Geographical representations: the role of the military in the development of contemporary Chilean geography

Authors

  • Jonathan R. Barton,

    1. Centro de Desarrollo Urbano Sustentable – CEDEUS, Instituto de Estudios Urbanos y Territoriales, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
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  • Felipe Irarrázaval

    1. Centro de Desarrollo Urbano Sustentable – CEDEUS, Instituto de Estudios Urbanos y Territoriales, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
    2. Departamento de Historia y Geografía, Universidad Metropolitana de Ciencias de la Educación, Santiago, Chile
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  • The information, practices and views in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG).

Abstract

This article points to two geographical representations. Both relate to the activities of the Military Geographical Institute (IGM) in Chile. The first representation, following on from the importance of the cartographic tradition in state-building, and the role of military institutions in this process, is a critical engagement with the representation of Chilean academic geography on the international stage via the IGM. The paper will reflect on the circumstances through which the IGM assumed this role, and questions its legitimacy as a consequence. The second points to the representation of geography as a cartographical exercise. Historically, similar institutions to the IGM in Latin America have played important roles in creating their national spaces, through mapping and other practices that communicate geopolitical representations of the national space. These representations of geography as cartography remain important since maps are used to communicate a ‘national truth’ to the wider population as well as associated expansionist geopolitical narrative. The representation of the ‘Chilean Antarctic’ will be used as an example of this activity. Both of these representations – of national space-building, and as the face of Chilean geography in international fora – are based on core elements of geopolitics that have to be engaged with critically since they reveal the continued importance of the military in representing national geographies. This article provides such an engagement, and concludes by arguing that representations of Chilean geography need to be democratised and demilitarised.

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