Cartographic Violence

Check out an intriguing essay on a primary act of imperial (and therefore civilized) violence, that of closing the map, and the quest of the colonized to reclaim their native geography and cultural imagination. An excerpt:

If there is anything that radically distinguishes the imagination of anti-imperialism, it is the geographical element. Imperialism after all is an act of geographical violence through which virtually every space in the world is explored, charted, and finally brought under control. For the native, the history of colonial servitude is inaugurated by the loss of locality to the outsider; its geographical identity must thereafter be searched for and somehow restored. Because of the presence of the colonizing outsider, the land is recoverable at first only through imagination.

— Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (1993)

The foregoing is drawn from Said’s consideration of 20th-century Irish literature, particularly the poetry of W.B. Yeats, as exemplary of global postcolonial resistance culture. Though most often subsumed into a “de-politicized” modernist canon, Yeats emerges for Said a study in the conflicting tensions which characterize the struggle for decolonization. Yeats recognizes British imperial domination of Ireland and seeks to counter assimilation by exploring and reifying an indigenous Irish cultural heritage…

…Successive Irish artists are indebted to Yeats as they inventively subvert imperialism and reclaim the geographical, political, and imaginative regions held by the colonizer…

Another plus to the essay – it substantially references a favorite movie of mine, Into the West, concerning two young Irish Travellers escaping the clutches of modern society on the back of a possibly magic horse.

Written by Willem