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The Bizarre World of Thomas L. Friedman

FriedmanMapThe February 26th print edition of the New York Times featured an intriguing opinion piece by columnist Thomas L. Friedman entitled “Don’t Just Do Something. Sit There.” Here Friedman invokes a scheme of global geopolitical division that he evidently developed with his former co-author Michael Mandelbaum, a professor of foreign policy at Johns Hopkins. This three-fold scheme, designed to replace the Cold War vision, is based primarily on the attitudes of ruling elites. Quoting Mandelbaum, Friedman maintains that, “The biggest geopolitical divide in the world today ‘is between… – Read More

State-Level Secession Movements in the United States: Northern Colorado and Jefferson

State of Northern Colorado MapThe intense political polarization of the United States is most clearly reflected by the dysfunctional nature of the federal government. At a more local scale, it is seen as well in the growing movement to create new states by splitting existing ones. Most of these cases involve the desire of people in rural, conservative counties to secede from the more liberal states in which they are currently located. A front-page story in the October 7 edition of the New York Times, for example, highlights a drive… – Read More

Explaining the Rapid Rise of the Xenophobic Right in Contemporary Europe

Copyright James Mayfield

The last three decades have witnessed a remarkable rise in xenophobic, deeply conservative, and even extreme right-wing parties across much of Europe. Whereas thirty years ago most xenophobic parties failed to even pass the 5% minimum voter threshold that is typically required to enter government, they now constitute as much as ~28% of the parliament in countries like Austria, and arguably have reached the ~70% level in Hungary. Hoping to understand these surprising changes in the European political climate, this post will briefly analyze the characteristics of the xenophobic right as of 2013, underscore the diversity of xenophobic parties, and try to explain some of the patterns encountered when the far-right takes hold, as well as their exceptions. – Read More

Regional and Ethnic Patterns in the 2013 Iranian Presidential Election

Iran 2013 Election MapThe recent Iranian presidential election revealed some interesting geographical patterns. The election itself seems to have been reasonably free, although it was undermined by the previous disqualification of reformist candidates. Hassan Rouhani, widely viewed as the most moderate and pragmatic of the six candidates, won election handily. As can be seen in the Wikipedia map posted here, Rouhani took a majority or plurality of votes in all but three provinces, all located in the southwest. Elsewhere in the country, he triumphed in all but a handful… – Read More

India’s Plummeting Birthrate: A Television-Induced Transformation?

(Note: As can be seen, GeoCurrents has a new, more streamlined appearance. The “GeoNotes” feature has been replaced by section that highlights “featured posts,” as we found it increasingly difficult to differentiate regular posts from “notes.” We also hope that the new format will make it easier for readers to access older posts.

To initiate the new format, today’s post is longer and more map-intensive than most. It also deviates from the norm in another important aspect. In general, GeoCurrents avoids making policy recommendations: this post, however, breaks the rule.)

 

New Maps of India—and of the Indian Economy

States of India MapNew political maps of India are now needed, as the state of Orissa has officially changed the English spelling of its name to “Odisha.” The new name, however, does not imply a change in pronunciation. As the Wikipedia notes, “… the name Orissa is closer to the actual Oriya pronunciation of the name, whereas Odisha is an intentionally archaising transcription.”

Although the change became official in November 2011, few maps of India show the now-official spelling. I have therefore made a new map of Indian states… – Read More

Mappery and the Problems with “True” and “Real” Maps

"Real" Map of PakistanThe useful website Mappery “was created for map enthusiasts to find, explore, and discuss great maps. Anyone can contribute maps, comments, and ratings to the site.” The site contains numerous maps, and is certainly worth exploring. Thankfully, users seldom exploit the site for propagandistic purposes. Mappery does contain, however, a few problematic political maps, such as the “Real Map of South Asia” posted here. This map not only appends all of Kashmir to Pakistan, a common and understandable maneuver, but also includes other parts of India in… – Read More

The New York Times’ Flubbed China Cartograms

NY Times China Population CartogramAn interesting story in today’s (April 9) New York Times—“Hello, Cambodia: Wary of Events in China, Foreign Investors Head to the South”—is illustrated in the print edition with two striking cartograms of eastern Asia, one of which shows population and the other economic output. The cartogram legends claims that “countries and Chinese provinces are sized according to population” and, respectively to “economic output.” Actually, they are not. On the population cartogram, for example, compare the sizes of Hong Kong and Taiwan with that of Thailand. Is Thailand… – Read More

Mapping the Cell Phone Revolution

Mobile Telephone Subscriptions World MapIt is often noted that inexpensive cellular telephones have revolutionized communications across much of the world, especially in poor countries that lack landlines. Confirmation of this development is found in the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, which features detailed data tables for 140 countries. According to the report, 80 countries have more mobile telephone subscriptions than people. The United States, Canada, and France are not among them. Over most of the world, levels of economic development correlate poorly with cell phone subscription… – Read More

Ideological Agendas and Indo-European Origins: Master Race, Bloodthirsty Kurgans, or Proto-Hippies?

This final contribution to the Indo-European series turns once again to the potential ideological agendas lurking behind theories of IE origin and expansion. As was noted previously, no other issue in human prehistory has been so ideologically fraught; the original IE speakers have been recruited to serve a variety of fantasies, ranging in temper from naively benign to unimaginably vile. For Nazis and their ilk, the original Indo-Europeans constituted the Aryan super-race whose descendants were destined to rule the world. Followers of a certain feminist school of prehistory, in turn, have turned the “Aryan thesis” on its head, portraying the same… – Read More

Mapping Your World Travels – Personalized World Traveler Map Giveaway

GeoCurrents is giving away one of these beautiful traveler’s maps, framed in mahogany and personalized with a brass plaque. They are made by MapYourTravels.com.

Travel is unquestionably one of the best ways to learn geography. Over my 25 years of college teaching, I have no doubt surprised many of my students—and distressed more than a few of their parents—by advising them to travel around the world, or at least to wander aimlessly for a spell in some distant destination, before heading off to… – Read More

Where Is the Caucasus?

Geopolitical Map of the Caucasus

Geopolitical Map of the Caucasus For the next two weeks or so, GeoCurrents will examine the Caucasus. This unusually long focus on a particular place derives from several reasons. The Caucasus is one of the most culturally complex and linguistically diverse parts of the world, noted as well for its geopolitical intricacy and intractable conflicts. The region contains three internationally recognized sovereign states (Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan), three mostly unrecognized self-declared states (Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh), and seven internal Russian republics (Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia-Alania, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachai-Cherkessia, and… – Read More

Afterword to Terranova: The Black Petaltail; Imagining an Alternative World

Terranova The Black Petaltail by Martin Lewis

(Note: Regular GeoCurrents posts will begin again on Wednesday, January 11.)

Terranova The Black Petaltail by Martin W LewisNote:  The full text of my science fiction novel Terranova: The Black Petaltail can now be downloaded here, and will remain freely available on this website. This long post is designed as an afterword to the novel, explaining the manner in which I have constructed an alternative world and crafted a story based both on that planet and on our own future world.)… – Read More

Speculative Fiction, Imagined Geographies, and Social Alternatives

Map of the Imagined Planet Terranova, by M.W. Lewis

People are drawn to history and geography for various reasons. For myself, the major appeals have always been variety and complexity. I find variations in physical environments, social organizations, and belief systems intrinsically interesting. Obscure cultures, places, and times have particular appeal, as they help break the spell of the commonplace. It is all too easy to assume that one’s own cultural milieu is natural, with others deviating from the norm. By the same token, it is… – Read More

The Elaborate and Curious Geographies of Frank Herbert and J. R. R. Tolkien

Bird's Map of Middle-earth Transposed on Europe According to most sources, the best-selling science fiction novel of all time is Frank Herbert’s Dune. When it comes to fantasy literature, nothing compares with J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Both works build intricate worlds, giving obsessive attention to detail. Such elaboration proves compelling to many readers, providing what seem to be fully realized alternatives to Earth. Yet in terms of their basic geography, Herbert’s Arrakis and Tolkien’s Middle-earth fail to cohere as real worlds.

Arrakis of Dune