Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review is a peer-reviewed, quarterly online journal that offers its readers up-to-date research findings, emerging trends, and cutting-edge perspectives concerning East Asian history and culture from scholars in both English-speaking and Asian language-speaking academic communities.
Issue 21, 2016
Readings from Asia
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While the term “cartographic anxieties” is metaphorically loaded, it has remained under-theorized and is used to refer to very different situations. A state can experience anxiety when it is subject to the “cartographic aggression” (de Blij 2012) of another. Anxiety can also be found in the gap between state representations and the imaginaries held by the citizens of that state, or between a dominant majority and an ethnic, religious, or political minority (Cons 2016). Further, it can have different temporal resonances in that the gap can index the nostalgic mourning for past territorial grandeur (Callahan 2010; Cartier 2013), evoke a programmatic future (Fortna 2002), or offer poetic and corporealized visions of the nation-state (Ramaswamy 2010). The five articles in this special issue explore various political and cultural reverberations of cartography, as well as the complex set of discursive practices in which it is embedded. The discussion framing these papers began as a panel at the 2016 American Association of Geographers’ annual meeting, which included four of the authors featured here (Akin, Billé, Roszko, and Saxer). The contributions focus on China and its neighbors from the perspective of different disciplines: anthropology (Billé, Roszko, Saxer), history (Akin), and history of art (Tsultemin). In addition to bringing a cohesive and coherent focus to the special issue, this geographic convergence is timely given China’s recent economic and political trajectory. In tracing and analyzing the cartographic tremors of a geopolitical formation in flux, the different articles offer an outline of the mechanics of “cartographic anxiety” and together contribute to a better understanding of the affective power of mapping.
Fishers and Territorial Anxieties in China and Vietnam: Narratives of the South China Sea Beyond the Frame of the Nation
In the geopolitical conflict over the South China Sea (SCS), fishers are at the center of Chinese and Vietnamese cartographic imaginations that define the sea as either “Chinese” or “Vietnamese” and hence tied to the disputed territories of the Paracel and Spratly Islands. While their historical presence and customary fishing rights in the SCS have been much publicized in the context of this territorial dispute, the long-standing Cham seafaring trade networks and legacy are ignored by both countries. The ethnic and national categories of Cham, Việt, and Han intersect with occupational categories such as those of fisher, trader, shipbuilder, sailor, and pirate, which in the past represented shifting, relational, and situational activities by the same people. The contemporary use of such professional and national labels produces particular political effects by projecting recent closures and enclosures onto the past, in spite of the common historical, cultural, and ethnic flows that always existed in the SCS. Rather than aiming to legitimize or delegitimize Vietnam’s or China’s territorial claims to the SCS, this article argues that seafaring narratives should be liberated from abstract, anachronistic discourses of sovereignty, territoriality, and territorial anxieties that separate the interconnected histories of the Cham, Vietnamese, and Chinese. Keywords: Cham, Vietnamese, Chinese, fishing, nation-state, South China Sea, Paracel Islands, Spratly Islands
In 2002, an exhibition at South Africa’s parliament included a reproduction of the Da Ming Hunyi Tu (Amalgamated map of the Great Ming), citing it as the earliest world map to depict the entire African continent. As part of its broader efforts to shape a narrative of long-standing and peaceful international relations with Africa, the People’s Republic of China formally presented a replica of this map as a gift to the South African government in conjunction with the exhibition. In official statements and popular media coverage alike, the map was described as evidence of a distinctly Chinese approach to global relations, based on benevolence and mutual respect. In particular, the map was ahistorically intertwined with the legacy of Zheng He’s diplomatic expeditions, which reached the East African coast in the early 1400s. To the cartographic historian, however, the depiction of Africa in the Da Ming Hunyi Tu is clearly derived from non-Chinese sources that predate Zheng He’s expeditions. This article examines the ways in which the map has been divorced from its original context to suit modern needs, exemplifying the deployment of cartography to deflect anxieties about the nature of Chinese economic influence in South Africa. Keywords: Da Ming Hunyi Tu, China, South Africa, cartography, diplomacy, Zheng He, Ming
This article extends cartography into ethnographic and representational practices for territorial inclusion (Hostetler 2005) and nation building (Krishna 1994). Outer Mongolia, a vassal state of the Qing Empire until 1911, produced ethnographic paintings intended as new cartographic visuals around the time of its independence. Mongolia’s last ruler, the Bogd Khan (1870–1924) commissioned the artist Balduugin Sharav to produce a large painting of the Mongol countryside titled Daily Events, a work that constitutes an unusual cartographic “picture-map” (Paul Harvey 1980) intended for a special public display. The work (now known as One Day in Mongolia) depicts the Mongolian people as a distinct ethnic group in quotidian scenes of Central Mongolian (Khalkha) nomadic life. This article demonstrates how the covert connections between the scenes together construct a Buddhist didactic narrative of the Wheel of Life, and argues that this picture-map was the result of the Tibetan-born ruler’s anxieties over ethnic identity, national unity, and the survival of his people, who strove for independence from the Qing, as well as their safe positioning vis-à-vis new political neighbors. Keywords: Bogd Gegeen, Bogd Khan, Jetsundampa Khutukhtu, Sharav, Mongolian painting, Mongolian Buddhist art, Khalkha
Although relations between China and Mongolia are good, with no outstanding territorial disputes, Mongolia continues to view its southern neighbor with considerable anxiety. Numerous paranoid narratives circulate, hinting at China’s alleged malevolent intentions, and many Mongols are convinced that China is intent on a takeover. This article argues that this anxiety is located in two particular cartographic gaps. The first is the misalignment between People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Republic of China (ROC) maps, namely the fact that Taiwanese maps include Mongolia within the boundaries of China. For the majority of Mongolian viewers who do not read Chinese, this constitutes a clear case of cartographic aggression. The second gap is found in cultural-historical maps of China that portray large swaths of northern Asia as regions formerly inhabited by Chinese. While neither map constitutes a political claim, the Chinese cultural imaginary each portrays posits Mongolia as “not quite foreign.” Rather than “cartographic aggression,” the term “cartographic embrace” may be a better designation here. Even if Chinese cartographic practices do not index intent, for countries like Mongolia—whose political existence is founded on separation from China—cultural “embrace” can be even more threatening. Keywords: Mongolia, cartography, anxiety, Sinophobia, mapping, individuation, paranoia, territorial disputes
Over the past 150 years, a great number of cartographic anxieties and hopes have shaped lives and relations in the Pamirs. The Great Game over imperial spheres of influence was followed by Soviet and Chinese anxieties regarding territorial integrity and the loyalty of their borderland populations; since the end of the Cold War, settling the remaining demarcated borders has become a primary concern in Central Asia; meanwhile, mining companies are anxious to claim territories for mineral extraction, and the maps of national parks and nature reserves aim at mitigating ecological anxieties and claim spaces for conservation. The result is a veritable spectacle of maps. Following Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge (2007), this article argues that maps are “ontogenetic” rather than representational—they foster realities on the ground. Map-making projects derived from cartographic anxieties are embedded in particular visions of the future, and thus they can serve as a vantage point from which to explore the changing modes of outside engagement in the Pamirs. Keywords: Pamirs, Tajikistan, history, Moscow provisioning, Tajik National Park, mining, map making, cartographic anxiety