A Spectacle of Maps: Cartographic Hopes and Anxieties in the Pamirs

Martin Saxer, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
Soviet border fence along the Pamir Highway, 2015. Photo: Carolin Maertens.
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Abstract

Over the past 150 years, a great number of cartographic anxieties and hopes have shaped lives and relations in the Pamirs. The Great Game over imperial spheres of influence was followed by Soviet and Chinese anxieties regarding territorial integrity and the loyalty of their borderland populations; since the end of the Cold War, settling the remaining demarcated borders has become a primary concern in Central Asia; meanwhile, mining companies are anxious to claim territories for mineral extraction, and the maps of national parks and nature reserves aim at mitigating ecological anxieties and claim spaces for conservation. The result is a veritable spectacle of maps. Following Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge (2007), this article argues that maps are “ontogenetic” rather than representational—they foster realities on the ground. Map-making projects derived from cartographic anxieties are embedded in particular visions of the future, and thus they can serve as a vantage point from which to explore the changing modes of outside engagement in the Pamirs.

Keywords: Pamirs, Tajikistan, history, Moscow provisioning, Tajik National Park, mining, map making, cartographic anxiety