Geographers as International Assassins

The saga about the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, United Kingdom, continues six months later.  Last week, the British government announced the identities of two Russian citizens, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, as prime suspects in this case and members of the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.  The Russian government replied that the two gentlemen were civilians and tourists visiting London and Salisbury for a brief

Sense of Place in a Space of Conflict: Israel (Part 3)

Cultural Interaction and Landscape The complexity of cultural interaction within Israel’s borders illustrates difficult relationships between and within groups. The most publicized relationship is that between the Israelis and Palestinians, yet that is just one of many layers. Reality dictates that, despite animosities, people cannot avoid interacting within a living area confined by national boundaries. Economic conditions make it impossible for people to remain in a spatial vacuum—although, depending on location, that can vary in terms of intensity and magnitude—and the landscape records

Sense of Place in a Space of Conflict: Israel (Part 2)

Communities and the inside borders Israel is a young country situated on an ancient land and populated by diverse groups of people. Each of the groups holds onto its own traditional cultural traits. In order to properly function as a state and to minimize conflicts within and among the groups, Israel continuously seeks to find a fine balance between preservation of traditional and integration of modern cultural traits within the society. This continuous challenge rarely receives serious attention in international

Sense of Place in a Space of Conflict: Israel (Part 1)

Learning from a distance about areas experiencing conflict provides only a partial understanding of the actual conditions. The rest comes from visiting these places; it is an old-fashioned way of going out there, seeing the land and interacting with people. In so doing, professionals and laymen alike acquire a form of knowledge that satellite imagery, textbooks, and scholarly articles cannot deliver: a personal experience based on our sensory perceptions. In the case of Israel this is unavoidable. Together with contested

“Fixing” Intel (Or Manipulation with Maps)

When military, civilian, and business intelligence organizations rely on maps as an encyclopedic collection of facts (for inductive reasoning), instead using them as a medium that assists us to conceptually grasp the processes occurring within spatial systems (for deductive reasoning), they can be exposed to intentional or accidental manipulation. After I heard the news about the revolt of military analysts at the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM)—because they claimed that their reports have been altered by higher ups to fit

Making Maps and (Not) Understanding Geography: Implications

There is a big difference between making maps and having an ability to understand cultural geographical systems, which maps depict, and articulate that information to a customer. Unfortunately, the current trend in business, government, and society overall is a notion that no difference exists between map making and geographical analysis; that is, a widely held belief that a map maker and a geographer are basically one and the same and do identical work. “They may know where things are, but

Maps and Misalignment of Political and People-Perceived Boundaries (Part 3)

AFGHANISTAN Within Afghanistan ethnicities are not geographically grouped together as a result of their voluntary decisions, or desire for brotherhood and unity.  They are together under one national umbrella because someone else has imposed it on them. The Power of State Forcing internal stability by playing ethnic cards causes conflicts.  Afghanistan’s history is filled with such attempts.  For example, in the 1880s, King Abdur Rahman Khan (r.1880-1901), a Pashtun, sent thousands of southern Pashtuns to settle in the north to

Maps and Misalignment of Political and Vernacular Boundaries (Part 2)

“Historical claims—and, in the context of central and eastern Europe, this means claims based upon medieval and feudal pretensions—have no relevance to the twentieth century.  It is one of the great tragedies of Europe that peoples of central and eastern Europe, with long historical memories and little historical sense, cling so obstinately to these illusions of vanished grandeur.” Pounds, Norman J.G. Poland Between East and West. D. Van Nostrand, Inc. Princeton, NJ, 1964. Ukrainians and Russians   At the beginning of

Maps and Misalignment of Political and Vernacular Boundaries (Part 1)

A recent article in Washington Post  described the border issues between India and Bangladesh, existing since the Partition of India in 1947, as finally resolved through bilateral negotiations. For decades many enclaves of both countries remained within other enclaves, which, in turn, remained within other enclaves, and so on. Below are the graphics from the article. The above example shows India’s territory within Bangladesh, which is an enclave within India’s territory that itself is an enclave within Bangladesh, and all

Google Maps and Nagorno-Karabakh Republic: Mistakes Were Made

In 2014, while working on a Caucasus-related project at the US Marine Corps’ CAOCL, I opened the latest version of Google Maps that became public a week or so earlier.  To my surprise this version, unlike the previous version, had an interesting geopolitical feature—Nagorno-Karabakh Republic—with boundaries outlined and place names written in Armenian language. Not a single UN-member nation has yet recognized this entity, even Armenia, thus seeing it appear on Google Maps was a bit puzzling.  I commented about it