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The coloniality of cartographic space: epistemological study of sixteenth-century portuguese-hispanic maps and their role in the invention of Ibero-America

Grant number: 23/00451-4
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Master
Effective date (Start): May 01, 2023
Effective date (End): April 30, 2025
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Geography - Human Geography
Principal Investigator:Fernanda Padovesi Fonseca
Grantee:Bruno Zambianchi Rey
Host Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil


The map, in its strict sense of a western document and artifact, can be understood as a linguistic device of colonial modernity, or an instrument used to implant the modern institutions intrinsic to colonialism and to the juridicities of national states. At the same time, map as a category reappears with broader meanings, implying contestations and relativizations of imperial-colonial epistemic projects. In view of this condition, the following research proposal aims to unravel the effective and symbolic role of maps and cartography in one of the historic inceptions of the modern-colonial world: the invention of America by the catholic monarchies of the Iberian Peninsula. To this end, we foresee an archival survey of western maps (atlases, portulan and topographical charts, manuscripts, planispheres, etc.) and non-western maps (codices, engravings, fabrics, glyphs, paintings, etc.) from the 16th century, related to the process of Conquest of the New World and the dynamics of political power in the portuguese and hispanic colonial empires. Through both epistemological analysis (of the context of cartographic knowledge production) and semiotic reading (of graphic signs and signifiers on maps), we seek to promote a debate on the geocultural relations established between the european world-system and the developing colonial territories, estimating the contributions of amerindian spatial knowledge and evaluating the function of western space abstractions, such as euclidean geometry and the metric system. The purpose is to trace critical epistemic debates on the coloniality of sixteenth-century cartography, that is, the languages of spatial representation that conceived America as a colony and a modern geographical entity.

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