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Where Does Europe End? The Representation of Europe and Turkey in Italian Primary Textbooks

Author(s): Stefano MALATESTA | Enrico SQUARCINA

Journal: Review of International Geographical Education Online
ISSN 2146-0353

Volume: 1;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 113;
Date: 2011;
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Keywords: otherness | textbooks | primary school | common sense | Europe | boundaries | Turkey

Critical Geography and Critical Geopolitics demonstrated how popular and academic geographies are not “naive” forms of knowledge, arguing that, rather than describing the World, they “build” it. Geographical Education, in particular through School Geography, plays a relevant role in this process of geo-graphing, mainly because, in many cases, it is still considered as an ‘objective’ knowledge, based on factual and a-critical descriptions of spaces, places and processes. Moreover, reflecting on its educational dimension, we can understand how Geography suggests a body of narratives, biases, spaces and limits that contributes to the construction of children and young students’ image of the World. For this reason we can affirm that School Geography is a tremendous tool for the reproduction of the “Common Sense” stated by Antonio Gramsci, and for the consolidation of the “Cultural Hegemony” of dominant social classes, or - according to Alain Reynaud - of dominant “socio-spatial” classes. This paper, through a critical reading of a sample of 49 Italian Primary School Textbooks, investigates the linkage between the idea of “Otherness” and the construction of a “supposed” European identity. We focus in particular on the iconic and cartographic representation of Turkey in opposition to the European Union. First of all we show how maps and visual representations reproduce mighty geopolitical discourses, and then we point out the narratives through which this iconic body geo-writes the relation between Europe and Turkey in terms of a cultural, geographical and political opposition. We argue that maps and images reinforce the boundaries between EU and Turkey, by depicting them as discrete, and clearly separated geographical entities. The paper aims to demonstrate that this reinforcement is based, and leaned, on a variable and, in some cases, incoherent representation of some pivotal concepts of the Political Geography such as borders, State, nation and development.

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