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City at McGill University Ayesha Hameed email@example.com (please do not cite without permission) In “Putting the Americas on the map”, Walter Mignolo traces the development of world maps from the fifteenth century to the present and argues that each incarnation of the world in maps corresponds to a specific conception of the world. World maps are literally reflections of specific historical European weltanschauungs. In particular, Mignolo focuses on the changing depictions of the Americas. He points out that the depiction of the Americas on medieval and early modern European maps is congruent with Edmondo O’Gorman’s contention that the Americas were invented and not discovered by Europeans. In other words, what constituted the Americas in this period is more of a reflection of the investments the European mindset had in the “New World” in the construction of their world view than a process of discovery. As Mignolo states: The growing European awareness of a previously unknown part of earth became a decisive factor in the process of integrating the unknown to the known, which also transformed the configuration of the known … The idea of Europe began to be constructed as part of the process of inventing a New World. Thus rather than an hypothetical observer placing himself in a well defined Europe and discovering an unknown America, we had a long process in which the invention of America became the other side of redefining Europe… (Mignolo 36) What I want to explore is how maps participate in this process of invention and how they use their cast of characters: specifically land masses, city views and indigenous peoples populating the borders on the maps in order to better create an image of the European self. My paper explores how early modern metropolitan centres in Europe defined themselves through cartographic displacements of space. The central axis of my paper is Claes Janszoon Visscher’s
world map (1639) that Mignolo discusses. The borders of this map depicts elaborate illustrations of urbane men and women from different parts of the world. IMAGE Although these cosmopolitan couples are supposed to represent different
appearances and costumes around the world, Walter Mignolo points out that the iconography of dress is arranged in terms of different distances from the European clusters dressed at the height of fashion. African clusters of people are mostly naked or less dressed and consequently presented as less civilized, while their Asian counterparts are somewhere in between. Also, on each of the 4 corners of this map is an allegorical character representing Europe, Asia, Africa and America. The Asian and European figures are dressed while the Asian and African figures are not. However, all of the non European characters are sitting on animals while Europe is sitting on the ground. On the top and bottom, the 12 Roman emperors are astride horses, while on the sides regionally dressed non Europeans are merely standing. Interspersed with the groups of people on the sides of the map are cityscapes of European metropolitan centres. Thus although the sides of the maps suggest a social hierarchy, that places the figures at the side below the emperors on the top and bottom, the allegorical continents attribute a sort of animality to the non Europeans. This complicates Benjamin Schmidt’s contention that Dutch visual culture tried to depict the inhabitants of the new world in comparison rather than in distinction to their selves, but the creation of this comparison creates a continuum of separation that only serves to distance. I am interested in the juxtaposition of this already complex metropolitan imagery with that of the maps that they flank and argue that there is a rich iconography that lies in the world map at the centre and the illustrations of city dwellers on the periphery. Central to these maps, I argue, is their attempt to come to grips -- economically, aesthetically, semiotically -- with a new
metropolitan identity that was rapidly changing through the conquest of the new world and the spanning of the globe by merchant ships at the dawn of capitalist enterprise. These maps are symptomatic of a basic change in image production and the very process of visualizing space. More specifically, I would argue that the relationship between centre and periphery on these maps indicate the erosion of the boundaries between inside and outside spaces; between the local and the distant or even, metropolitan centres and the space of the new world. The borders on the map do not simply frame the centre, they connote and evoke as much as the maps themselves and the localities on the borders ie individual bodies and individual cities are inextricable from the global space within the map. Furthermore I would add that cartography and visual culture are not simply visual manifestations of social processes but that following many writers like Jonathan Crary, that the socio-historical moment of early modernity is inherently visual. In order to elaborate this point I would like to discuss the relationship between European modernity and conceptions of space by tracing what I would like to call the prehistory of two landmarks in the narrative of modernity: the Haussmanization of Paris and the advent of print capitalism in the late 18th to mid 19th century. In The Painting of Modern Life, TJ Clarke describes the transformation of Paris that is associated with Baron Haussman in the middle of the nineteenth century. This includes the widening and straightening of the boulevards, building similarly monumental public buildings, the public squares that followed the quelling of the protests of the Paris Commune, the dismantling of any possibility of erecting further barricades. Clarke’s discussion of this transformation of Paris is rich and polyvalent: what I want to highlight in his account is how he discusses the shifts in the perception and visualization of Paris in relation to the modular urbanity that was named after Haussman.
Clark discussed how the Haussmanization of Paris was essentially a process of clearing out the working classes into the suburbs: a cleaning up of the city. However, he points out that the best accounts of the transformation of the city that Haussman brought about were written about 30 years before: sketched out vividly by Hugo and Balzac. It was, says Clarke not so much as an anticipation of the changes to come but that these writers sensed a change in the fabric of their existence was taking shape and so they sought to crystallize these changes in the telltale signs on the street: We might say of these writers that they seem to want the city to have shape – a logic and a uniformity – and therefore construct one from the signs they have, however sparse and unsystematic. They see or sense a process and want it finished, for then the terms in which one might oppose it will at least be clear. The ultimate horror would be to have modernity (or at any rate not to have what preceded it), to know it was hateful, but not to know what it was (Clark 33). In other words, the modernization of city planning under Haussman is not simply explained by the interventions the Baron made into the city. The way people were experiencing the city was already changing and when there was a paucity of visible evidence of this change, Hugo and Balzac created images of their own. The transformation of Paris thus did not just consist of the changes that the Baron Haussman made. Haussman’s Paris simply made these changes visible, changes that were already given images by writers like Hugo and Balzac. It is the potency of these forces as yet unrealized as yet unmanifest, that I will call the prehistory of the modular modern city created by Haussman. If the demolition and rebuilding of the city under Haussman acted as a culmination of one set of images that Parisians fabricated, it also created new images of the city that supplanted the old. Clark states that the relocation of labour to the suburbs and the change in the experience of living in the city made its inhabitants unable to visualize the city. The tearing down of local neighbourhoods destroyed a localized experience of the space and everyday experience and, in
turn, destroyed the images of the city that the day to day produced. The new city was a homogenous array of squares and straight boulevards and consequently the image of the city was restricted to these modular features. Clark calls this new image the specularization of the city, or in other words, the erasure of the experiential image of the city by capital. Instead of the old, local images, a new image of the city - modular like the city – was produced, mass produced, and imposed from above unlike the old images created at street level: “One might even say that the capital preferred the city not to be an image – not to have form, not to be accessible to the imagination, to readings and misreadings, to a conflict of claims on its space—in order that it might mass-produce an image of its own to put in place of those it destroyed” (Clark 36). The mass production of the new image of the city signalled this destruction of the localized quotidian image and the corresponding destruction of a localized experience of the city. The image of the city shifts from local experiences to more generic public views that anticipate a more postcard vision of the city. Haussman’s postcard city is both a prefiguring and a culmination of Visscher’s map. Like Haussman’s city this map is a crystallization of the impact of the world historical force of modernity on metropolitan European identity. The depiction of North America on the map is almost impressionistic compared with the meticulous depiction of the cities on the borders. Perhaps the cities on the border are more realistic as they are abstract spectacles of the city, while the depiction of North America is still struggling to represent this space with all the messiness involved in depicting a locality. In other words I would argue that the different interpretations of space on the borders and the map itself are symptomatic of the infusion of the distancing process of capital into the local configuration of the metropole. In the ambivalence of their iconography lies the forces of capital and modernity that have not yet
resolved into a modular image. This point will become clearer as we shift from the city to the nation and from the specular image to print capitalism. The term print capitalism is from Benedict Anderson’s much discussed Imagined Communities. According to Anderson, the rise of nationalism is inextricable from the development of the printing press. The circulation and consumption of mass printed newspapers (the apogee of the printing press) constitutes what he calls print capitalism. The circulation of information that print capitalism enables among its consumers creates a unique phenomenon where people who may never see each other face to face, are united by their simultaneous consumption of the products of mass printing. The simultaneity, he argues, makes the axis of space less significant than this common, temporal experience which is in effect the creation of what he calls an imagined community. In other words, like Clark’s definition of the spectacle, the local experience of the individual is now inextricably linked to something outside of his experience: in this case it is his membership in a community that is defined by its distance. There are three aspects of Anderson’s argument/text that I think are relevant to understanding these maps: first of all, is how he discusses maps as a tool that empire uses in conjunction with the census which calls into question the relationship between print culture and the visual. Second, I will look at how he configures the relationship between identity, space and the technology of print capitalism. Finally I want to look at how both of these aspects contribute to his use of the term imagination and how that might apply to the maps we are looking at here. Benedict Anderson describes how imperial maps were colour coded: British colonies were red, the French were blue and the Dutch were yellow. The effect of colour coding the world in this way made what he calls the ‘map as logo’ (175). This practice of representing space served to make these territories highly abstract:
Dyed this way, each colony appeared like a detachable piece of a jigsaw puzzle. As this ‘jigsaw’ effect became normal, each ‘piece’ could be wholly detached from its geographic context. In its final form all explanatory glosses could be summarily removed: lines of longitude and latitude, place names, signs for rivers, seas, and mountains, neighbours. Pure sign, no longer compass to the world (Anderson 175). Imperial maps mark the successful abstraction of space where locality and proximity are completely subordinated to lines of colonial property. Or, in the language of capital: the use value of these real lands and their local meanings has been liquefied into pure exchange value. They are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle because they have become symbols of empire. And they are printed and circulated to a mass audience who consume this information in the same way that they consume newspapers. The successful abstraction of the map into the worldview of empire is premised on both histories of visual literacy and print literacy since maps read as text and as images. According to Anderson, the key to the success of what he calls print capitalism lies in the increased literacy of the public. However, he adds that before the European masses were able to read, they were what he calls visually literate. To the medieval European, the world was readable through visual signs that formed a language of their own (Anderson p.15 footnote 10). I would like to argue that the successful abstraction of the world into the map as logo is premised on the continued prevalence of the visual in the modern world. Print literacy in Europe incorporates the visual into mass printed products rather than simply replacing one form of literacy with another. Furthermore the smooth success of the map as logo lies in the successful integration of both elements in its presentation of territorial representation and capital. The prehistory of this integration is premised on earlier maps like Visscher’s who uses the postcard logo and whose ambivalent iconography reflects the seams or boundaries between textual and visual literacy.
Anderson states that the very layout of the newspaper: its combination of articles and choice of content that it juxtaposes, creates a specific world view (33). In other words, the literacy that is required by the newspaper is inherently visual and compositional. This arrangement of information finds a root in Dutch painting and cartography. According to Svetlana Alpers, northern European painting and maps are characterized by their use of the distance point rather than a vanishing point. What this means is that rather than having the entire image composed to enable one perspective, Dutch visual culture in the 17th century created images that combined lots of information that could be looked at from several perspectives. In other words, the distance point in Dutch painting required a vision that allowed the viewer to look with equal interest at a corner or at the bottom of the image, while the vanishing perspective almost frames the image so it is as though the viewer is looking in from outside and focuses on a single point (93). Alpers points out that the use of the distance point is prevalent in both Dutch painting and cartography, and that the commonality between painting and maps goes even further. Both share what she calls a meticulous attention to description and to surveying. Both conceived of the canvas as a surface to record information rather than as a stage for action like their southern European counterparts (70). The difference between the visualities of printing and painting become all the more blurred she adds, given that mapmakers like Visscher also worked as printers, engravers, geographical illustrators, printmakers and writers. Consequently both the borders or the more artistic aspects of the maps and the maps themselves are subject to what she calls a commonly shared surveying vision, that is a meticulous documentation of their subject matter. Here Alpers is close to Anderson who argues that maps and censuses are tools of
surveillance that sanctify the annexation of land and property in colonial space, and maintain control over the population. This brings me to my second point. The surveying impulse that Alpers describes in Dutch cartography forms a central trope in the formation of Dutch identity during the Golden age. In other words the representation of landscape is replete with symbols that are crucial to the formation of Dutch identity. However, just as the formation of the map as a logo is a specific interpretation of space that erases its locality, the surveying impulse wipes the land clear of traces of the bodies that inhabit it and the technologies that make the land. According to Ann Jensen Adams, Dutch landscape painting during the golden age is a very selective documentation of the land. These paintings meticulously record certain details: specific monuments, local landscapes particular to specific regions, transportation barges. They also often include combinations of different real spaces. For example, a castle on a hill might be painted on a plain or an old arch will be integrated with an old church from another part of the country. Adams points out that these depictions perform a very particular conjuring trick: they erase very specific aspects of the Dutch landscape. Most importantly, although much of the land that is depicted in these paintings is recently drained, there is rarely a sign of any windmills and the buildings seem old. A very specific history is being created in the land, one that can appeal to an urban population that is invested in the new technological changes to the land but a population that is also strongly invested in considering their land to be old. Thus the changes are documented but by a sleight of hand that mixes various regional and local landscapes, an ‘every land’ is created that is clean of any traces of the technology or the labour that produced it or even the inhabitants who own and use it – much like the clearing away of the working classes to the suburbs of Paris in Clark’s account. [diss- landowning syst in neth and rel to surveillance]
This abstraction of bodies from the land turns the landscape into a logo. But in
this painting by Marcus Gheeraerts the younger called “Queen Elizabeth I” from 1592 pushes this relation even further. This painting shows Elizabeth standing on a map of the world. Here the bodies and localities are so abstracted from the map that Elizabeth as nation, a body that is pure logo, literally stands on it. The map here conjoins with the body of Elizabeth since all of the particular bodies within the territories under her feet have become a part of the symbol of the power of the English nation. This is an almost cartographic gesture, for what is Elizabeth’s body, if not an analogue to the bodies that populate the borders of Visscher’s map? Of course, Elizabeth’s body represents something very different from the bodies of those colonized on the map. This erasure of bodies takes on global dimensions in how bodies of labour and slave labour are not accounted for in accounts of modernity. For example, in “Hegel and Haiti” Susan Buck Morss points out that Simon Schama’s account of the Dutch Golden age makes no mention of the dependence of the prosperous Dutch economy to slavery (823-5). Buck Morss acknowledges that Schama focuses on the impact of the wealth of the Dutch on the interior lives of its citizens, of still lifes and domestic life rather than world trade. However, she points out that even in the interior, the objects of luxury and the labour within the home are inextricable from slave labour and slave presence. In other words, the very innermost interior of Dutch life was governed by world historical events. This forms the beginning of a rebuttal to Anderson’s formulation of the uniqueness of the phenomenon of print capitalism. To extend Buck Morss’ point, and as a counterpoint to Anderson’s positing of the unique simultaneous experience of reading the newspaper, I’d like to add the following caveat: capitalism, not print capitalism had already made local lives
inextricable from distant lives. Not through reading the paper, but through their labour. As Sidney Mintz points out, this is a reality in a situation where the worker no longer produces all that he consumes, but rather, in his most intimate ritual of drinking tea and stirring in sugar, he is making his life inextricable from the slave and colonial labour that cultivates those crops across oceans. How does Benedict Anderson account for the effects of capitalism apart from print capitalism? The answer is that he does not and so these prehistories of print capitalism are lost. And so his account that does not erase bodies in his account of the global space spanned by print technology, chooses the wrong bodies to inhabit the key axes of this historical moment. Anderson talks about the liminal space inhabited by administrators in the newly colonized new world and discussed their unique movement across the ocean, the community they create that forms the earliest forms of nationalism. However, he ignores the most axiomatic bodies of all that form the infrastructure of modernity: the labouring bodies that plied and were subjected to the triangular trade: the workers and slaves of capitalist slavery. This is not to say that capitalist production precludes print capitalism, but rather that their processes are inextricable from one another. And that perhaps in the formation of national, metropolitan identity there are always silences and omissions: around space and round bodies. Anderson says as much in his argument. The imagined community of the nation is not so much fabricated as it is creatively invented, he states. And this process involves both constant commemoration and, following Renan, constant forgetting and constant omissions. And it seems that just as early modern metropolitan cartography is marked by the ‘forgetting’ of labour and of localities, so too Anderson forgets and omits capitalism as the prehistory of print capitalism.
Freud would call these acts of forgetting the “dissolving of thought connections” (149 rememb), and would not see that which is forgotten as lost. In fact the prehistory of forgetting is perhaps the creation of the unconscious. What then is the unconscious of the imagined community? And how does this relate to images upon a map? I have tried to show how the cartographic impulse is marked by effacements: the effacement of the experience of localities that returns in Haussman’s Paris, the effacement of bodies and space in the triumphant narrative of modernity and its lexicon of images. But what Freud calls the psychical mechanism of forgetfulness, is marked by eruptions of the unconscious or what is suppressed. And if, as he says, the page is like a prosthetic or an extension of memory, then the surface of the images and of maps bear telltale signs of these suppressed memories in the iconic ambivalence that plays between border and map. For in the continuum of figures and the spectrum of sameness that they document, the maps they flank trace differences of space. But in the same moment, the maps are a smoothing of the space and a prehistory of the logo, and the bodies around the borders are so far away from the bodies within the map that all they can point to is difference.
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