Colonial Mapping and Local Knowledge in the Venetian Empire, 1684-1715
Title: Colonial Mapping and Local Knowledge in the Venetian Empire, 1684-1715
Author: STOURAITI, Anastasia
Publisher: European University Institute
Series/Number: EUI MWP; 2008/15
This paper seeks to illuminate the dialogic nature of early modern mapmaking in the context of the larger historiography on colonial cartography and the sociology of geographical knowledge. Taking as a case study the seventeenth-century Venetian conquest of the Peloponnese, it examines two main and interrelated themes: first, the Venetians’ attempt to construct a cartographic panopticon which would justify and facilitate colonial surveillance and control; and second, the ways in which the political and cultural encounter between colonisers and colonised is inscribed in Venetian maps, determining the depth of panoptic mapping. This methodological approach demonstrates that the visualisation of the newly acquired territories was not only a tool of territorial expansion and colonial government, but also the outcome of the dialogue (albeit in unequal terms) between Venetians and local communities. By considering mapping as an ethnographic process of cultural exchange, performance and translation between surveyors and native agents of information, the paper sheds light on maps as the hybrid products of social negotiations and power relations. Furthermore, it complicates center-periphery relationships and revises older assumptions about metropolitan planning in the Venetian colonies as an exclusively top-down imposition which denied the key role of indigenous knowledge. On a more general level, the present analysis aims to reveal the heuristic value of cartography regarding two issues of historiographical importance: the central role of information channels between rulers and subjects and the finite limits of imperial power.
Subject: Colonial cartography; local knowledge; resistance; Venetian Empire; Peloponnese
Type of Access: openAccess