I had not planned to write a post this week, but I feel that I need to highlight something very central to the way I approached these readings that I could not organically insert in a comment, and also share this important video.
As someone interested in nationalism and how national identity is created, I am forever investigating the idea of a “national government” or “nation state”, how borders are drawn, by whom, and how they define and change the group(s) contained within or those excluded. The questions I continued to ask as I was reading Mapping the Caribbean were: Whose sovereignty? What do we mean by sovereignty here?
The project “seeks to foreground the analytical importance and predominance of nonindependent societies while also rethinking how sovereignty itself can be imagined, conceptualized, theorized, and visualized beyond the constraints of Western cartography”, but it only directly addresses sovereignty in the end, as part of the challenges of this process. This is not by accident. The authors’ aim is to represent sovereignty as a “historically contingent claim” and not as an ontological value, but this is not really possible to present on a map that must rely on independence as a “solid and equivalent state.”
One of the most satisfying moments in the piece was reading that “In her previous research about Guadeloupe, Yarimar found that local activists viewed the search for sovereignty not as the attainment of nation-state status but as the ability to exert control over elements that impacted daily life…”This reminded me of conversations had in this course about the open and experimental nature of DH projects, and how much is learned from failure during experimentation. This bit of information speaks to the historic and cultural nature of sovereignty, that challenges the frame of the nation state, in a way that the outcome of the project (the map) cannot (for now).
The map is a tremendous tool, and it helped me acquire a general understanding of the political timeline of a region I know very little about, but also to realize the potential that this and similar projects hold in challenging and enriching a conversation about nationalism and national identity.