Cartography, the Ideal of Science, and the Place of Religion

Peter Gottschalk

in Religion, Science, and Empire

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780195393019
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979264 | DOI:
Cartography, the Ideal of Science, and the Place of Religion

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The differences between Mughal and British Indian cartography demonstrate the basic continuities and divergences between the respective information orders of these two states. The first British record of Chainpur appears on a map produced in the early 1770s by East India Company surveyors under the direction of James Rennell. Despite the detailed maps created by South Asians in the centuries leading to British conquest, European maps differed in ways that precisely reflected central tenets of scientism. In the mapping projects that followed, Chainpur, like other villages, became known as a strictly bounded object locatable using a universally standardized system of longitude and latitude. Not only did many maps rely on religion as a marker of essential difference between Chainpur residents, they also became instrumental in the effort to depict Hindu and Muslim populations which, like the village, were supposed to exist as exclusive communities delineated by clear perimeters. The implicit trust in and wide scale appropriation of maps to express the results of practically every discipline—including empirical religious studies—demonstrates their central role in scientism, even as this dynamic also manifested a rising confidence in cartography to create a totalistic representation: another quality of scientism.

Keywords: cartography; science; scientism; religion; maps; positivism; Mughals; totalism; Rennell

Chapter.  15835 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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