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GeoCurrents Changes and Fall Schedule

By Martin W. Lewis | September 15, 2014 |

Dear Readers,
GeoCurrents will resume its regular publication schedule this week. Several changes have been made on the website. Most important, advertising is being eliminated, as GeoCurrents is transitioning into a non-revenue-generating mode. This change is primarily being made so that the website can be integrated into my teaching schedule, allowing me to avoid any potential conflicts of interest. For the …

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GeoCurrents Editorial: The Genocide of the Yezidis Begins, and the United States is Complicit

By Martin W. Lewis | August 7, 2014 |

(Note: GeoCurrents is still technically on summer vacation, allowing me time to catch up with other obligations that I have neglected. My recent essays on eco-modernism, written for the Breakthrough Institute, can be found here and here. I am interrupting this GeoCurrents hiatus, however, to address a highly disturbing and significant development. This post also violates the GeoCurrents policy on …

The Californian Insular Myth: Follow the Blue Seashells (Adapted from the work of Annick Foucrier)

By Martin W. Lewis | June 21, 2014 | One Comment

(Note:  GeoCurrrents is concerned with all things connected to mapping, including the history of cartography. One particularly interesting and rather mysterious feature of world mapping in the early modern period was the persistent depiction of California as an island. This portrayal is so distinctive is that it has captured the attention of many historians, geographers, and map aficionados. In 2012, …

GeoCurrents Summer Vacation

By Martin W. Lewis | June 10, 2014 | 3 Comments

Dear Readers,
I am sorry to say that GeoCurrents will be taking its annual summer vacation for the next five or six weeks. During this time, several guest posts may be run, but I will not be contributing any posts myself. For the next two weeks, my attention will be focused on grading papers and examinations and on finishing the book manuscript …

Does the Boko Haram Insurgency Stem from Environmental Degradation and Climate Change?

By Martin W. Lewis | June 5, 2014 | 4 Comments

Several attempts to explain the extreme violence of Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria focus on resource scarcity, overpopulation, environmental degradation, and especially climate change. A recent article in The Guardian, for example, claims that:
Instability in Nigeria … has been growing steadily over the last decade — and one reason is climate change. In 2009, a UK Department for International Development …

Is Poverty the Root Cause of Boko Haram Violence?

By Martin W. Lewis | June 2, 2014 | 13 Comments

The notion that poverty is the main cause of terrorism and insurgency is one of the most contentious ideas in global security studies. Those on the left tend to emphasize the connection between violence and the lack of development, while those on the right tend to deny or at least minimize it.
In recent weeks, this debate has turned to the …

Religion, Caste, and Electoral Geography in the Indian State of Kerala

By Martin W. Lewis | May 29, 2014 |

As mentioned in a previous GeoCurrents post, India’s southwestern state of Kerala, noted for its high levels of social development, exhibited markedly different patterns in the 2014 election from most other parts of the country. In Kerala, parties on the far left did quite well, as did the center-left Indian National Congress, whereas the center-right BJP performed quite poorly, as …

How Big Is the Saudi Economy? Does the World Bank Know?

By Martin W. Lewis | May 26, 2014 | 2 Comments

Country-level economic data are essential yet often highly uncertain. In April 2014, for example, the official size of Nigeria’s economy increased 89 percent overnight due to a “rebasing” of economic calculations. According to the International Business Times, “Most countries go through this [rebasing] process every five years or so, but Nigeria hasn’t done it since 1990, years before developments like …

The 2014 Indian Election in Kerala and Bihar

By Martin W. Lewis | May 23, 2014 |

On the 2014 electoral map of India, two states stand out due to their division among many competing parties: Bihar in lower Ganges Valley and Kerala in the southwest. Intriguingly, these states represent the extremes of Indian social development. Bihar has long been noted as the poorest, least educated and most corrupt state in India, although it has made considerable—and …

A New Political Bifurcation of India?

By Martin W. Lewis | May 21, 2014 | 7 Comments

As mentioned in the previous GeoCurrents post, the 2014 Indian election reveals a intriguing division across the country, one separating the greater southeast, where regional parties generally prevailed, from the rest of the country, where the BJP generally triumphed. There are, of course, a number of exceptions to this pattern, such as Punjab and much of the far northeast. It …

Regional Patterns in India’s 2014 General Election

By Martin W. Lewis | May 19, 2014 | 6 Comments

The overriding story of India’s 2014 general election is of course the massive triumph of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its leader Narendra Modi, along with the corresponding defeat of the Indian National Congress (INC). The BJP gained 166 seats in the Lok Sabha (Indian parliament) for a total of 282, while the INC lost 162 for a total …

Dark Areas on the Earth at Night Map

By Martin W. Lewis | May 17, 2014 | 8 Comments

As is well known, North Korea is a dark land when viewed from space at night, quite in contrast to well-illuminated South Korea. In the Google EarthBuilder detail posted here, the discrepancy between the two countries is extreme. In the North, Pyongyang is the only sizable bright spot, and it is dwarfed by many regional South Korean, Chinese, and Japanese …

Industry, Insurgency, and Illumination in India

By Martin W. Lewis | May 14, 2014 | 7 Comments

The “nightlight” map of Burma posted in the previous GeoCurrents article reveals an interesting contrast with northeastern India. Although India’s far northeastern region is generally considered one of the least developed and most insurgency beset parts of the country, it is well illuminated when contrasted with neighboring Burma. To highlight this contrast, I have taken a detail from Google’s Earthbuilder …

Mapping Nighttime Light and Economic Development in Burma

By Martin W. Lewis | May 12, 2014 | 2 Comments

After posting the excellent Wikipedia map of per capita GDP in Thailand in the previous GeoCurrents article, I decided to look for similar information on Burma (Myanmar). I was not surprised to discover that such information is lacking, as the Burmese government publishes little economic data. I did, however, come across a 2012 article from The Economist that highlights a …

Thailand’s Political Crisis and the Economic Rise of its Eastern Seaboard

By Martin W. Lewis | May 8, 2014 |

News that a Thai court had just ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra came to my attention yesterday just as was beginning to prepare a lecture on the politics, culture, and economy of Thailand. I immediately began to assemble a series of maps showing the geographical contours of Shinawatra’s powerbase. According to the conventional story, the populist (former) prime minister, like …

Wikipedia, the Difficulties of Mapping World Religions, and a Most Bizarre Map

By Martin W. Lewis | May 6, 2014 | 29 Comments

In teaching the global geography of religion this term, I have again been disappointed by the quality of relevant maps that are readily available on-line. Making a map of this sort is admittedly a challenge. Many areas contain multiple faiths, and a few religions—Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, Shinto—even allow their own adherents to follow other religions simultaneously. Degrees of religiosity and …