Mapping the contours of race: Griffith Taylor's zones and strata theory

Winlow, H (2009) 'Mapping the contours of race: Griffith Taylor's zones and strata theory.' Geographical Research, 47 (4). pp. 390-407. ISSN 1745-5863

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This article explores the ways in which cartography served as a tool to reinforce racial divisions in the context of late nineteenth and early twentieth century race science. Racial and anthropometric mapping was an endeavour in which both European and new world anthropologists and geographers were involved. The focus here is on the work of Thomas Griffith Taylor – regarded as one of the founders of modern geography in Australia – who deployed a number of cartographic techniques to reinforce his racial theorisations. This article explores Taylor's ‘zones and strata’ portrayal of racial evolution, and other geological- style maps of racial difference. These representations are investigated from two standpoints. Firstly, Taylor's theories are situated within the wider context of the Victorian tradition of classifying race, a tradition where physical race type was often correlated with moral and intellectual traits, and which was supported by the acceptance of environmental determinism within geographical circles. Secondly, his maps are considered from the perspective that, as J.B. Harley has argued, maps are social texts that contain power and, as such, can be deconstructed. Taylor's cartographic representations resulted from the manipulation of the internal elements of the map text, such as shading and projection, and were supported by the widely held belief that human racial groups could be delineated through physical anthropometry.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: anthropometry;race;evolution;zones and strata theory;critical cartography;power of maps;social construction;metaphor
Divisions: School of Sciences
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Date Deposited: 01 Feb 2013 14:16
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:33
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