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After the Map: Cartography, Navigation, and the Transformation of Territory in the Twentieth Century

After the Map: Cartography, Navigation, and the Transformation of Territory in the Twentieth Century

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After the Map: Cartography, Navigation, and the Transformation of Territory in the Twentieth Century

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For most of the twentieth century, maps were indispensable. They were how governments understood, managed, and defended their territory, and during the two world wars they were produced by the hundreds of millions. Cartographers and journalists predicted the dawning of a “map-minded age,” where increasingly state-of-the-art maps would become everyday tools. By the century’s end, however, there had been decisive shift in mapping practices, as the dominant methods of land surveying and print publication were increasingly displaced by electronic navigation systems.
           
In After the Map, William Rankin argues that although this shift did not render traditional maps obsolete, it did radically change our experience of geographic knowledge, from the God’s-eye view of the map to the embedded subjectivity of GPS. Likewise, older concerns with geographic truth and objectivity have been upstaged by a new emphasis on simplicity, reliability, and convenience. After the Map shows how this change in geographic perspective is ultimately a transformation of the nature of territory, both social and political.
Dirilis:
Jul 1, 2016
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9780226339535
Format:
Buku

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After the Map - William Rankin

After the Map

After the Map

Cartography, Navigation, and the Transformation of Territory in the Twentieth Century

William Rankin

University of Chicago Press

Chicago and London

The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637

The University of Chicago Press, Ltd., London

© 2016 by The University of Chicago

All rights reserved. Published 2016.

Paperback edition 2018

Printed in the United States of America

27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18    1 2 3 4 5

ISBN-13: 978-0-226-33936-8 (cloth)

ISBN-13: 978-0-226-60053-6 (paper)

ISBN-13: 978-0-226-33953-5 (e-book)

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226339535.001.0001

Publication of this book has been aided by a grant from the Neil Harris Endowment Fund, which honors the innovative scholarship of Neil Harris, the Preston and Sterling Morton Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Chicago. The Fund is supported by contributions from the students, colleagues, and friends of Neil Harris.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Rankin, William, 1978– author.

Title: After the map : cartography, navigation, and the transformation of territory in the twentieth century / William Rankin.

Description: Chicago ; London : University of Chicago Press, 2016. | Includes bibliographical references and index.

Identifiers: LCCN 2015037815 | ISBN 9780226339368 (cloth : alk. paper) | ISBN 9780226339535 (e-book)

Subjects: LCSH: Cartography—History. | Navigation—History. | Global Positioning System—History. | Electronics in navigation—History. | Maps—Political aspects. | Cartography—Methodology. | Grids (Cartography) | Universal transverse Mercator projection (Cartography).

Classification: LCC GA102.3 .R36 2016 | DDC 526.09/04—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2015037815

This paper meets the requirements of ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992 (Permanence of Paper).

Contents

Possibly Ambiguous Terms

Introduction Territory and the Mapping Sciences

I. The International Map of the World and the Logic of Representation

1 The Authority of Representation

A Single Map for All Countries, 1891–1939

2 Maps as Tools

Globalism, Regionalism, and the Erosion of Universal Cartography, 1940–1965

II. Cartographic Grids and New Territories of Calculation

3 Aiming Guns, Recording Land, and Stitching Map to Territory

The Invention of Cartographic Grid Systems, 1914–1939

4 Territoriality without Borders

Global Grids and the Universal Transverse Mercator, 1940–1965

III. Electronic Navigation and Territorial Pointillism

5 Inhabiting the Grid

Radionavigation and Electronic Coordinates, 1920–1965

6 The Politics of Global Coverage

The Navy, NASA, and GPS, 1960–2010

Conclusion The Politics in My Pocket

Acknowledgments

Acronyms and Codenames

Notes

Index

Color Gallery

For high-resolution images, raw data, and a sortable bibliography, visit www.afterthemap.info.

Possibly Ambiguous Terms

Small and Large in Cartography. The terms small scale and large scale might mean two things when describing a map: either the size of the land area shown, or the size of the ratio between real-world lengths and lengths on the paper. I follow the standard vocabulary of cartographers and geographers and use these terms in the second sense only. That is, a small-scale map is one that shows a lot of land at once, while a large-scale map shows a smaller area in greater detail. World maps are very small-scale maps, since the ratio between map length and real-world length can be 1:100,000,000 or smaller (1 centimeter on the map equals 100 million centimeters—1,000 kilometers—on the earth). City maps and property surveys use a very large scale, typically 1:10,000 (1 centimeter = 100 meters) or larger. Notice that the number 1/100,000,000 is ten thousand times smaller than 1/10,000.

Regional. This term likewise has several possible meanings. In national contexts, regional usually refers to a relatively well-defined subdivision of a territorial state, such as New England in the United States, the Mezzogiorno in southern Italy, or Inner Mongolia in China. In an international context, regional instead refers to a grouping of multiple countries: the regional NATO alliance, for example, currently consists of twenty-eight countries on both sides of the North Atlantic. But additionally, regional can also refer to areas that do not align with political boundaries at all. Often these regions are climatic or biological—rain forests, deserts, plains—but they can also be cultural, linguistic, or historical. Examples might include everything from megaregions like the Silk Road or the African Sahel to the smaller areas of the Mississippi Delta or the South-American Pampas. In this book, I use regional in all of these ways, but my focus is always on geographies that challenge the primacy of national space. This means that I am usually referring to areas that include multiple countries or span international borders—something more like Central Asia than central Texas.

Introduction

Territory and the Mapping Sciences

During the two world wars, newspapers gushed at the unprecedented number of paper maps produced for use on the battlefield. Together the Allies printed roughly 65 million maps in the 1910s, and the US and UK alone printed over a billion in the 1940s—almost fifty maps for every soldier. Cartographers and military planners also worried openly about the need to educate both soldiers and civilians on the basics of cartographic literacy, since most people had little familiarity with the abstract symbols and accurately rendered topography of a state-of-the-art map. Between the wars, observers predicted the dawn of a map-minded age, where maps would be a basic need and make all geographic tasks—everything from military planning to civilian recreation—easier and more efficient.¹ But a few decades later, press coverage of the Vietnam and Gulf wars barely mentioned maps at all. Instead, American headlines reveled in the new geographic precision of smart bombs and the almost magical promise of GPS—the Global Positioning System. Maps were certainly still important, but perhaps as only one component of a larger system, and pundits talked of a coming revolution (again, both military and civilian) in fields that had formerly been quite map centric—especially surveying, navigation, and environmental research. As it turned out, even the most optimistic of these predictions ended up being far too conservative. By 2010, there were roughly one billion GPS receivers in use around the world—one for every Allied map printed during World War II—and only a tiny fraction of these were used by the military.²

The goal of this book is to understand the larger stakes of this shift. With the creation of new forms of geographic knowledge, what is gained and what is lost? Who wins and who loses? More broadly, how do changes in the tools and methods of mapping provoke new ways of understanding and experiencing the world? Politically, all these questions operate at two scales at once. At the micropolitical scale, they are about the creation of a new geographic subjectivity—a new way of seeing and interacting with the earth. But at the macropolitical scale, they are also about the reach of state rationality, the permeability of territorial boundaries, and the transition from European imperialism to the bipolar logic of the Cold War and the American dominance of the post–Cold War world. This book can thus be read at two scales as well. Narrowly, it is a history of the mapping sciences in the twentieth century that situates technologies like GPS within a longer trajectory of spatial knowledge. But more expansively, it is also a cultural and political history of geographic space itself.

In most contexts—for specialists and nonspecialists alike—the obvious way to evaluate changes in geographic knowledge is in terms of accuracy, and it is usually fair to assume that more accurate knowledge translates directly into a better user experience and more political power.³ My approach, however, is different. Rather than focusing on the relentless rise of precision or ever more impressive feats of measurement and targeting, I am more interested in changes in the kind of knowledge produced. The term I use is geo-epistemology; what matters to me is not just what is known about the earth, but how it is known—and how it is used. Geo-epistemology is the difference between knowing your neighborhood through detailed stories, a pictorial guidebook, a map, aerial photographs, the coordinates of a GPS receiver, or simply walking around. It is about trustworthy knowledge (how can I know that my world really is what I think it is?), but it is also about our everyday existence in space (how do I understand my surroundings, my mobility, my relationship to others?). Above all it is about the importance—and the unavoidability—of tools: the goggles of geo-epistemology come in many styles, but they can never be removed. And although for most purposes GPS does indeed offer much more precision than a map, it also constructs a radically different relationship between user, landscape, and authority.

The comparison is again both experiential and political. Maps operate through representation. They create a miniature version of the world and give us a detached view from above, with the messy complexities of reality simplified and reduced to a legible system of lines and colors. Think of the maps in war rooms or on negotiating tables, where knowledge of distant lands is centralized and assembled for the sake of large-scale strategy or the carving up of continents. The power of these maps lies in their ability to act as a stand-in for the original landscape, so that decisions can be made from afar and any new lines drawn with the diplomat’s pen can be scaled up and projected back into the world.⁴ But this is no small feat, and early twentieth-century surveyors and cartographers saw the task of representation as nothing less than a problem of scientific truth. Making a truthful map meant establishing rigorous rules that would govern the correspondence between map and world, and the virtues of objectivity, neutrality, and comprehensiveness were seen as the foundation of trustworthy cartography.⁵ Taken to an extreme, this faith in representation is what transforms maps (in the plural) into the map—a singular, universal record of geographic fact that includes everything worthy of attention, and nothing more. Armed with such a map, it is no longer even necessary to leave your desk: the world has come to you.

Electronic systems like GPS work in a very different way. Rather than creating a miniature substitute for the world, the radio signals sent from GPS satellites instead create a full-scale system of coordinates that overlays and coexists with the physical terrain. The experience of using GPS—or its many predecessors, not all of which were electronic—is therefore much more geographically embedded than the experience of using a map. Rather than contemplating an overhead view of a large expanse of the earth, navigating by coordinates means inhabiting a virtual landscape of reference points, with your position always at the center.⁶ These coordinates have nothing to do with representation; instead they are simply about presentation—being present, reliable, and ready for use. And instead of any concerns with truth or objectivity, the designers of GPS described their system as a utility, one that transformed spatial location into a commodity available in much the same way as electricity or water—on demand, at the place of consumption.⁷ The power of GPS derives precisely from these qualities. Coordinates shift attention from the area to the point: a stable electronic grid makes it possible to aim missiles, drill for offshore oil, or conduct field research without any overarching awareness of a larger geographic region. The overall ambition is quite different as well. Being glib, one could say that with representation the goal is to know about a place without having to visit. With technologies like GPS, the goal is instead to visit a place without having to know much about it.

Historically, the transition was not nearly this stark, and representational maps have certainly not disappeared. After all, some of the most important coordinate systems of the twentieth century were first developed within cartography itself, and for most people a GPS signal is only helpful if it is combined with a digital map or road database. If anything, the creation of new coordinate technologies has probably made the world more map minded than ever before. But it is also clear that technologies like GPS have significantly shifted both the way that maps are made and the way they are used, and representational maps do not enjoy the authority that they once did—epistemologically, culturally, or politically. We no longer live in a world where the map (in the singular) goes unquestioned. Instead it is increasingly the coordinates that take priority.

My main argument is that this change in the logic of mapping—this shift in geo-epistemology—should be understood quite broadly as a shift in the nature of territory. In the early twentieth century, there was a very tight link between representational maps and a certain ideal of the territorial state. Maps gave real-world traction to abstract concepts like jurisdiction and sovereignty, and they reinforced a strong split between a space of domestic affairs and a space of foreign relations. The logic is relatively simple: spatially intensive activities like levying property taxes, managing forests, building railways, and defending boundaries all relied on detailed, large-scale maps, and this kind of mapping required sustained access to geographic space, both to produce the maps and to keep them up to date. The production of these maps was seen as the right (and responsibility) of official survey agencies, and each country, colony, or empire used graphics and survey methods that stopped at its borders. Maps therefore tended to reinforce an all-or-nothing relationship between territory and sovereignty, both as an ideal and as a practical reality, since the control of geographic space required control over the production of geographic knowledge, which in turn required control over geographic space. Conceptually, it was difficult to distinguish territory and sovereignty at all.

But with the full-scale, pointillist logic of coordinates, there is no longer this tight relationship between geographic legibility and political authority. Electronic coordinates are explicitly designed to exceed the boundaries of individual states, and maintaining a virtual grid does not require any long-term geographic commitment or sustained control over a contiguous expanse of land. Not only does this make things like ultra-long-range bombardment possible as never before, but many of the activities that previously relied on detailed maps can now be pursued with a much lighter presence on the ground. Political responsibility for maintaining these boundary-crossing systems has also been divided in complex ways, and even systems developed and funded by one country alone have often come to be regulated by international agreement and subject to international laws. Both in design and in practice, electronic coordinates cut across the usual categories of the state.

What this means is that it becomes possible to imagine territory as something separate from sovereignty. Territory need not simply be a cleanly bounded area of space—an inert container for the power of states or empires⁸—but can be understood as itself a distinct form of power created through geographic knowledge. The kind of consolidated and explicitly jurisdictional territory reinforced by mapping is about making claims to exclusive political authority within a well-bounded area. The unbounded, dispersed, and politically ambiguous territory of electronic coordinates, while not incompatible with these goals, is instead primarily about enabling quick intervention and creating a robust spatial framework—a way of thinking, acting, and governing—independent from any such claims.

In the second half of the twentieth century, much of this framework was designed and installed by the United States, sometimes quite forcefully, and in many respects the geographic space we know today is both a result and a cause of American global power. The Americanization of geography was at once specific and general; it took place both at the level of individual technologies and at the more diffuse level of new methods, goals, techniques, and vocabulary. In most cases, the military was the primary sponsor. However, I should make it clear that I am not suggesting any straightforward linear relationship between new technologies and new forms of territory, and it would be a mistake to see any particular technology as decisive—not even GPS—or to see the US military as the ultimate origin of our new spatial infrastructure. Indeed, the major historical inflection point occurred during the decades surrounding World War II, at a time when new mapping and navigation systems multiplied not just in the US but also in the UK, France, and Germany, and when military goals often overlapped with civilian, commercial, and academic interests. Even in the decades after the war, American plans were commonly derailed or redirected by unexpected factors, both political and technological. And although the Cold War was a constant motivator, competition between the US and the USSR was often less determinant than competition between various projects within the non-Communist world.

In other words, this is a story where American power is absolutely central, but it is not a story where the United States is the central protagonist. Indeed, the United States cannot be at the center: the history of mapping and the history of American globalism do not perfectly align, and especially in the early twentieth century the US simply was not the dominant player that it would become after World War II. But more to the point, the goal of this book is to understand a new kind of infrastructure—one that is successful exactly because it transcends the military or diplomatic strategy of any individual state. American programs of dollar diplomacy, cultural universalism, and Cold War containment must share space with the ambitions of multinational oil companies, collaborations among European scientists, and regional surveying projects in Latin America, East Asia, and elsewhere. After all, what made the technologies of gridded space so ubiquitous and transformative is that they were widely adopted—and sometimes co-opted—for new and unforeseen uses in dozens of nonmilitary fields all around the world.

The transformation of territory is thus not a story of large-scale strategy, sweeping political-economic forces, or an intentional program of global domination. It is instead a story about the kind of power that was created when mapmakers and engineers, and eventually millions of everyday users, shifted their concern away from the lofty realm of truth and toward the practicalities of aiming, measuring, and navigating in new ways.

Territory in the Twentieth Century

The central concern of this book is the history of territory. But what is territory? And how does it differ from sovereignty, jurisdiction, or property? At its broadest, territory can refer to almost anything spatial, and territoriality, by extension, can be defined even more broadly as essentially any strategy of spatial control.⁹ But my interest is in the territory of states: the kind of geographic structure that Max Weber had in mind when in 1919 he famously defined the state in terms of a monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.¹⁰ I understand territory differently from Weber. For him, and for countless others in the twentieth century, territory was a relatively unproblematic category: it was simply a geographic area defined by clear boundaries, and it was impossible to imagine a state—or at least a modern state—as anything other than a bounded spatial entity. Sovereignty and jurisdiction were folded into this same ideal, and they were both seen as inherently geographic (and perfectly coextensive). More recently, however, scholars in several fields have argued that territory is not nearly so simple and that the textbook definition in fact has a long and contested history that stretches back at least to the medieval era. But despite this emerging consensus about its early history, there is still no coherent story about the last hundred years, and territory in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries has seemed to be flourishing and disintegrating simultaneously. My argument is an attempt to address this apparent paradox.

The early history of territory has mainly been told as a European story; the most important theme is that territory does not have any necessary relationship with sovereignty or jurisdiction, both of which have their own separate histories. For many centuries before sovereignty and jurisdiction were geographic, they were personal, and authority was exercised over people, not land. In late Roman and medieval Europe in particular, the jurisdiction of the emperor and the pope was universal, in line with the universalism of the monotheistic God, and sovereignty simply meant supremacy. In theory, neither was spatially bounded. Space was definitely still important—and villages and manors were often delimited with perfectly well-defined boundaries—but land was something owned by the ruler, not the thing to be ruled. The spatial boundaries of justice, religion, trade, and taxation were also rather fluid and generally did not align, either with each other or with the shifting boundaries of kingdoms and principalities.¹¹ Jurists began to challenge these social arrangements as early as the thirteenth century, but the change toward a more thoroughly geographic basis of authority (along with the separation of spiritual and earthy power) was remarkably gradual and lasted well into the nineteenth century. In particular, it is now quite clear that the political ideal of the Westphalian state has relatively little to do with the actual Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, and even in the modern era the territorial ideal is better understood as an ever-changing bundle of practices, political claims, and convenient fictions than as a monolithic legal fact.¹²

The historical development of cartography has played a major role in this narrative. Maps have not simply been passive observers to the geographic history of the state; instead, they are often what enabled governance to become geographic in the first place. Although the medieval world was not entirely devoid of maps (or rather, documents classified today as maps), they were not common and they were generally not used for practical tasks. For example, the famous Domesday Book, which was a tax record of most land and property in England and Wales in the late eleventh century, contained only text and was organized not geographically but according to the hierarchy of lords. Land was also measured primarily in terms of productivity rather than strictly by geometric area.¹³ Large-scale maps only began being produced in the sixteenth century, and they tended to appear as a result of active power struggles between elites and commoners over new projects of taxation and agricultural management. Systematic national borders likewise only began appearing on maps in the seventeenth century, simultaneous with the first attempts to systematize boundaries on the ground.¹⁴ The history of cartography has been especially helpful for spotlighting parallels between early modern state formation in Europe and other areas, especially East Asia, where large-scale maps began flourishing at nearly the same time and for similar purposes. It has also provided a powerful way of unpacking the persistent fiction of the nation-state—in Europe and elsewhere—since maps have been one of the most visible anchors of nationalism and have supported countless claims to imagined homelands and projects of cultural consolidation.¹⁵ The implication, in other words, is that the history of territory—both as a widespread administrative strategy and as a cultural imaginary—cannot be separated from the strategies used to make geographic space legible and manipulable. Geo-epistemology and territory go hand in hand.

Turning to the twentieth century, however, the relationship between territory and sovereignty becomes much less clear, and the role of cartography is ambiguous at best.¹⁶ In particular, we are confronted with two competing narratives, both of which are confident and triumphant, but which point in sharply opposite directions. The first is about the remarkable strengthening and expansion of state territoriality and the almost totalizing dominance of the nation-state ideal. Figure 1 shows the basic story: compared to the massive imperial consolidation and dramatic exchanges of territory that took place in the century or two before 1920 (and to a lesser extent in the 1930s as well), the overwhelming trajectory since 1945 has been the crumbling of empires and the creation of dozens of newly independent states—but without great changes to existing borders. Indeed, with only a few important exceptions, both decolonization and the breakup of the Soviet Union were mostly an exercise in transforming internal administrative or jurisdictional boundaries into external international borders, all in the service of finding ever-closer spatial alignment between ethnicity, law, and political order. To be sure, there have definitely been ongoing disputes over borders—often devastatingly bloody and protracted—but it is remarkable how rarely these conflicts have in fact resulted in a gain or loss of territory, and on the whole it is much more common for territorial disputes to be frozen than resolved.¹⁷

Figure 1: The hardening of territory since 1945. The main theme here is the triumph of the nation-state ideal, especially through territorial partition. (Unification has been much less prevalent.) Most of the shaded countries were created through the breakup of European empires or the Soviet Union, but there are also many examples of countries splitting for internal reasons. In almost all cases, these breakups have taken place along preexisting internal boundaries, and although disputes over international boundaries have been common, they have not led to any great changes in the boundaries themselves. Even major disputes—Kashmir, Western Sahara, the Crimea—tend to preserve boundaries rather than erase them. For high-resolution versions of all images, see www.afterthemap.info. Unless otherwise noted, all graphics are my own.

This same trajectory can also be seen in changes to international law. After both World War I and World War II, the major peace treaties explicitly embraced national self-determination and renounced the use of military force as a legitimate basis of territorial expansion, and enforcing these norms was one of the main goals of both the League of Nations and the UN. The same principles were likewise written into a series of other important treaties, including the 1933 Montevideo Convention (which defined sovereignty in terms of internal territorial capacity rather than external recognition), the 1959 Antarctic treaty (which repudiated the patchwork of territorial claims below 60° south), the 1975 Helsinki Accords (which finally recognized the legitimacy of Soviet territory), and many of the treaties delimiting the borders of newly formed countries.¹⁸ Overall, this was a remarkable inversion. At the beginning of the twentieth century, capturing territory had been one of the main goals of war; by the end of the century, perhaps the only internationally legitimate use of force was to prevent such annexations.

Alongside this dramatic political shift was a subtler but no less important transformation in the spatial limits of territory. As shown in figure 2, national territory moved from being understood as a two-dimensional area of land to being explicitly defined as a three-dimensional volume of earth, air, and water, with different legal-political rights being maintained in different zones. This was likewise a gradual transformation. Airspace sovereignty was first recognized just after World War I (especially in response to the advent of aerial bombing and reconnaissance) and then given an upper bound with the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. In the oceans, the traditional idea of territorial waters from the late eighteenth century—generally limited to three nautical miles, or the typical range of cannon fire from shore—began to be challenged in the 1940s, first by the United States (for oil and gas rights) and then by smaller countries like Chile and Iceland seeking greater control over fishing resources. These unilateral claims eventually led to the negotiation of two UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea: the first in the late 1950s, the second in the 1970s and early 1980s. The second such treaty established a uniform two-hundred-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone for all countries and gave precise geometric rules for claims to the continental shelf, which were again anchored by new forms of mapping.¹⁹ Figure 3 gives a startling illustration of how these new rules have been applied to the Arctic Ocean, which has now been almost entirely carved up and claimed as territory.²⁰

Figure 2: An idealized cross section perpendicular to an ocean coastline, showing the feathered edge of state sovereignty in the late twentieth century. Instead of a political claim over a two-dimensional area of land, international law has come to define national territory as a three-dimensional volume of earth, air, and water with multiple boundaries. Most of these limits are defined by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which has been under negotiation and refinement since the late 1950s.

Figure 3: As of 1971, territorial claims in the Arctic were largely unilateral and ill defined. By the early twenty-first century, national rights had expanded well beyond shore, and all Arctic countries were preparing or revising formal documentation of claims to the continental shelf based on extensive new mapping. Only a few small areas are likely to remain unclaimed. Maps based on official submissions to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, http://www.un.org/Depts/los/clcs_new/commission_submissions.htm.

Taken together, the dissolution of empires and the expansion of national territorial rights represent a resounding affirmation of state territoriality. This is not to say that imperial power asymmetries have been eliminated or that decolonization was a clean, benevolent process. Indeed, it was often ruthlessly strategic, not just for the metropole and the colonial elite, but also for the United States. But the change is nevertheless striking. Not only has the international political system increasingly come to approximate the ideal of national self-determination and inviolable boundaries (at least in theory), but territorial states remain foundational for stabilizing property rights and managing natural resources. And this is not just a political issue—it is also straightforwardly geographic.

The other narrative of the twentieth century is the equally dramatic story of globalization. At its most exuberant, the trajectory here is almost a complete reversal of the first. Instead of focusing on periods of war and the importance of international diplomacy, the story usually begins with the economic changes of the 1970s—in particular the growth of transnational corporations, the expansion of global telecommunications, and the rise of neoliberalism—and tracks the inexorable erosion of the territorial state by the forces of global capitalism. Instead of the familiar jigsaw-puzzle world of stable nation-states, this world looks more like the one in figure 4: a network of global megacities presiding over a nonterritorial flow of finance capital, supply chains, mobile labor, and the immateriality of cyberspace. Or, in short: networks corroding territory.²¹

Figure 4: This map of telecommunications cables from 2009 nicely encapsulates the geographic narrative of globalization: it shows connections between cities in terms of bandwidth, uses a different scale for each major region (Africa is shown smaller than Europe!), and ignores most of Asia. Geographically, the main concern here is with networks rather than territory; politically, the relevant categories are megaregions and cities—not states. Image excerpted from Global Internet Map (Telegeography, 2009).

Although this narrative can easily be exaggerated to eliminate any role for territorial states, or even geography altogether, it is more properly seen as a story of political economy that is driven as much by policy as by the profit motive. This is especially true at the international scale, where entire economies have been retooled—either from within or through external pressure—in line with a new market fundamentalism of deregulation, free trade, and currency fluctuation. There is even an important role here for international law, especially the unique framework of the European Union (notably its elimination of internal passport controls), the regulatory and development agencies of the United Nations, and the return of a doctrine of universal jurisdiction as a justification both for new forms of international justice (the International Criminal Court) and for humanitarian military intervention outside the UN system (in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, and elsewhere).²² At stake here is not the existence of territory, but its relevance: the globalized world is one where states have lost the ability to fully govern their economies, their borders, and even the legitimate use of force.

Historians and geographers have been keenly interested in both of these trajectories, but the main interpretive responses have tended to be divided along disciplinary lines. The most common response, especially from historians, has been to rein in some of the excesses of the globalization narrative, but without challenging its basic premise. Charles Maier, for example, describes territoriality as itself a fully global political-economic regime—one that emerged in the mid-nineteenth century and was always heavily technological—but he nevertheless sees a clear shift to a post-territorial regime in the 1970s.²³ Charles Bright and Michael Geyer likewise stress the interaction of the political and the economic in their well-known analysis of modern regimes of world order, but when analyzing the spatial changes of the late twentieth century they focus squarely on the geography of global capitalism and argue unequivocally that it is markets that integrate the world, not states and their international organizations.²⁴ This response also overlaps with some of the strongest arguments about the emergence of an American empire, especially one that is modified by adjectives like soft, informal, and economic. Neil Smith, for example, has analyzed twentieth-century globalism as a forceful national project of an ascendant United States consolidating its power through the more abstract geography of the world market rather than through direct political control of territory.²⁵ In this view, there is nothing inevitable or apolitical about global capitalism, but the dominant narrative of the twentieth century is still seen as a transition from explicitly territorial power to new American strategies of nonterritorial hegemony.

The other main response, which has come mostly from geographers, is not so quick to discard territory. Indeed, the starting point is that the alleged dichotomy between territory and network only reproduces the dichotomy between state and market at the center of the neoliberal worldview. John Agnew, for example, argues that there is no zero-sum relationship between sovereignty and globalization (or territory and network) and instead calls for a more pluralist approach that sees a variety of intersections between regimes of sovereignty and modes of spatiality. The waning of the national territorial state need not imply that either territory or sovereignty are otherwise obsolete.²⁶ Saskia Sassen’s work has pointed in a similar direction: not only are state-centered border regimes not as cleanly territorial as we might expect, but the persistence of state territoriality is perfectly compatible with an ongoing process of debordering, rebordering, and the creation of new competing territorialities at both the global and the local scale.²⁷ Others have proposed similar strategies for avoiding a simple rise-and-fall narrative of territory, the most prominent of which either deny any conflict between territory and network altogether or argue for a much more active understanding of territory as an ever-present historical process—one where every act of deterritorialization is accompanied by new forms of reterritorialization.²⁸ This work provides a sophisticated analysis of globalization; it also resonates nicely with historical accounts of territory before the modern era.

Scholarship in geography also offers an important framework for thinking about twentieth-century cartography and the fate of representation. Since the early 1990s, geographers have drawn from a wide assortment of social and literary theorists—including David Harvey, Henri Lefebvre, Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes, and Michel Foucault—to criticize the alleged objectivity and epistemological transparency of representational maps. Not only do maps inevitably codify the interests and worldviews of their makers, but even the conceptual distinction between maps and any preexisting real world obscures the degree to which cartography constructs, rather than simply reflects, reality.²⁹ In the last ten years, this critique (and its borrowing from critical theory) has expanded into a fully postrepresentational approach that frames mapping as a central part of the ongoing process of territory, one where mapmaking, map interpretation, and map use all become part of what Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge call a process of constant reterritorialization—that is, a constant reaffirmation of certain arguments about land, law, and power.³⁰

This is a compelling framework, and it is deeply resonant with my own research. Yet as a historian it strikes me that the post in postrepresentational is usually meant only in a theoretical sense—that is, as more sophisticated than the usual ideas about representation—rather than in any historical sense relating to new forms of mapmaking or the advent of technologies like GPS. There is, however, strong continuity between these scholars’ ideas and postwar changes in the workaday world of mapmaking. American military cartographers, for example, went through their own crisis of representation in the 1950s, prompted not by concerns with objectivity or epistemology but by the changing needs of jet pilots and global troop deployment. They responded by redesigning maps and supplementing them with new positioning and navigation technologies that were, in their own way, fully postrepresentational.³¹ Likewise, although the scholarly critique of mapping has highlighted the importance of the shift away from representation (and the map as an ideal of universal scientific truth), it has tended to promote nonrepresentational ideas as inherently—even morally—better. But, historically, it is not at all clear that this transition from representational mapping to GPS was an unambiguous improvement.

We thus find ourselves with historical arguments that maintain a largely Weberian understanding of territory and geographic arguments that offer analytic clarity about territories, networks, and representation without much historical engagement. My argument attempts to bridge this divide, and it intervenes in these debates in two ways. First, my work provides historical support for the geographers’ denial of any clean dichotomy between the hardening of territory and the debordering of globalization. The very same technologies that were developed to make borders more permeable have also been used to make them more stable and enforceable—especially in the oceans. Electronic coordinates in particular are not just used for aiming missiles or navigating from A to B; they are also used for stabilizing international boundary surveys, enforcing fishing treaties, and bringing offshore oil and gas deposits within national jurisdiction. There is likewise no zero-sum competition between territorial and global space or between the state and capitalism. For one, nearly all the new mapping systems discussed in this book were either initiated or heavily supported by states themselves. (And it is worth pointing out that the United States applied these systems just as aggressively to its own territory as it did abroad.) Just as important, these state technologies were often developed in tandem with private corporations and enthusiastically embraced by a wide range of nonstate users, domestic and foreign alike.³²

My second entry into this discussion is a more thorough modification of existing research. The history of mapping makes it clear that characterizing the twentieth century (or the 1970s) as a simple shift from an era of national territory to an era of global flows is problematic both chronologically and conceptually. First off, it is important to distinguish worldwide knowledge from the specific history of the word global and its geopolitics. Starting as early as the 1860s, mapping presents a nearly unbroken history of international collaboration, and geographic interest at a planetary scale stretches back many centuries earlier still.³³ From the point of view of geographic knowledge, the major shift of the twentieth century was thus not a transition from national to planetary, but from one worldwide political-geographic framework to another. Before the 1940s, there was widespread interest in geographically extensive projects, but these were always framed as international in scope—that is, as the result of collaboration between states. Only during and after World War II did the word global gain traction as a geographic description—and the counterpart to global was not national, but regional.³⁴ This is the central political-geographic shift of this book, and it happened several decades before the economic changes of the 1970s.

The crucial point, however, is that both the national/international space of the early twentieth century and the global/regional space of the late twentieth century were equally territorial—that is, equally concerned with making space legible and governable. As the chapters ahead make clear, the earliest systems of full-scale coordinates evolved directly out of representational mapping, and although coordinates ended up structuring space in a new way, GPS is clearly not a network—it is a system of coordinates, not pathways.³⁵ It might be possible to invent some new term besides territory to describe the pointillist space of GPS, but I see no reason to treat mapping and navigation systems as territorializing only when they reinforce familiar ideas about territoriality. Again, geo-epistemology and territory go hand in hand. The main difference between national/international and global/regional space is instead in the status of political boundaries. With the representational mapping of the early twentieth century, political boundaries were also boundaries of knowledge and thus action—not just conceptually, but at a straightforwardly practical level, too. This same boundedness was also a conspicuous feature of the prewar predecessors to GPS. With the new mapping and navigation systems created during and after World War II, actionable geographic knowledge was instead purposefully made to span international borders. Although this was most clear in the case of coordinate-based technologies, it was also true for some paper maps. (Both maps and coordinates, in other words, were malleable—but only to a point.) This change from bounded to unbounded territory is what I have in mind when I describe territory as something separate from sovereignty: they may well align at certain times for certain purposes, but they can also diverge.

My argument about territory is thus both historical and theoretical. Historically, I am affirming that something important did happen in the twentieth century and that the kind of all-or-nothing territory that Weber took for granted no longer exists (if it ever did). But rather than locating the turning point in the 1970s, I place it several decades earlier. And rather than trying to fit GPS into a dichotomy between the traditional space of national territory and the new, nonterritorial space of global networks, I see it instead as signaling a modification of territory itself.³⁶ Theoretically, this means that we should not see territory as a category defined by legal, political, or economic geography alone. It is also a category defined by practices of knowledge, and its practical reality can often diverge noticeably from its more familiar meanings. By the end of the twentieth century, territory was not (solely) a bounded block of space perfectly coextensive with a particular sovereignty or jurisdiction. Instead there were new kinds of territories: territories defined as frameworks of points—neither a block of space nor a network of flows—that organized knowledge in new ways and facilitated new kinds of intervention and new kinds of governance.

Structure of the Evidence

How should one go about writing a global history of geographic knowledge from the late nineteenth to the early twenty-first century? Focusing on a series of specific case studies might miss the larger picture, while trying to write about all mapping would be as pointless as it is impossible. In order to negotiate between these extremes, I have written this book as a series of three studies of major international projects, one in each of the three principal branches of the mapping sciences: cartography, geodesy, and navigation.³⁷ These projects are not case studies, at least not in the usual sense, but they are still specific enough to allow for focused research on the actual practice—rather than just the theory—of mapping.

In cartography I analyze the International Map of the World, or IMW, which was a hugely ambitious scheme for all countries of the world to collaborate on a uniform atlas of unprecedented detail. It was first proposed in 1891, and its standards were given the force of international treaty in 1909; although its goals and organization gradually shifted in subsequent decades, it remained a going concern until the 1980s. Over the course of its life, nearly every country in the world participated in some way, and thousands of maps were produced.

In geodesy—which in a narrow sense refers to the study of the size and shape of the earth but also includes high-precision surveying more generally³⁸—I trace the history of the Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) system, a grid-based alternative to latitude and longitude that was created by the US Army in the late 1940s and was in widespread use for both military and nonmilitary purposes by the late 1960s. The mathematics of UTM gave every point on the earth a coordinate that was much better suited to calculation and coordination—of everything from missile trajectories to highway construction—than traditional spherical coordinates. It was a global expansion of earlier systems known generically as grids (as opposed to the graticule of latitude and longitude) that had been invented during World War I.

Finally, in navigation I analyze the development of radionavigation systems, from the first efforts in the 1910s through the great proliferation of systems during and after World War II to the sponsorship of GPS by the US Department of Defense in the early 1970s. Not all of these systems relied on the point-based logic of coordinates, and only a very few were global or used satellites. But they were still important precedents for GPS, which only became the singular dominant system we know today at the turn of the twenty-first century.

These three projects—the IMW, UTM, and GPS—were all singular endeavors that, each in their own historical moment, attempted to organize all geographic knowledge. All three spanned several decades of development and debate, engaged scores of scientists from dozens of countries, received wide notice in nonspecialist circles, and were ambitious even to the point of hubris. Each project also intersected with a wide variety of less prominent initiatives. The International Map of the World, for example, was used as a template for several other international collaborations as well as hundreds of national and unofficial maps. The UTM grid was only the most ambitious of literally thousands of similar schemes installed around the world. And in the last forty years GPS has competed both with earlier ground-based alternatives and with several other satellite systems, of both US and foreign design. Tracing the life (and afterlife) of these megaprojects is thus an easy way to navigate the personal, institutional, and intellectual structure of the mapping sciences as a whole, both at the level of ideas and the level of practice, and it is impossible to separate them from any background context that was not itself shaped by their influence.³⁹

More important, however, the IMW, UTM, and GPS together form a remarkably unified historical narrative. Spatially, this narrative is about the emerging logic of the grid and its significance as a new way of structuring knowledge. The abstract coordinates of latitude and longitude, of course, have their roots in ancient Greece and have been important politically since at least the early modern era. But in the twentieth century, the gridding of space took a much more geographically intensive form and came to organize a much wider range of everyday activities. In short, the figure of the grid is what connects representational mapping with the virtual space of electronic navigation, and the three projects I analyze in this book intersect as part of this larger trajectory. Many of these intersections are quite specific. For example, the primary designer of the UTM grid—an American astronomer and mathematician named John O’Keefe—drew explicitly from the technical standards of the IMW when creating his global coordinate system. Grids were likewise an organizing metaphor for the new radionavigation systems developed during World War II, and several key figures in the mapping and geodetic projects of the 1930s went on to do work with radionavigation and satellites in the 1950s.⁴⁰ All three projects also intersected with many of the same institutions. The US Army Map Service was an especially important hub not just for cartography but also for advanced geodesy, radiosurveying, and early satellite work. Other organizations—notably the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Geographical Union—were also important sites of ongoing debate. The IMW, UTM, and GPS are thus three separate episodes, but they are episodes in the same story.

At the same time, however, I make no claim that these three projects give anything like a comprehensive history of mapping in the twentieth century. For instance, I make relatively little mention of aerial photography or remote sensing, and the rise of electronic mapping and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) is barely part of my story at all. As other historians have shown, these are hugely important developments with serious political (and territorial) implications, and I do not mean to minimize their importance. But for the most part these other systems can all be seen as part of the history of representational mapping, and they have never seriously challenged either the view-from-above experience of cartography or its political focus on coherent blocks of space. (And when they have, it is in tandem with new coordinate systems or GPS).⁴¹ Just as important, a list of the major organizing projects of twentieth-century geographic knowledge only has three entries, and there is simply nothing comparable to the IMW, UTM, or GPS in other subfields of mapping.⁴²

My choice of the project as a unit of historical analysis is closely related to my methodological focus on tools as hybrid objects that exist equally in the realms of thinking and doing. After all, the primary goal of the IMW, UTM, and GPS was not just to discuss or debate, but to make. By taking this approach, I am participating in a growing body of work in the history of science and technology that focuses on materiality, instrumentation, and the infrastructure of scientific practice. The great advantage of this kind of research is that it breaks down any division between theory and practice or between the dryly technical and the supposedly richer categories of cultural, political, and intellectual. As many other scholars have shown, instruments and tools are not simply the means by which theories are discovered, and epistemologically they are neither neutral nor transparent. Instead, tools do real conceptual and intellectual work; they are a way of thinking, a way of opening up new questions, and a way of making decisions. And this is just as true for everyday tools like a map or a GPS receiver as it is for the specialized instruments of laboratory scientists. In other words, maps, coordinate systems, and navigation devices are forms of cognition. They are the way that territory is both understood and performed.⁴³ Writing a history of tools thus makes it possible to avoid some of the blind spots of more familiar forms of legal, political, and economic history, which have a tendency to compartmentalize rather than integrate—separating, for example, technology from politics or concepts from practices. And while I do not want to suggest that the history of territory is only about mapping, I do contend that territory cannot be understood separate from its tools.

At a broader level, however, this interest in practical tools is also a working theory of historical agency—that is, of who and what matters. I see two steps to writing a history of tools: first is understanding why the tools were designed a certain way; second is understanding how they work and how they have been used. This means that, in the first instance, I focus on relatively undersung mapmakers and engineers (and the institutions that guided and supported their work) rather than on famous geographers, diplomats, or public intellectuals. These relatively anonymous individuals and agencies were perhaps not terribly glamorous, but they were certainly prolific and often remarkably creative. They are what the British in World War II called boffins, or what the Americans would later call wonks—trained specialists, usually from

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