Explaining the political map as regards power / knowledge

Document Type : بنیادی(Stem, Basic)


1 Assistant Professor, Department of Political Geography, Faculty of Geography, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

2 Associate Professor, Department of Political Geography, Faculty of Geography, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

3 Assistant Professor, Department of Geography Science, University of Lorestan, Lorestan, Iran


Getting a deeper understanding of many phenomena necessitates a deeper knowledge of their hidden meaning which is the key to a perfect understanding of that particular phenomenon. No true understanding is achieved unless through a sound methodology of the phenomena. Although positivism has been a dominant methodology in acquiring knowledge, but it should be noted that other methodologies shouldn’t be ignored.
Knowledge and power are mutually connected and it is required to grow knowledge - oriented background. This is the case with knowledge as well. Power needs a particular knowledge to show how legitimate and scientific it is. This particular knowledge can be disseminated though power very easily.
The maps are scientific tools to disseminate geography as a science and a positivistic viewpoint. This would be of no help in understanding the impact that power has on them. Such a viewpoint represents the maps as a tool to transfer information on the ground to a flat surface, but the map is a phenomenon that its understanding depends on many other factors. The maps are not concrete ontological phenomena which can be comprehended through a positivism approach. Their synthetic ontology of object and subject guide us to use Meta - positivistic methodologies to comprehend them. Although positivism has been a great help in developing science, it can be counter - effective in understanding human phenomena.
 At first glance a map might seem a simple thing which tries to show a geographical picture at a particular area or the whole earth, but this is not the whole picture and a map includes a broader significance. Different aspects with various methodologies have to be taken into account in studying maps. The relation between maps and political power has to be accounted for since power is an element of significance in assigning the meaning to a map. The maps can play a role in making the government’s illusions by the same hegemony. Thus, in this study, we have tried to consider map in terms of power / knowledge and the relation between power and map through quality methodology.
Power / knowledge postulated by Michel Foucault can be an appropriate methodology in leading us to our destination. Different methodologies are conductive to different understandings and every phenomenon requires its suitable methodology.
Results and Discussion
The results show that a map is not only an apparatus for governments to parade their power but it is also efficient in implementing power. Maps have a place in the cycle of power and as they are a product of power, they have an undeniable role in representing a system of truth and reality of their own. The people easily accept this represented world as the real one.
It might be quite helpful in understanding the connection between power and the maps to say that maps are the result of power investment. As the tools to propagate science and knowledge, governments feel it is absolutely necessary to attach a lot of importance to the maps. It is the governments that found institutes which have the responsibility of producing maps. State- institutions including military ones employ geographers and cartographers to produce maps.
The second aspect is the essential power existing in the maps. There is easily acceptable information and maps to symbolize reality. Although they were first the tools in the hands of power, here they represent science and reality and have the power of persuasion which can be termed “the power of the maps”. This power of persuasion is particularly effective when deployed for a specific discourse. Those people who accept that specific discourse can be persuaded quite easily because to them truth is speaking. The people involved in this field know how to manipulate the maps to reach their goals. Using cartographic devices and techniques, they produce the maps which represent particular points of view.
Cartographers can produce what they want and make their case persuasive by attracting attention to what they want to convey. The maps play a major role in making citizens and their audience in believing that they are symbolic of reality. This is how the maps form people’s opinions of their land and territory. This is the result of internal power of map.
Through an appropriate methodology we can acquire a sound understanding and get rid of dogmatism and have a more piercing look at phenomena. Power / knowledge postulated by Michel Foucault, the French historian, can be an appropriate methodology in leading us to our destination. This methodology helps us understand the phenomena not only as positivist methodologies have represented, but also determine the internal and external power of phenomena and obtain the original meaning of the phenomena. The power that comes from outside to the process of meaning-making phenomenon is trying to instill a certain meaning of the phenomenon, and that's why the real meaning of this phenomenon undermines the authority and not the original meaning. Any phenomenon with respect to its purpose and function has an inner power that reflected meaning in that makes it acceptable for the audience. Therefore, according to these facts, it make us to study the map from another perspective, aside positivism method, to achieve a deeper understanding of it.


Main Subjects

  1. آسایش، حسین و رحیم مشیری، 1381، روش‌شناسی و تکنیک‌های تحقیق در علوم انسانی با تأکید بر جغرافیا، نشر قومس، تهران.
  2. بلاکس، مارک، 1389، جغرافیای سیاسی، ترجمة محمدرضا حافظ‌نیا و دیگران، نشر انتخاب و میرباقری، تهران.
  3. حقیقت، صادق، 1385، روش‌شناسی علوم سیاسی، دانشگاه علوم انسانی مفید، قم.
  4. دریفوس، هیوبرت و پل رابینو، 1376، میشل فوکو: فراسوی ساختارگرایی و هرمنوتیک، ترجمة حسین بشیریه، نشر نی، تهران.
  5. سیدامامی، کاووس، 1386، پژوهش در علوم سیاسی: رویکردهای اثبات‌گرا، تفسیری و انتقادی، پژوهشکدة مطالعات فرهنگی و اجتماعی و دانشگاه امام صادق، تهران.
  6. شرت، ایون، 1387، فلسفه علوم اجتماعی قاره‌ای: هرمنوتیک، تبارشناسی و نظریۀ انتقادی از یونان باستان تا قرن بیست و یکم، ترجمة هادی جلیلی، نشر نی، تهران.
  7. ضمیران، محمد، 1378، میشل فوکو: دانش و قدرت، انتشارات هرمس، تهران.
  8. لاکوست، ایو و بئتریس ژیبلن، 1378، عوامل و اندیشه‌ها در ژئوپولیتیک، ترجمة علی فراستی، نشر آمن، تهران.
  9. مسعودی، جهانگیر، 1386، هرمنوتیک و نواندیشی دینی: تبیین اصول هرمنوتیک گادامر و تطبیق آن بر مبانی معرفتی نواندیشان مسلمان ایرانی، پژوهشگاه علوم و فرهنگ اسلامی، قم.
  10. مویر، ریچارد، 1379، درآمدی نو بر جغرافیای سیاسی، ترجمه ترجمة دره میرحیدر، سازمان جغرافیایی نیروهای مسلح، تهران.
  11. یورگنسن، ماریان و لوئیز فیلیپس، 1389، نظریه و روش در تحلیل گفتمان، ترجمه ترجمة هادی جلیلی، نشر نی، تهران.




Asaiesh, H. and Moshiri, R., 2002, Methodology and techniques of research in human science with emphasis on geography, Gumes Publication, Tehran. (In Persian)


Blacksell, M., 2010, Political geography, Translated by: Hafeznia, M. et al., Entekhab Publication, Tehran. (In Persian)

Haghighat, S., 2007, Methodology in political science, University of Mofid Publication, Ghom. (In Persian)


Dreyfus, H. and Rabinow, P., 1996, Michel Foucault: Beyond atructuralism and hermeneutics, Translated by: Bashirieh, H., Ney Publication, Tehran. (In Persian)


Sied­emami, K., 2007, Research in politicak sciece, positivist, interpretive and critical, Center for Social and Culture Studies of Imam Sadegh, Tehran. (In Persian)


Sherratt, Y., 2009, Continental philosophy of social science: Hermeneutics, genealogy and theory, Translated by: Jalili, H., Ney Publication, Tehran. (In Persian)


Zamiran, M., 2009, Michel Foucault: Knowledge and power, Hermes Publication, Tehran. (In Persian)


Lacost, Y. and Beatrice, G., 2002, The geopolitical factors and ideas, Translated by: Farasti, A., Amen Publication, Tehran. (In Persian)


Masoudi, J., 2006, Hermeneutics and new-religious, The General Office for Public Relations and International Affairs, Ghom. (In Persian)


Muir, R., 2000, Political geography: A new introduction, Translated by: Mirhidar, D., Geographical Organization of Iranian Armed Forces Publication, Tehran. (In Persian)


Jorgensen, M. and Phillips, L., 2010, Discourse analysis as theory and method, Translated by: Jalili, H., Ney Publication, Tehran. (In Persian)


Agnew, J., 2003, Geopolitics: Revisioning world politics, Routledge, London & NewYork.


Agnew, J., 2015, Book Review, Journal of Historical Geography, Vol. 48, No. 3, PP. 1- 2.


Barny, T., 2015, Mapping the Cold War: Cartography and the framing of America’s international power, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.


Crampton, J. W., 2007, Maps, race and Foucault: Eugenics and territorialization following world war I., In: Space, Knowledge and Power: Foucault and Geography, In Crampton, J. W. & Elden, S. (Eds), Ashgate, England.


Dodds, K. and David, A., 2000, Geopolitics traditions: A century of geopolitical thought, Routledge, London & New York.


Dodds, K., 2007, Geopolitics: A very short introduction, Oxford University Press, Oxford.


Glassner, M., De Blij, H. J. and Yacher, L., 1980, Syatematic political geography, John Wiley & Sons, New York.


Henrikson, A. K., 1994, The power and politics of maps, In Demko, G. J. and Wood, W. B. (Eds.), Reordering the World, Westview Press, Boulder, CO., PP. 49– 70.


Kuus, M., 2014, Geopolitics and expertise: Knowledg and authority in european diplomacy, Wiley Blackwell, UK.


Leung, G., 2015, Mapping postcolonial Ireland: The political geography of Friel’s translations, E-International Relations Publishing, It’s Available at: http://www.e-r.info/2015/05/29/mapping


Mayers, M. and Avison, D., 2002, An introduction to qualitative research in information systems, SAGE Publications Ltd, Great Britain.


Monmonier, M., 1991, How to lie with maps, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London.


O’Tuathail, G., 1996, Critical geopolitics: The politics of writing global space, Routledge, London.


Powell, J., 2015, Disciplining truth and science: Michel Foucault and the power of social science, Journal of World Scientific News, Vol. 13, PP. 15- 29.


Romaniuk, S. N., 2015, Competing hegemons: EU and Russian power projection in the South Caucasus, In: Great Powers and Geopolitics, In Klieman, A. (Ed.), Springer, Ramat-Aviv, PP. 113- 138.


Timothy, B., 2015, Mapping the Cold War: Cartography and the framing of America’s international power, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.


Zeigler, D. J., 2002, Post-communist eastern Europe and the cartography of independence, Political Geography, Vol. 21, No. 5, PP. 671- 686.

Volume 49, Issue 1
April 2017
Pages 185-202
  • Receive Date: 26 July 2014
  • Revise Date: 05 December 2015
  • Accept Date: 06 December 2015
  • First Publish Date: 21 March 2017