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Robert Batchelor, Georgia Southern University

Mon May 16th 2016, 4:30pm
Event Sponsor
Co-sponsored with History Department and CEAS
History Room 307

The Trouble with World Orders - Maps and Enlightenment in the Early Modern Pacific

Abstract: Recent political discourse has seen a return to ideas about "world order" and "worlding" as modes of historical understanding. In terms of East Asia and the Pacific, this approach is often associated with John Fairbank and the landmark volume of essays The Chinese World Order (1968). Maps have often been used as evidence of such worlding—as in James Ackerman’s concept of the imperial map—both as tools for defining a world picture and for helping to advance the frontiers of empires and civilizations. But in the seventeenth and eighteenth century Pacific basin, certain maps were also tools for thinking about the nature of exchange and entropy, highlighting conceptual lacuna rather than putting forward coherent wholes. Using primarily eighteenth-century examples from China, the Philippines and Japan, a comparative argument is put forward that a different kind of mapping emerged in early modern East Asia related to broader patterns of change in the Pacific. While drawing upon older traditions of trade routes and tributary exchange relations between islands depicted on Song and Ming Dynasty maps, these new maps largely focused on how exchange took place and the uncertainties involved. They were often objects of exchange themselves and staged in their creation new kinds of cross-cultural and cross-linguistic relationships. In this way, the maps in question indicated the limitations of world order strategies simultaneously pursued at the imperial centers of the Qing, Tokugawa and Bourbon Spain and the blindness these centralizing strategies produced in regard to processes of change.

Author Bio: Robert Batchelor is the author of London: The Selden Map and the Making of a Global City, 1549-1689 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014) and rediscovered the Bodleian Library's Selden Map. He is currently working on two interrelated digital humanities projects—the game Fujian Trader and the Selden Map Atlas—as well as a book entitled Pacific Light about the Enlightenment in the Pacific.