The shape of the nation: visual production of nationalism through maps in Turkey
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Nationalism, as a political discourse requiring a fundamental connection to a particular territory has constantly referred to maps as evidence of the eternal existence of the respective nation. In the case of modern Turkey, the national map has been a symptomatic signifier of a constant anxiety of territorial loss. Built around such anxiety, Turkish nationalism has been sensitive towards the borders defining national territory. This article analyzes the use of national maps as instruments for the cultural production of nationalism in Turkey throughout the last three decades. In the process, it is intended to differentiate between official maps produced under state authority and popular maps circulated in mass media. Throughout the 1980s, national maps included in school textbooks presented a country surrounded by hostile neighbors on all sides, in tune with the political climate of the Cold War. A crucial aspect of these official maps was the cartographic awareness they generated which, in the following decade, would become operational in the widespread use of the map as a nationalist sign. With the emergence of the Kurdish question in the 1990s, the national map became a key instrument in promoting nationalist sentiments with the invention of the flag-map logo as a favorite symbol. After the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Kurdish issue was projected on to Northern Iraq, and a new mode of cartographic representation was invented. "Appropriated maps" produced through the digital retouching of random maps found on the Internet visualized irredentist desires enlarging the country's territory especially into Northern Iraq and invoking the Ottoman past. These maps, which consciously distorted geographical information, turned to historical references to sustain their cartographic validity. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.