«When I speak of geography I do not mean the materials we all studied at school about land masses and cloud formations and climactic zones and flora and fauna. Nor am I speaking about demographics and national formations and geo-political resources. Instead I am contemplating the possibility of rethinking the relations between subjects and places way from the organising principles of the law; the law of the state that controls privileged inclusions and desperate exclusions, or the cultural law of naturalised and essentialised heritages that assume that a place called France for example , is inhabited by French people who share a language, a historical culture, a shared set of assumptions and attitudes. What if a large part of the population is Francophone by coercion, if its lives out its life in France, in French but also in resistance and in resentment, if its complex allegiances are elsewhere and its presence in France is a legacy of colonial histories and of contemporary economic imperatives. - Could the map of that internally split entity still be called by the overly simple term of ’France’, still be coloured a uniform pink or yellow of whatever colour it is the atlas, a colour that would over-ride all of the contradictory internal differences of which it is made up?
To speak of Geography in relation to issues of cultural difference, is to steer clear of identity politics, to navigate away from the internal coherence of groups with an already established identity ’in common’. In this form of politics known as identity politics the preoccupation is to populate existing models of knowledge with a broader range of subjects. It is to bring difference, whether sexual or cultural, into the existing paradigms and expand their populations. For me, a far more important project is to try and actually think difference; different modes of knowing rather than different subjects within known modes. Geography thus is a way of speaking cultural difference, a way of acknowledging that all difference is always epistemologically embedded and subject to regimes rather than simply subjugated to dominant powers.
It is made manifest in the world through sign systems that include cartography, border marking, landscape stereotypes, national cultures and many others. The intersections between ’geographies’ as articulated through sign systems and arts practices circulating as visual culture who might just have some chance of rewriting these systems, is the heart of the subject I am trying to produce here.
Geography is at one and the same time a concept, a sign system and an order of knowledge established at the centres of power. By introducing questions of critical epistemology, subjectivity and spectatorship into the arena of geography we shift the interrogation from the centres of power and knowledge and naming to the margins, to the site at which new and multi dimensional knowledge and identities are constantly in the process of being formed.»
Quote from Engendering Terror by Irit Rogoff.