Synopses & Reviews
In Cartographic Mexico
, Raymond B. Craib analyzes the powerful role cartographic routines such as exploration, surveying, and mapmaking played in the creation of the modern Mexican state in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Such routines were part of a federal obsessionandmdash;or andldquo;state fixationandrdquo;andmdash;with determining and andldquo;fixingandrdquo; geographic points, lines, and names in order to facilitate economic development and political administration. As well as analyzing the maps that resulted from such routines, Craib examines in close detail the processes that eventually generated them. Taking central Veracruz as a case in point, he shows how in the field, agrarian officials, military surveyors, and metropolitan geographers traversed a andldquo;fugitive landscapeandrdquo; of overlapping jurisdictions and use rights, ambiguous borders, shifting place names, and villagers with their own conceptions of history and territory. Drawing on an array of sourcesandmdash;including maps, letters from peasants, official reports, and surveyorsandrsquo; journals and correspondenceandmdash;Craib follows the everyday, contested processes through which officials attempted to redefine and codify such fugitive landscapes in struggle with the villagers they encountered in the field. In the process, he vividly demonstrates how surveying and mapmaking were never mere technical procedures: they were, and remain to this day, profoundly social and political practices in which surveyors, landowners, agrarian bureaucrats, and peasants all played powerful and complex roles.
andldquo;Cartographic Mexico is a path-breaking work of deep scholarship and great theoretical sophistication in which Raymond B. Craib tells two intertwined stories. He relates the sweeping history of the Mexican stateandrsquo;s drive during the century following the Reforma to represent the national territory by mapping it scientifically, transforming local places into a national space, thus inventing Mexico on paper while making it both legible and susceptible to commodification. He also traces in great detail how this process worked itself out in the state of Veracruz, where officials, government surveyors, landowners, and peasant villagers continually confronted each other, sometimes violently, in a struggle to determine whether notions of place or space would ultimately prevail.andrdquo;andmdash;Eric Van Young, author of The Other Rebellion: Popular Violence, Ideology, and the Mexican Struggle for Independence, 1810-1821
andldquo;Cartographic Mexico is an outstanding book. Raymond B. Craib addresses such important issues as spatial rationalization and its implementation in the modern state and the impact of modern technologies on the making of modernity. The empirical data and the uses of primary sources are excellent, and the arguments are theoretically sophisticated. Above all, it is an enjoyable read.andrdquo;andmdash;Thongchai Winichakul, author of Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation
Analyzes spatial history of 19th and early 20th century Mexico, particularly political uses of mapping and surveying, to demonstrate multiple ways that space can be negotiated in the service of local or national agendas.
About the Author
Raymond B. Craib is Assistant Professor of History at Cornell University.