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Embers of the Past: Essays in Times of Decolonization
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How do I find a book? Geopolitical naming and mapping are fictions, and fictions have creators. Take the regional name 'Maghreb'.
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If you look for the 'meaning' of Maghreb on the Internet in a standard search — which to my mind expresses the general understanding of the term — you will find the 'reference': If you insist, you will find the etymology of the word, and not the reference: But to the west of what, you may wonder. It may take a while to realize that the Maghreb is located on the side where the sun sets in relation to Mecca and Medina. On the other hand, if you search for the meaning of 'Occident' again in a standard Google search you will find that the term incorporates the countries of the western world, especially Europe and America.
If you search for the etymology, you will find that the term comes from the Latin occidentem: If you continue to search, you will find out: The act of naming and mapping is always an act of identification, and identification at this level requires someone who is in a position to name and map.
Furthermore, effective naming and mapping can only be done from a position of power that overrules local senses of territoriality. But not everyone in the region was happy with such an identification and proceeded to dis-identify from it, making it clear that in this case, naming cartographic regions carries the weight of imperial identification. There is never a direct relation between the name and the map on the one hand, and the people and the region on the other. Geopolitical naming and mapping are fictions in the sense that there is no ontological configuration that corresponds to what is named and mapped.
The act is possible through a control of knowledge; and it requires epistemic privilege that makes naming and mapping believable and acceptable. That naming and mapping territories and peoples creates fictional cartographies does not mean that what is mapped and named already had an ontological existence beyond its mapping and naming, either.
On the contrary, they are grounded in the interests of people, institutions and languages modern European vernacular languages grounded in Greek and Latin who have the privilege of naming and mapping.
So how does this relate to the terms, the 'Global South' and the 'Global North'? Let us consider how these 'regions' are popularly perceived today on the web:. The North-South divide is broadly considered a socio-economic and political divide. Here you have an answer to the general question of this platform: North Africa is indeed located in the 'Global South'. I will now set about problematizing these fictions and mappings by recalling the distribution of the planet and its inhabitants as depicted in many European maps of the seventeenth century.
Let's take one at random: Visscher's world map from What do you see in this map? Many things of course, but for the argument at hand let's concentrate on the four corner cartouches.
Europe is a woman in the upper left corner, elegantly dressed and seated in a locus amenus. In the upper right corner the viewer encounters Asia, also an elegantly dressed lady this time seated on a camel though often in such maps the camel is an elephant instead. Now let's look at the bottom left corner. Finally, in the bottom left corner is America: Here, visual classification follows the visual logic of western alphabetic writing in that words move from left to right and from top to bottom.
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In this map, the most important native is in the upper left corner, where the most important news items in newspapers are today still located. In the upper right corner is the second in relevance. Then, at the bottom, Africa and America exchangeable in other maps in their semi-naked state signal a lack of civilization and a closer relation to the animal kingdom.
After all, the magnetic compass was already in use to determine the four cardinal points of the globe.
But before the magnetic compass was invented, the 'top' was occupied by the place where the sun rises: That is why we say today: And we say it even if we are 'orienting' ourselves with the 'North' as point of reference. The erasing of the Second World has resulted in the increased binary organization of world order and the changing of its axis to the North-South divide.
Similarly, the West-East partition tends to homogenize various local histories into imagined essential sets of characteristics. Drifting of bits and pieces of the Second World in the direction of either the North or the South has become unavoidable for all its former subjects, yet leaves them with an uncertain, almost negative subjectivity.
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This article problematizes the role and function of the ex-Socialist world and its colonial others within the global North-South divide through the concepts of colonial and imperial differences. Tlostanova's argument and the introduction of the word 'Australism' have particular and strong resonance here. It makes us aware that the 'North-South' divide is the displacement and replacement of Orientalism.
In this, 'Australism' is the appropriate term to understand the invention of the 'South' as much as Orientalism was, in its time, a way to understand the invention of the Orient. When it comes to the world's divides, racism should be taken into account, though it should not be conceived as a biological issue as much as an epistemic one. Take Huntington's logic of planetary classification as depicted in the legend from the map above. To better understand my claim, let's take a historical detour and remember the initial question: How do we effectively map the historical and contemporary relationships that exist between North Africa, the Middle East and the 'Global South'?
In fact, soon after Christopher Columbus landed on shores he thought were Indian, Pope Alexander VI partitioned the land and sea as was known until that year and donated them to the Castilian and Portuguese Crown. The new land partition was named 'Indias Occidentales' and the donation was stamped in in a treaty called the Treaty of Tordesillas.
About 35 years after the Treaty of Tordesillas, the monarchs of Spain and Portugal reached another agreement. That was stamped in another treaty, The Treaty of Zaragoza, signed in In this treaty, the two monarchs agreed to divide between them the eastern part of the known globe named 'Indias Orientales'. It was a western Christian invention, pure and simple, which presupposed a centre between two poles: Rome the Papacy , and the two monarchs advancing the Papacy's project to Christianize the world.