Pedagogica – Can culture be better mapped?


Though I tend to be somewhat skeptical of some content on the Ancient Origins website, the article below discussing maps of Native American territory and language caught my attention. It raised for me the question about how useful mapping cultural influence might be. We all know the pitfalls of cultural dimensions when assigned to specific countries – at best they may serve as starting points for inquiry.

We are also aware that national boundaries are, more often than not, artificial results of conquest and politics, the worst case being perhaps that of Africa where colonial powers negotiated and divided up territory to serve their own interests as best they could, with little or no respect for the native inhabitants, their relationships and their cultures – an ongoing tragedy to this day. We are also aware that the influence of religion and other ideological and social movements cut across national and regional boundaries in their cultural influence on various groups.

Some mapping has been done about cultural perspectives, based on research and surveys of cultural values, but I'm not sure what these add beyond geographical visualization of what has been done in textual reports, for example, The Inglehart–Welzel cultural map of the world based on the World Values Survey pictured above. Thus, it feels to me as if we could use more mapping and more sophisticated mapping rather than less, all the while keeping in mind that boundaries are culturally porous despite the efforts to define them and enforce them with the stereotypes that have tended to go along with them. We must also continue to be aware that maps say as much about the mapmakers and map users as they do about what is being mapped. Why isn’t this map in the history books?


Just as I was posting this article another unpleasant map set came on my screen...

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