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Mapping the multiple Mediterraneans

Sarah Green (University of Helsinki)
Philippe Rekacewicz (Visioncarto.net)
Borders and Places
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Short abstract:

Most now agree that the Mediterranean does not exist as a singular, ontologically verifiable, place. Yet it does exist in multiple senses, both past and present, and the name is evoked for many purposes. How should such multiply co-existing places be mapped, and what are the effects of doing that?

Long abstract:

The Mediterranean has been debated in anthropology for decades: the idea that 'Mediterranean' stood for a cultural coherence that distinguished it from other parts of the world was strongly contested. Meanwhile, political geographers critiqued the concept 'Mediterranean' as being a spatially, environmentally, politically and historically specific discourse. Some argue that the development of this meaning of the Mediterranean, made through the Enlightenment, classical history and later anthropology and geography (inter alia), played a key part in classifying differences between regions in the world, and that these classifications justified radical inequalities between them. Modern cartographic techniques have participated in that process. The implication of these critiques is that there are multiple ways of describing, drawing and representing the Mediterranean. In that sense, maps could be understood as existing in a permanent dialogue between what is there and what is imagined or performatively generated as being there, which changes regularly across time and space. Yet the Mediterranean is nevertheless constantly described as if it is a singular, fixed place, a description that often carries legal as well as geopolitical, social and even emotional force. It is perhaps better to say that there are many singular Mediterraneans. In light of this, the panel invites participants (anthropologists and geographers) to consider how to map places such as the Mediterranean in which multiple locations co-exist and overlap. The panel is organized by members of the ERC-funded Crosslocations research team. Crosslocations is studying the dynamics, classification and performativity of location in the Mediterranean region.

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