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Lecture by Mirela Altic: Encounters in the New World: Jesuit Cartography of Americas
BelgiumOrganisation: The Brussels Map CircleIn Encounters in the New World: Jesuit Cartography of Americas, published by University of Chicago Press in 2022, Mirela Altic analyses maps produced by the Jesuits during their missionary work in the possessions of the Spanish, Portuguese, and French Crowns in both North and South Americas. She traces the Jesuit contribution to mapping and mapmaking from their arrival in the New World into the post-suppression period, placing it in the context of their worldwide undertakings in the fields of science and art. Altic’s analysis shows the incorporation of indigenous knowledge into the Jesuit maps, effectively making them an expression of cross-cultural communication—even as they were tools of colonial expansion. This ambiguity reflects the complex relationship between missions, knowledge, and empire. Presenting Jesuit maps as far more than just a physical survey of unknown space, the author argues that Jesuit mapping was in fact the most important link enabling an exchange of ideas and cultural concepts between the Old World and the New. Based on a comparative study of a large number of maps, the book enables an understanding of the process of Jesuit mapmaking within the context of worldwide cooperation, producing a fundamental document of this new area of study. In 2023 the book is awarded by the American Association of Geographers.
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