Author Archives: Jeremy

Notes toward a critical history of cartography, part 2

The Map Room at the British Library

Over the last couple of months I have been visiting various archives to access some great material relevant to the “Critical History.” In June I visited the Library of Congress (LoC) for a short trip, where I met with John Hessler and checked through the John Snyder papers. Snyder was an authority on map projections and his correspondence with Arthur Robinson on this topic is fascinating.

I was especially interested in the exchanges about the Peters projection, which will form one entry in the Critical History. Robinson was famously opposed to the work of Peters and said so (often) in print, more or less politely. (In letters he was a bit more forthright, calling it a “ridiculous display,” “dismissed him as a crackpot” etc).

Snyder was also skeptical of it, although in my opinion he had a more open mind about its purpose. Both men were keen to dispel false cartographic statements by Peters and his US collaborators. Snyder actually wrote to Peters in 1994, although I saw no evidence of a reply (they mention that Peters had polio; he died in 2002).

They also corresponded about people most notably Denis Wood, and his prison sentence. I was quite surprised to find a little bit of correspondence about me and my Peters paper, which had come out in 1994. Nothing like your deceased research subjects turning around and speaking back to you!

The other minor piece was some discussion about the President’s Globe that Robinson had done while in the OSS. This was a custom 52″ globe made for President Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill during the war. Robinson gave a talk on it at the AGSL in 1996 (fortunately videotaped and available from AGSL) and I found the typescript of his talk in the archives.

This summer I’ve spent July and August in the UK, and here I’ve taken the opportunity to go through the Brian Harley materials, which are on deposit at the British Library. The situation of these papers is rather unique. After Harley died in December 1991, his family decided that his papers should be sent to the BL (rather than say keeping them at Milwaukee or sending them to LoC). Unfortunately they’ve never been accessioned, never mind catalogued (many of the boxes, which have Milwaukee return labels on and are therefore the originals, have not even been opened). Paul Laxton, a historical geographer at Liverpool, did start on a cataloging process in 2008 but only got through 21 boxes, with a further 50 or so remaining.

One of the Harley boxes

My interests were twofold: to clarify Harley’s Map as Ideology book (and other book projects) and to examine materials from the late 1980s until his death (and after). The Map as Ideology was a book project or monograph that was conceived in 1984-5 and was under contract at various publishers such as Routledge and Kegan Paul (as was). Harley actually drafted at least four of the-then planned five chapters, mostly from a historical point of view. One draft was called “Early Maps as Ideology” for example, from which he generalized larger conceptual points, and this (or a variant) appeared as his well-known chapter “Maps, Knowledge and Power” (1988).

A second book project was a planned collection of his own writings, which you could say eventually appeared as The New Natures of Maps (2001, edited by Laxton as his literary executor).

A third book project was called GIS and Geography and was a co-edited volume with John Pickles, which would be offered to Guilford Press. This was still in early stages of development in summer 1991, and could be considered at least part of the inspiration for the collection edited by John Ground Truth (1995). There’s a book proposal in the papers with the chapter authors and abstracts. Not surprisingly, the proposal draft (sent by John to Harley) reiterates points that both had made elsewhere, such as understanding maps as power-knowledge (“Michel Foucault would, if he were still alive, recognize this discourse of knowledge and power…”). Contributors included Michael Curry, Wolfgang Natter, Joni Seager, Derek Gregory, Michael Goodchild, and Peter Taylor as well as individual chapters by the editors (Harley: “In his chapter Brian Harley will focus on the ethics of cartographic representations, and particularly electronically produced images”; Pickles: “In his essay, Pickles will focus on the ways in which it can be said that the basic goals of GIS (and the forms of geography and social science which share its underlying episteme) foster the technics and ideology of normalization”).

It’s helpful to get a handle on these various projects, and perhaps a little surprising that I am the first person to go through this material. Matthew Edney who wrote a definitive monograph on Harley tells me he did not consult these materials (the monograph is nevertheless excellent, and the best piece there is on Harley). There’s lots of interest to anybody even vaguely concerned with maps and mapping. Fortunately it includes his CV updated through December 1991.

There’s lots more to go through.

One footnote: the material includes a letter from Robinson providing his reader’s report on the History of Cartography Volume 1 in 1984 (it was published in 1987). Robinson is unstinting in his praise (“truly a monumental work” etc) which is interesting since Harley and Woodward’s definition of cartography and their very approach challenged the histories up to that time, and might have met with resistance from figures such as Robinson. We would need more of this for a definitive statement, which makes it the more regrettable that there isn’t a Robinson archive (or Woodward papers, i.e., separate from the History of Cartography project).

Bradley Garrett on privately owned public spaces (Pops)

Provocative piece by Bradley Garrett on privately owned public spaces, otherwise known as “Pops.” His intro reads in part:

Part of the problem, then, with privately owned public spaces (“Pops”) – open-air squares, gardens and parks that look public but are not – is that the rights of the citizens using them are severely hemmed in. Although this issue might be academic while we’re eating our lunch on a private park bench, the consequences of multiplying and expanding Pops affects everything from our personal psyche to our ability to protest.

His point is well exemplified in the (unusually thoughtful) comments by readers, one of whom asks:

Residential squares (open to the residents of the houses surrounding the square, but not to the general public) were a feature of London architecture up to the beginning of the 20th Century and still remain closed to the public in most cases. Why is the author of this article not attacking this practice, instead of the new privately-owned public spaces? As an American, is he even aware of their existence?

The reply from another reader makes the point very well:

Because the whole point of the article is that POPS are confusing: they look “public” but are in fact private. And you don’t know what you’re allowed or not allowed to do there. Probably nobody does, and security just make shit up on the spur of the moment.

In contrast, private residential squares are private, and look private, with fences and locked gates. You see one and know immediately that it’s a private space.

The author doesn’t need to attack private residential squares because there are relatively few of them. If every “public-looking” space became visibly enclosed, like a private square garden, everyone would be up in arms at the privatisation.

The author’s point is that this is in fact happening, but without the clear indicator of a fence. Instead of a fence, you get a security heavy who throws you out on a whim if you do anything “interesting”.

Personally I’m intrigued by this note about doing something “interesting,” or so to say attracting notice because of violating some codes (algorithms?) of behaviour. To me this has strong echoes of the calculative governance of space.

My question is, then: to what extent does this apply vertically? Given that Amazon wishes to deregulate (and presumably privatize) airspace below 200′ (currently regulated by the FAA) for drone flights at low speed, and a further zone 200-400′ high for faster drones, is this a similar “enclosure” or taking of public space?

Additionally, how high above your private property do your property rights reach? Read down this piece for some comments by lawyers.

Are we creating new divisions (hierarchies) of space?

“Police power is emergency power, always” – profiling, state power, and drones


Nick Crane on the Bloomington drone conference I recently attended. Some very useful comments.

Originally posted on For Another Critique of the Pyramid:

The title for this post comes from Tyler Wall’s talk at the aforementioned “Reconfiguring Global Space” conference in Bloomington, Indiana. Priya Satia, Tyler Wall, Geoff Boyce, and Mark Neocleous presented in the first session on the first day of the conference. Their papers introduced a theme or line of questions that ran through our discussions in the subsequent days. In what sense are drones distinctive? Are drones better understood as instantiations of a longer running police logic? Wall’s argument – “drone strikes are a genus of police violence” – was most clearly inspired by Neocleous’ publications (e.g., The Fabrication of Social Order). Presenters later in the week would find inspiration elsewhere. For example, Andrea Miller would read Louise Amore’s work on the ontology of association undergirding preemptive governance of the incalculable to put her finger on the “drone logic” of domestic policing.

Across the presentations, I…

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Michael Jacobs on Las Meninas


The writer Michael Jacobs (who died in January 2014) has a piece in today’s Observer about Las Meninas, the famous 1656 painting by Diego Velázquez analyzed by Foucault in The Order of Things. Several very nice details from the painting are reproduced. Apparently this is an extract from his last book.

Update. This link was broken when I initially posted this earlier today, but here Ed Vulliamy talks about finishing the book by Jacobs after he died:

Michael recalls that it had been a book by French philosopher Michel Foucault, The Order of Things, written in 1966, that led him to look again at Las Meninas. Foucault wrote about the “corporeal gaze” of Velázquez himself, which creates “a condition of pure reciprocity” between painting and viewer. He added: “As soon as they place the spectator in the field of their gaze, the painter’s eyes seize hold of him, force him to enter the picture, assign him a place at once privileged and inescapable.” This idea of the “corporeal gaze” sent Michael back to Madrid to see the painting, whereupon he resolved to write the book.

Foucault’s Last Decade Update 25 – resubmission of revised manuscript


Stuart’s latest update on his important new Foucault book. Book is now finalized and resubmitted to the publishers. Full table of contents provided. On Facebook he noted that it is one word shy of the 100,000 word limit. A good length.

Originally posted on Progressive Geographies:

Update 25 - resubmission (compressed)Foucault’s Last Decade is now back with the press, in what I hope is its final form. It is scheduled for publication in spring 2016.

The first update on this book’s writing was made on July 22 2013 –almost exactly two years ago. I didn’t anticipate this book taking nearly so long, since initially I was drawing on a number of pieces I’d written, presented and sometimes published over the past several years – I’d been writing on nearly every one of Foucault’s courses as they were published. The publication of the last Paris lecture course was only earlier this year – it took eighteen years for all thirteen to be published. The earliest text I drew upon was written back in 1999. But this book has become much more than just a sequential arrangement of that material. A lot of archival work helped with the analysis, as well as…

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Shannon Mattern’s great new course on mapping

Shannon Mattern has just placed online the syllabus for her great-looking new course “Maps as Media.”

Here is the course’s opening statement:

Maps reveal, delineate, verify, orient, navigate, anticipate, historicize, conceal, persuade, and, on occasion, even lie. From the earliest maps in cave paintings and on clay tablets, to the predictive climate visualizations and crime maps and mobile cartographic apps of today and tomorrow, maps have offered far more than an objective representation of a stable reality. In this hybrid theory-practice studio we’ll examine the past, present, and future – across myriad geographic and cultural contexts – of our techniques and technologies for mapping space and time. In the process, we’ll address various critical frameworks for analyzing the rhetorics, poetics, politics, and epistemologies of spatial and temporal maps. Throughout the semester we’ll also experiment with a variety of critical mapping tools and methods, from techniques of critical cartography to sensory mapping to time-lining, using both analog and digital approaches.

I must say this looks really fabulous and I wish I could take some if it myself! Some great readings and fascinating images are available at her course website here.

New Sheehan on Heidegger

The headline makes this sound rather like an Onion piece:

Stanford scholar upends interpretation of philosopher Martin Heidegger
After a lifetime of studying the German philosopher’s groundbreaking works, Stanford Religious Studies Professor Thomas Sheehan concludes that Heideggerians’ obsession with Being misses the point.

But the story itself is about Thomas Sheehan’s new book and seems serious enough.

Sheehan argues that the “being paradigm” is a relic of a time when scholars and students had only limited access to Heidegger’s corpus. This emphasis on Being was established “when very few of Heidegger’s works were published – only about a dozen in German, some translated into English and some not. Now there are two library shelves’ worth of his published work, some 90 volumes.”

This is all written in press release style, and readers may prefer to draw their own conclusions about the place of Sheehan’s book.