"The modern state needed the map to do things that overlapped and fed into each other in rich, complicated ways, so this history is not simple. Certainly the state would come increasingly to rely on maps to make legible its appropriation landscape, that is, where land, labor, grain, and other resources could be found and appropriated: seized, taxed, conscripted, put to work. But there had been other ways of doing this – censuses for example – so while advantageous, the map had no unique advantage there. What the map alone could do was visualize borders. We can think about borders as an innovation of the modern state. Traditional states rarely had what we think about as borders. What they had were frontiers: zones of diminishing, ambiguous, often mixed control. The modern state was territorial in a new way and the map was uniquely capacitated to visualize it, to, in the wonderful phrase of Thongchai Winichakul, give it a geo-body. The geo-body is the national territory within its borders and so it has a shape, a shape that rapidly becomes totemic, gets reduced to a logo, turned into a patch or a badge. People come to identify the nation with this shape and this shape with the nation, which is otherwise a pretty abstract thing. This makes the borders important, borders that exist first and foremost on the map. At the same time the map is this wonderful recordkeeping device. Borders, geo-body, recordkeeping: they keep reinforcing each other to magnify the importance of maps to the state which therefore imagines ever new uses for them. And so it grows."

Really amazing interview with Denis Wood by Linda Quiquivix (for arenaofspeculation.org)