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The Myth of Continents: A Critique of Metageography - Martin W. Lewis and Karen E. Wigen

The Myth of Continents: A Critique of Metageography - Martin W. Lewis and Karen E. Wigen

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Published by Nippurean
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http://books.google.com/books?id=C2as0sWxFBAC&source=gbs_navlinks_s

In this thoughtful and engaging critique, geographer Martin W. Lewis and historian Kären Wigen reexamine the basic geographical divisions we take for granted, and challenge the unconscious spatial frameworks that govern the way we perceive the world. Arguing that notions of East vs. West, First World vs. Third World, and even the sevenfold continental system are simplistic and misconceived, the authors trace the history of such misconceptions. Their up-to-the-minute study reflects both on the global scale and its relation to the specific continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa—actually part of one contiguous landmass.

The Myth of Continents sheds new light on how our metageographical assumptions grew out of cultural concepts: how the first continental divisions developed from classical times; how the Urals became the division between the so-called continents of Europe and Asia; how countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan recently shifted macroregions in the general consciousness.

This extremely readable and thought-provoking analysis also explores the ways that new economic regions, the end of the cold war, and the proliferation of communication technologies change our understanding of the world. It stimulates thinking about the role of large-scale spatial constructs as driving forces behind particular worldviews and encourages everyone to take a more thoughtful, geographically informed approach to the task of describing and interpreting the human diversity of the planet.

http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520207431
Preview;

http://books.google.com/books?id=C2as0sWxFBAC&source=gbs_navlinks_s

In this thoughtful and engaging critique, geographer Martin W. Lewis and historian Kären Wigen reexamine the basic geographical divisions we take for granted, and challenge the unconscious spatial frameworks that govern the way we perceive the world. Arguing that notions of East vs. West, First World vs. Third World, and even the sevenfold continental system are simplistic and misconceived, the authors trace the history of such misconceptions. Their up-to-the-minute study reflects both on the global scale and its relation to the specific continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa—actually part of one contiguous landmass.

The Myth of Continents sheds new light on how our metageographical assumptions grew out of cultural concepts: how the first continental divisions developed from classical times; how the Urals became the division between the so-called continents of Europe and Asia; how countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan recently shifted macroregions in the general consciousness.

This extremely readable and thought-provoking analysis also explores the ways that new economic regions, the end of the cold war, and the proliferation of communication technologies change our understanding of the world. It stimulates thinking about the role of large-scale spatial constructs as driving forces behind particular worldviews and encourages everyone to take a more thoughtful, geographically informed approach to the task of describing and interpreting the human diversity of the planet.

http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520207431

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Published by: Nippurean on Feb 27, 2011
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06/06/2013

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The Myth of Continents
A Critique of Metageography
By
Martin W. Lewis and Karen E. Wigen
In this thoughtful and engaging critique, geographer Martin W. Lewis and historian Kären Wigenreexamine the basic geographical divisions we take for granted, and challenge the unconsciousspatial frameworks that govern the way we perceive the world. Arguing that notions of East vs.West, First World vs. Third World, and even the sevenfold continental system are simplistic andmisconceived, the authors trace the history of such misconceptions. Their up-to-the-minutestudy reflects both on the global scale and its relation to the specific continents of Europe, Asia,and Africaactually part of one contiguous landmass.
 
The Myth of Continents
sheds new light on how our metageographical assumptions grew out of cultural concepts: how the first continental divisions developed from classical times; how theUrals became the division between the so-called continents of Europe and Asia; how countrieslike Pakistan and Afghanistan recently shifted macroregions in the general consciousness.This extremely readable and thought-provoking analysis also explores the ways that neweconomic regions, the end of the cold war, and the proliferation of communication technologieschange our understanding of the world. It stimulates thinking about the role of large-scale spatialconstructs as driving forces behind particular worldviews and encourages everyone to take amore thoughtful, geographically informed approach to the task of describing and interpreting thehuman diversity of the planet.University  of   California    Press 
CHAPTER ONE
The Architecture of ContinentsThe Development of the Continental Scheme
In contemporary usage, continents are understood to be large, continuous, discrete masses of land, ideally separated by expanses of water. Although of ancient origin, this convention is bothhistorically unstable and surprisingly unexamined; the required size and the requisite degree of physical separation have never been defined. As we shall see, the sevenfold continental systemof American elementary school geography did not emerge in final form until the middle decadesof the present century.
CLASSICAL PRECEDENTS
According to Arnold Toynbee, the original continental distinction was devised by ancient Greekmariners, who gave the names Europe and Asia to the lands on either side of the complexinterior waterway running from the Aegean Sea through the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara,the Bosporus, the Black Sea, and the Kerch Strait before reaching the Sea of Azov. This water passage became the core of a continental system when the earliest Greek philosophers, theIonians of Miletus, designated it as the boundary between the two great landmasses of their world. Somewhat later, Libya (or Africa) was added to form a three-continent scheme. Notsurprisingly, the Aegean Sea lay at the heart of the Greek conception of the globe; Asiaessentially denoted those lands to its east, Europe those lands to its west and north, and Libyathose lands to the south.
 
A seeming anomaly of this scheme was the intermediate position of the Greeks themselves,whose civilization spanned both the western and the eastern shores of the Aegean. Toynbeeargued that the inhabitants of central Greece used the Asia-Europe boundary to disparage their Ionian kin, whose succumbing to "Asian" (Persian) dominion contrasted flatteringly with their own "European" freedom.Yet not all Greek thinkers identified themselves as Europeans. Some evidently employed theterm Europe as a synonym for the northern (non-Greek) realm of Thracia. In another formulation, Europe was held to include the mainland of Greece, but not the islands or thePeloponnesus. Still others--notably Aristotle--excluded the Hellenic "race" from the continentalschema altogether, arguing that the Greek character, like the Greek lands themselves, occupieda "middle position" between that of Europe and Asia.In any case, these disputes were somewhat technical, since the Greeks tended to viewcontinents as physical entities, with minimal cultural or political content. When they did makegeneralizations about the inhabitants of different continents, they usually limited their discussionto the contrast between Asians and Europeans; Libya was evidently considered too small andarid to merit more than passing consideration.Twofold or threefold, the continental system of the Greeks clearly had some utility for thosewhose geographical horizons did not extend much beyond the Aegean, eastern Mediterranean,and Black Seas. But its arbitrary nature was fully apparent by the fifth century B.C.E. Herodotus,in particular, consistently questioned the conventional three-part system, even while employingit. Criticizing the overly theoretical orientation of Greek geographers, who attempted toapprehend the world through elegant geometrical models, he argued instead for an "empiricalcartography founded on exploration and travel."One problematic feature of the geography that Herodotus criticized was its division of Asia andAfrica along the Nile, a boundary that sundered the obvious unity of Egypt. After all, as henoted, Asia and Africa were actually contiguous, both with each other and with Europe: "Another thing that puzzles me is why three distinct women's names should have been given to what isreally a single landmass; and why, too, the Nile and the Phasis--or, according to some, theMaeotic Tanais and the Cimmerian Strait--should have been fixed upon for the boundaries. Nor have I been able to learn who it was that first marked the boundaries, or where they got their names from."Similar comments, suggesting a continued awareness that these were constructed categories,echoed throughout the classical period. Strabo, writing in the first century B.C.E., noted thatthere was "much argument respecting the continents," with some writers viewing them asislands, others as mere peninsulas. Furthermore, he argued, "in giving names to the threecontinents, the Greeks did not take into consideration the whole habitable earth, but merely their own country, and the land exactly opposite...."

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