The cartography of “cartography”

NYT today on the Nobel prize for literature:

Announcing the award in Stockholm, the Swedish Academy praised Mr. Vargas Llosa “for his cartography of the structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt and defeat.”

Another example of the popular use of the metaphors cartography or mapping. Why are these words so powerful? Because a map gives a sense of control and delineation of the contours or shape and form of something.

It is, interestingly, a view of maps that is fairly mainstream, not to say unexamined. Every time the word or phrase is used it serves to seal this view. It’s a view where the map tells you what’s there, as well as tells you what you don’t know, but perhaps what could be worked out.

The very use of this metaphor always already structures how you’re going to think about something.


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