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From pictorial maps to modern surveying and cartography: Colonial rivalry and border demarcation in Southwest China (1880s-1960)

Eric Vanden Bussche, PhD candidate in Modern Chinese History, Stanford University

The rugged uplands of southwestern China were one of the last zones in the world where borders were nailed down. This talk will examine the role that cartographic knowledge played in China’s attempts to demarcate its boundary with Burma, a contested process that unfolded from the late nineteenth century until 1960. Drawing on recently declassified Chinese maps, I show that the demarcation of the Sino-Burmese border coincided with the popularization of western cartographic practices in East Asia, prompting a gradual shift from pictorial maps to modern surveying and cartography. How did this cartographic transition affect the border demarcation efforts? In what ways did the Chinese understand and employ Western cartographic discourses and techniques to advance their territorial claims? By examining these issues, this talk also plans to engage in cross-regional comparative approaches to surveying and cartography. While Western nations considered cartographic endeavors as an indispensable tool in forging spatial constructions of the territories they ruled, I argue that the Chinese viewed the function of maps in modern nation building and colonial expansion through a different lens during this period.  

Monday, November 18, 2013 | 4:15 pm — 5:30 pm
History Department (Building 200), Room 307

Department of History