Kenyon College

Benedict Anderson, “Census, Map, Museum”

Published : July 3rd, 2014">[+]

When William Kentridge’s Universal Archive arrived at the Gund Gallery, our staff and student associates took great pleasure in noticing the ways in which Kentridge’s practice paralleled postcolonial theory and scholarship. Postcolonial theory and writers continue to inform and work in fields as various as English, Anthropology, Sociology, History, Art History and many other disciplines fostered at Kenyon and around the world. If you’re interested in thinking through these connections more, we might suggest Benedict Anderson’s essay, “Census, Map and Museum.” Anderson is the Aaron L. Binenkorb Professor Emeritus of International Studies, Government & Asian Studies at Cornell University. To learn more about his work, check out his author page at Verso Books.

“Few things bring this grammar into more visible relief than three institutions of power which, although invented before the mid nineteenth century, changed their form and function as the colonized zones entered the age of mechanical reproduction. These three institutions were the census, the map, and the museum: together, they profoundly shaped the way in which the colonial state imagined its dominion—the nature of the human beings it ruled, the geography of its domain, and the legitimacy of its ancestry.”

-Benedict Anderson, “Census, Map, Museum,” Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991).