Review: The #Red_Atlas, by John Davies and Alexander J. Kent | THE Books
n the early 1980s, at the height of the Cold War, the eminent cartographer J. B. Harley transformed the study of maps in a series of brilliant articles deconstructing the presumptions that cartography was a scientific, objective study of physical space. Having read his Derrida, Foucault and Barthes, Harley argued that all maps were shaped by prevailing social, political and ideological factors and represented the world according to the vested interests of those who made or paid for them.
Most scholars assumed that Harley’s innovation came from reading post-structuralist critical theory, but John Davies and Alexander Kent’s brilliant Red Atlas, on the extraordinary Soviet project to map the world from the 1940s until the empire’s collapse in 1989, suggests that Harley and his disciples were also responding to how state power during this particular confrontational period appropriated cartography to further its political ideology.