geology”; or “human geography”: “economy”), and world areas (e.g. “Africa, West”, or “Polar Regions, South”) of interest. For each Society, we thus obtain a profile reflecting its structure, activities, interests and evolution. Each profile may be explained by the Society’s local and historical context (e.g. French colonialism; Czech nationalism), and further understood through the theoretical concepts of our Collaborative Research Centre: each Society “spatialized” the world into certain “spatial formats”, which then made up a certain “spatial order”. By negotiating modes of dealing with a globalized world, the Geographical Societies thus contributed to the professionalization of geography.
Maximilian Georg, Ute Wardenga

Chapter 8. Personified Continents in Public Places: Internationalism, Art, and Geography in Late Nineteenth Century Paris

This paper examines the yet unexplored relationships between internationalism, art, and geography by discussing the two cases of Paris, in the late nineteenth century. Using a landscape-as-text approach and the concepts of scale jumping and imaginative geographies, I focused here on the female statues representing the continents. Late nineteenth century Paris was characterized as the site where occurred a host of projects and events promoting internationalism by means of some kind of scale jumping. The world’s fairs and international congresses were typical events concerning internationalism, especially a hegemonic one. The erection of Les Quatre Parties du Monde was virtually linked to the debates and assertions surrounding the selection of the prime meridian, which was one of the themes at the two Paris international geographical congresses: the Congrès International des Sciences Géographiques in 1875, and the Congrès International de Géographie Commerciale in 1878. The physiognomies of Les Quatre Parties du Monde delivered an apparent message of the supremacy of Europe over others, and the fountain and statues were intended to symbolize the Paris meridian itself and to assert its status as the starting point for the calculation of the world’s longitude. The group of Les Six Continents was stemmed from the sort of hegemonic internationalism and imaginative geographies that found themselves at the 1878 Paris International Universal Exposition. While the appearances of Les Six Continents indicated a linear progress from primitive Oceania to civilized Europe, their arrangement at the inaugural ceremony at the Palais du Trocadéro, signified the historical and geographical centrality of the Mediterranean world. Both Les Quatre Parties du Monde and Les Six Continents could be taken as the descendants of the title page of Ortelius’ first world atlas. The practice to erect the statues of the continents could be regarded as a geographical practice, and these statues could also be understood as a different kind of geo-body.
Toshiyuki Shimazu

Chapter 9. Pierre Monbeig and the Geohistory of Brazil

A long-established research theme in the realm of the intellectual history of the human sciences in Brazil, consists of identifying the different ways in which national scientific communities were shaped by French mentalities, since the Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences, and Letters of the University of São Paulo, the first Brazilian university, was founded by a French international mission, sent to Brazil, in 1934. However, the direction of influence can also be seen in plural perspectives as a subject of research, and by trying to reach a complex combination about how a different manner of thinking about the formation of capitalism in a peripheral country was also produced in Brazil. How did the Brazilian context and Brazil’s territory help to shape French geographical epistemology? Rooted in the influence of Vidal de la Blache, Fernand Braudel and Brazil’s territory (as a space of conception), my major hypothesis is that the young French geographer Pierre Monbeig, conceived an original geohistory of Brazil, in its principles, in parallel, and in harmony with the geohistory of the Mediterranean world.
Larissa Alves de Lira

Chapter 10. How International was the International Geographical Congress in Rio de Janeiro 1956? On Location and Language Politics

The chapter focuses on scientific communication by addressing the question: how international was the eighteenth International Geographical Congress (IGC) held in Rio de Janeiro in August 1956. The question is addressed, firstly, considering the location politics of the unique case of an international geographical congress of the International Geographical Union (IGU) held in South America, focusing on some practical, theoretical, and political impacts. Secondly, the focus is on language aspects, once the Rio IGC can be seen as a turning point in language diversity in IGU toward the consolidation of English as the main, and almost exclusive, language of international scientific communication. Considering the present challenge of critically discussing the crescent hegemony of English as the only possible language of scientific communication, the chapter concludes stressing how the study of some experiences of multilingualism in past can help us in proposing other possibilities of scientific communication in a more symmetric power position and condition.
Mariana Lamego

Chapter 11. (Re-) Writing the History of IGU? A Report from the Archives

The International Geographical Union (IGU), the international organization for geography, was founded in 1922. In its almost 100-year history, and even in the decades before, the involved geographers produced a great number of printed as well as non-printed materials. Besides the self-experienced and individual IGU history, the written (and visual) tradition offers a unique basis to analyze and reconstruct an important part of international geography in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. After several destinations and sometimes nebulous life phases, the IGU collection has a new home at the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography in Leipzig. The cataloguing and indexing has just begun. In general, we deal with two kinds of media within the IGU Archive: printed and handwritten textual documents on paper and in digital formats as well and audio-visual documents, a few photographs and, especially, video tapes and digital copies containing interviews. For every kind of these sources, a different kind of storing and analysing has to be developed. This chapter gives an insight into the IGU Archive, especially with a focus on the possibilities and limits of (re-)writing the history of international geography.
Bruno Schelhaas, Stephan M. Pietsch
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