Combining my interests on the Arctic and the politics of mapping…

Google Street View's Karin Tuxen-Bettman crosses the Arctic tundra in IqaluitYesterday’s Guardian had an interesting story on Google’s mapping of Iqaluit, the capital of Canada’s northern territory of Nunavut. For students of Arctic imaginaries like me (and my co-author Jeremy Tasch, who sent me the link), it’s fascinating how both Google and the Guardian journalist combine two very different imaginaries of the Arctic held by outsiders: The Arctic as an inhospitable, remote place of mysterious paths (Northwest Passages?) and polar bears that can be conquered only through brute determination, and the Arctic as a land of wise local people who know its secrets and whose indigenous knowledge must be respected. At one level, the two imaginaries appear to be diametrically opposed to each other: According to the first, the Arctic is a potential object of conquest, whereas under the second it is a site that outsiders must treat with humility and respect. But the news story, as well…

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