Recent Focused Series »

Indo-European Origins
Siberia
Northern California
The Caucasus
Imaginary Geography
Home » GeoNotes, World

“The American World” Farcical Maps

Submitted by on February 9, 2012 – 2:39 am 8 Comments |  
“The American World” belongs to a genre of maps that make fun of the geographical ignorance and prejudices of people from different countries. These maps are usually made by Internet users and crop up on blogs, forums, and social networking websites. They often have titles like “The World According to India,” or “The World According to Americans.” While some of the prejudices in “The World According to Americans” maps may be familiar to a mainstream U.S. audience, those found in maps that claim to represent the perspectives of other peoples can offer some surprising insights about how others see the world.

On the first map, note that the distorted landmasses are very roughly divided into world regions. According to the creator, Americans tend to see Europe as cultivated and soft, South Asia and East Asia as mostly industrial, Canada as woodsy and provincial, Southwest Asia as oil rich and war-torn, and Africa (which has black and white stripes reminiscent of those of zebras) as lacking any interest. Australia’s labeling as “Big Island (Hawaii ?)” is probably a jab at Americans’ general geographical ignorance. Most unusual is the red strip labeled “Don’t go here.” Could it be North Korea? If so, it is far too south.

“The World According to Americans” map has many similarities with “The American World.” As on the previous map, the American flag is superimposed on the United States and is coupled with a noisily patriotic exclamation, “AMERICA!!!1 WE’RE #1!!!!!” Also similar is the disparaging tag placed on Europe, the reference to Asia as an industrial zone, the view of Southwest Asia as violent and war-torn, and the labeling of Canada as “uninhabited.” Africa, which is floating free of Eurasia, is insultingly depicted as a land of “zoo animals.” Besides the anachronistic labeling of the former lands of the Soviet Union as “communists,” the circular blob representing Southeast Asia is oddly labeled “more evil doers”. While the cartographer may be referring to Muslim fundamentalist organizations such as Jemaah Islamiyya in Indonesia, it is unlikely that the average America—whose view this map supposedly represents— would have any knowledge of such groups.

Previous Post
«
Next Post
»

Subscribe For Updates

It would be a pleasure to have you back on GeoCurrents in the future. You can sign up for email updates or follow our RSS Feed, Facebook, or Twitter for notifications of each new post:
        

Commenting Guidelines: GeoCurrents is a forum for the respectful exchange of ideas, and loaded political commentary can detract from that. We ask that you as a reader keep this in mind when sharing your thoughts in the comments below.

  • http://profiles.google.com/johnwcowan John Cowan

    These remind me of the famous Saul Steinberg maps of how places to the north, south, east, and west of Manhattan look to Manhattanites.  The westward-facing one at 
    http://strangemaps.files.wordpress.com/2007/02/newyorker2.JPG is the best-known, as it was a New Yorker cover.  As a Manhattanite myself, I have all four hanging on the appropriate walls of my bedroom.

    There’s a Beijing-centric version by another artist at http://media.economist.com/images/20090321/1209LD1.jpg.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thanks for adding two lovely maps to our collection of “the world according to” representations. We might do more of those in the future!

  • Zgroza

    It’s Vietnam, were they lost!

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Good point, thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-T-Wilson/682045086 James T. Wilson

    These always remind me of the caricature maps of Europe that one finds from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Of course, in those the aim rarely seems to have been illustrating the rapaciousness and stupidity of, say, the Prussians or English alone, as in these new maps.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      This map is awesome, thank you, James!

  • Gerson

    Because of these type of ignorant things all world hate Americans.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Sadly, other groups besides Americans have stereotypical and often xenophobic views of others—does it justify everybody hating everybody else? So I think that the alleged ignorance of Americans is merely an excuse for the ill-feeling whose true reasons are quite different…