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Understanding and Negotiating “Worlds” through Maps

This course will be led by Stefanie Ohnesorg, associate professor of modern foreign languages. Class will be held Tuesdays from 2:10 – 3:00.

Course description:

When looking at a globe or a map we may catch ourselves explaining things like “This IS America, this IS China, this IS the Tennessee Valley…“ while pointing at the depictions in front of us. Statements like this suggest that the boundaries between the representation and what is being represented seem to get blurred in the act of reading the map. As we identify places on a map, the images in front of us invoke associations that make us – as the slippage in language suggests – at least momentarily forget or ignore that the map and what is being represented are not the same.
In this course, we take a closer look at what a map ‘is’ (and what it is ‘not’). While doing so, we will develop a framework that will enable students to understand maps as cultural constructs that need to be ‘read’ by not only focusing on what is being depicted but by also paying attention to the layers of meaning that become apparent by realizing what is omitted and/or (literally or symbolically) moved to the margins. Students will work with maps from different cultural contexts to understand that the features we will look at are not unique to any particular culture.