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Map of the Animal Kingdom
Artist Unidentified

Although made under distinct circumstances, these two objects reflect a common cultural fascination with systemization and regulation as a means of giving shape to a multitudinous natural world. In Anglo-European culture, human relationships to animals and one another were historically understood as part of a divine natural order, placing white, Christian people at the top of a hierarchy. While each can be enjoyed for qualities of craftsmanship and beauty, these two works also expose the problematic underlying power structures that ordered the world of their makers, seeking to make sense out of multiplicity.

 

In Map of the Animal Kingdom, an early American schoolgirl reproduced her understanding of geography and culture, embellishing the continents with various local animals and human figures. Though the concept of map-making creates an illusion of expansive control over one’s environment, the girl’s stereotyped images of Indigenous peoples expose the limits and biases of her worldview.