If you consider geography an objective science, think again. According to Martin W. Lewis and Karen E. Wigen, even the concept of continents is open to interpretation. Why, for example, do Europeans consider their little peninsula a whole continent while the vast territories of India and China are mere subcontinents? Contrast this worldview with that of the Indian mapmakers who depicted South Asia as the world's largest land mass and Europe as marginalized "hat-wearing islands." During the Cold War, the world was even further divided, this time into first, second, and third worlds. But how you classify the various regions of the world, Lewis and Wigen posit in The Myth of Continents
, depends very much on where you happen to be standing at the time.
Having bravely exposed the ethnocentrism at the heart of geography, Lewis and Wigen then offer up their own division of the globe based on "world regions" rather than continents. Under such a scheme, Europe would become Western Eurasia, while the Western Hemisphere would become North America, Ibero-America, and African-America (divisions based on linguistic, cultural, and/or racial criteria). Whether or not you agree with the authors' division of the world, The Myth of Continents is a lively and thought-provoking exploration of a subject many of us take for granted. After reading this book, you'll never look at a map of the world in quite the same way.
The very fact that their work stimulates such questions is a tribute to the authors. In The Myth of Continents
, Lewis and Wigen have written an entertaining and informative account of the way our maps show us the world that we want to see. -- The New York Times Book Review, Michael Lind