Thesis ID: CBB333355941

Mapping the Steppe: The Politics of Cartography in Qing Mongolia, 1780-1911 (2021)


This dissertation offers a history of the production of Qing Khalkha Mongolian local maps from the mid to the late Qing period. Drawing on previously unknown local maps of Mongol banners and new archival records documenting the politics of mapmaking, this research shows how locally produced maps simultaneously constituted instruments of power and expressions of resistance that reveal facets of how state power was negotiated at the local level. This sheds new lights on the position of Mongolia within the Qing state while rethinking the distribution of power between the metropole and steppe localities. By bringing to the fore the role of banner-level Mongol officials who not only drew the maps, but also contributed to design a system of geographical correspondence that diverged from latitude and longitude, this project contributes to the field of comparative cartography in the early modern world while also linking the politics of the steppe to its environmental components. At least on four separate occasions, Qing rulers commissioned the production of maps of each Mongol banner and leagues according to changing norms that were not only dictated by the imperial centers, but also negotiated at the local level to adapt to the geographical reality of the Mongol steppe. Although their aesthetics drastically changed over time, Mongol maps were consistently used as instruments of state power to align the local administrative geography of Mongolia with the state’s prescriptive view on local banners. The succession of mapping projects that spanned from 1780 to 1911, while resulting in the erasure of some local perspectives, never fully obscured local practices, traces of resistance, and contestation of state policies.

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Authors & Contributors
Akerman, James R.
Bello, David A.
Bucchi, Massimiano
Caiozzo, Anna
Cams, Mario
Ciancio, Luca
Cartographica Helvetica
East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine
Environmental History
History of Science
Imago Mundi: A Review of Early Cartography
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
University of Chicago Press
Harvard University
Duke University Press
Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura
Oxford University Press
Fondazione Museo Storico del Trentino
Science and politics
Maps; atlases
Science and society
Malpighi, Marcello
Redi, Francesco
Barbié du Bocage, Jean Denis
Time Periods
19th century
18th century
20th century, early
17th century
20th century
Qing dynasty (China, 1644-1912)
Jesuits (Society of Jesus)

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