From Afghanistan to Iraq in Media Maps: Journalistic Construction of Geographic Knowledge

Robert R. Churchill, E. Hope Stege

http://dx.doi.org/10.14714/CP54.346

Abstract


The last two decades have seen a marked rise in the number of maps in the popular media, yet academic interest in journalistic cartography remains low, though the bulk of the public relies on the media for its geographic knowledge. Because they invoke a sense of belonging, identity, and allegiance, the number of media maps, like flags and other patriotic icons, increases during conflict. From the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan until the proclamation of victory in Iraq almost two years later, three major American news magazines published nearly 200 related maps. Early maps of Afghanistan affirmed U.S. military prowess and promised quick retribution, but with the failure of this promise, pointed to obstacles from terrain to climate. As interest in Afghanistan cooled and rhetoric over Iraq heated up, cartographic attention shifted accordingly. Initial maps of Iraq were provocative, focusing especially on the state’s supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction. Maps again depicted American military might, and as the invasion progressed seemingly unimpeded, Baghdad came into cartographic focus. In these compositions the melding of artwork, remotely sensed images, and photography lends even greater veracity to the maps themselves, which not only convey but also construct both political and geographic knowledge.

Keywords


media maps; journalistic cartography; political cartography; war on terrorism

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