“Without geography you’re nowhere.”
--Jimmy Buffet (1946--) I’m not sure if he was the first to coin the phrase, but the statement has recently been attributed to legendary singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffet. I want to know: If changes in latitudes in fact yield changes in attitudes, as his album title implies, where exactly on the map is Margaritaville?!
“War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.”
--Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914), American writer.
“A little instruction in cartography—a little practice in the use of
the compass and the spirit level, a topographical map of the town common, an
excursion with a road map—would have given me a fat round earth in place of my
--Mary Antin (1881-1949),
“Just as none of us is outside or beyond geography, none of us is completely
free from the struggle over geography. That struggle is complex and interesting
because it is not only about soldiers and cannons but also about ideas, about
forms, about images and imaginings.”
--Edward Said (1935-2003), Palestinian-American philosopher, famous for his writings on Postcolonialism and Orientalism.
I dig this quote because there’s so much to unpack, so many rich geographic concepts! Many tend to think of geography as static, but Said reveals the dynamism of both physical and human geographies. Political borders—which exist in “real space,” and are often guided by physical features like rivers and mountain ranges, but are ultimately human constructs—change and are frequently contested. As such, battles over these physical borders are not just conflicts over land, but clashes of culture over ideas and values. Some of this distinction between physical/political and cultural borders is embodied in the concept of states vs. nations.
“It is not down on any map. True places never are.”
--Herman Melville (1819-1891), American author, in his masterpiece Moby-Dick.
I’ll leave it to our readers to take a stab at interpreting this last quote. What do you think Moby-Dick’s narrator meant, and how is it relevant to geography today?
(*This might be the answer to the question I posed to Jimmy Buffet earlier!)
Sarah Jane for My Wonderful World
Photo of Jimmy Buffet courtesy Orbitcast.com