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The imagined geographies affecting us all

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Emma Le Breton

23 November 2021

 

Have you visited a place before and thought; this isn’t at all what I expected!

 

Imagined geographies are all around us, and usually, we don’t even realise we’ve made them up.

 

So what are they?

 

An imagined geography is how a place is perceived - created through art, books, media, marketing, stories, and more.

 

A poster by Villemot - showing an imagined geography of Spain.

 

Edward Said founded this idea after studying orientalism and discovering people’s preset beliefs about the people and lands across the seas; their desires, fears and aspirations.

 

Not only are landscapes richly imagined and stereotyped to fit their common narrative, but the people and cultures of these places become imagined too.

 

Think of Australia; even if you live here you can easily recall the publicised Australian narrative. It’s one of the Anzacs, of deserts, farming and mateship.

 

In reality, not too many of these concepts affect our lives every day, and yet, this is Australia’s story - Australia’s imagined geography.

 

Painting by A Slice In Time of an Australian imagined geography.

 

These rich imaginations are often not particularly factual and are richly shaped with stories from history, from travelers and from media.

 

And whilst not always realistic, they influence the perceptions of people and countries; sometimes becoming national symbols and stories, even in their homes.

 

It’s important to remember the imagined geography of people and places leave expectations at the door, and look authentically.

 

Whilst imagined geographies can give us access to worldly insights, seeing above and beyond, creates new stories, and new always growing geographies and understanding.

 

What did you imagine Australia would be like? Or how people have described home that seems foreign to you? Let us at Gringo know your experience!