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"A Local Map for Local People" Topic

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686 hits since 28 May 2015
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Tango0128 May 2015 10:20 p.m. PST

""Local land for local people," reads a graffiti in Derek Jarman's music video for The Smiths' 1986 single "Panic." That's the first thing I thought of when I saw this map. Produced a century earlier in a totally different corner of the world, is a distant echo of that same us-against-the-world sentiment. But the world won't listen.

In the 1880s, the Great Game was entering its final phase Britain and Russia were zooming in on the last wild bits of Central Asia that separated their respective empires. Those empires were built not only on blood, sweat, and tears, but also on ink cartographers' ink, to be precise. Mapping was the study-chamber precursor to bloody conquest and actual possession.

At the end of the 19th century, imperial cartographers in Moscow and Calcutta were producing enough maps of Afghanistan to make the local rulers nervous. This particular map, however, is made by the locals, for the locals. Using cartography, the very tool of foreign imperial dominance, as an assertion of their independence, this is an ingenious pushback against Empire Creep.

As the Persian inscriptions on the map indicate, it was commissioned by Abdur Rahman Khan (b. 1830), who ruled Afghanistan from 1880 to 1901 as the "Iron Emir." Abdur Rahman's relationship with the British was a tense balancing act. Upon his accession, the British evacuated Afghanistan on the condition that he continue to align his foreign policy with theirs…"
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