Cutting the Cord: A Corrective for World Navels in Cartography and Science

Cartographic Journal 57 (2):147-159 (2019)
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A map is not its territory. Taking a map too seriously may lead to pernicious reification: map and world are conflated. As one family of cases of such reification, I focus on maps exuding the omphalos syndrome, whereby a centred location on the map is taken to be the world navel of, for instance, an empire. I build on themes from my book _When Maps Become the World_, in which I analogize scientific theories to maps, and develop the tools of assumption archaeology and integration platforms. Here I argue that excavating assumptions helps fill cartographic silences, showing the limitations of perspectives often at war. Furthermore, integrating perspectives permits resisting imperial central or master images. A worthwhile future project would be a repository of world-navel maps, critically annotated with cultural context and imperial information. Mutual understanding may result from such an integration platform, perhaps implemented online or in a museum.
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