Steven SeegelMar 24, 2020
Transnational Lives and Deaths of Geographers in the Making of East Central Europe
University of Chicago Press 2018
Steven Seegel’s Map Men: Transnational Lives and Deaths of Geographers in the Making of East Central Europe (University of Chicago Press, 2018) is an insightful contribution to the history of map making which is written through and by individual geographers/cartographers/map men. The book focuses primarily on four countries: Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Ukraine. When guiding his reader through the entanglements of transnational endeavors of making maps, Seegel zeroes in on personal stories of five, what he calls, characters/protagonists: Albrecht Penck, Eugeniusz Romer, Stepan Rudnyts’kyi, Isaiah Bowman, and Count Pal Teleki. An individual story is an archive of biographical data and statistics, but it also opens up an entire world of history and geography that provides an insight into geopolitical decisions which eventually change and impact lives of those who happen to be part of this map journey. Meticulously researched and beautifully written, Map Men offers a personalized version of how maps are drawn and made. At first glance, maps may seem stable and crystalized. However, as Seegel insightfully shows, this is an illusion: maps are fantasies, as he puts it in this interview. This understanding of maps does not in any way minimize the science that lies behind the map creating. However, what Map Men does is show the making of maps in their multiple and at times complex and intertwined processes: maps are points of references, but maps are also texts which invite a diversity of stories and interpretations.