Mapping the Space of History: Borders and Liminal Space in the Global System

AHA Session 271
Monday, January 6, 2020: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
Chelsea (Sheraton New York, Lower Level)
Stefan Tanaka, University of California, San Diego
A New Atlas of the British Empire
Jo Guldi, Southern Methodist University
Geo-modernity on the Peripheries of 20th-Century China
Shellen X. Wu, University of Tennessee at Knoxville
Connectivity or Geo-body: The Two 1919 Moments in China
Tze-ki Hon, City University of Hong Kong
Stefan Tanaka, University of California, San Diego

Session Abstract

Recent years have seen growing interest in the spatial turn in history, aided by the rise of digital humanities and projects such as Stanford University’s Spatial History Lab, Story Maps and other forms of digital storytelling that are accessible without an in-depth knowledge of GIS. Whether of the American West or the invention of modern England, the spatial turn has transformed how we understand these regions and the significance of spatial understanding to these fields. Yet, many questions remain. What are the limitations of technology for the spatial turn? What is the significance of the spatial turn for histories of parts of the world such as East Asia with its own historical and geographical traditions that long predates the arrival of Western spatial conceptions?

This panel combines these two trends with four papers that examine the way digitization and digital humanities can transform our spatial understanding of empires and emerging nation-states from the British and the Japanese empires to China in the twentieth century and the unexplored spatial dimensions of key historical moments such as 1919. Jo Guldi’s project uses the digitization of the British parliamentary records to calculate statistically how much of parliament’s time was spent on each region, nation, and city around the world, creating a new atlas of the British Empire. David Ambaras demonstrates how the concepts of deep mapping is explored in the digital humanities project on the Japanese empire, Bodies and Structures. Shellen Wu argues for the emergence of geo-modernity in twentieth century China using local gazetteers and a search tool pioneered by the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. Tze-ki Hon re-frames our understanding of the May Fourth Movement in China by focusing on two entwined hierarchies of space and time. Taken together the four papers point to potential new directions for spatial history.

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