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TU Berlin

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Ideological Projections: A Historical Perspective of the Centering of World Maps

Masayuki Sato (Yamanashi University, Japan)

World maps can not be free from the political, historical and cultural ideology that form the world view both of those who produce them and those who use them, at the level of the collective subconscious.

Every world map is the product of a particular set of cartographic conventions and styles, and the choice of what to place at the center of the map is a matter of choice within those conventions. Every map must have its own center, and different world maps exhibit a wide variety of solutions: World maps centered on Europe, East Asia, Australia, India, Jerusalem, and elsewhere.

Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the peoples of East Asia had developed three different types of centering for their world maps: China-centered, India-centered and Europe-centered maps. They were in themselves visual projections of their ideological world views: the Sino-centric world order, a Buddhistic conception of the world, and a Europe-centered world view.

The three types of world maps coexisted until the middle of the nineteenth century, but the India-centered world map suddenly disappeared because of its incompatibility with the latest geographical knowledge brought from Europe. Western world maps, instead, started to become dominant in East Asia. But when it came to school atlases, which play an important role in forming people's image of the world, China introduced the Europe-centered world map, but Japan still uses the East Asia-centered (Japan-centered) world maps exclusively.

The presentation will be illustrated with OHP slides showing the self- and other centered world maps used in East Asia.

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