This paper is about maps and the power of mapping. It argues that the mapping of Asia went hand-in-hand with the expansion of colonial power and knowledge, and that the production of knowledge of the colonised lands and peoples was never a truly neutral, objective academic exercise. Stamford Raffles’ map of Java, which appeared with his book ‘The History of Java’ (1817) will be the focus of this discussion. It will be argued that in the process of mapping the island of Java the East India Company was also ‘creating’ an object to be known, and that this complex process demonstrates the workings of a colonial epistemology at work. Does Raffles’ map tell us anything about Java, or does it really tell us more about the history of British colonialism in Southeast Asia?
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