“Not since the creation of the Asterix comics have national prejudices entered our culture in such an entertaining way”, wrote Daniel-C. Schmidt in his review of the German edition of the Atlas of Prejudice, published on the Spiegel Online website.
One month after that, maps from the book also appeared in the print version of the popular German magazine, accompanying an article titled “Lokomotive ohne Abhänger”, a contemplation about Germany’s reputation across the European Union. One of those maps, Europe According to Luxembourg, was created especially for the occasion.
Those who have difficulties understanding German shouldn’t feel left behind. The international web site of Spiegel prepared a special 10 piece gallery with the maps in good old Shakespearean English.
Atlas of Prejudice
Armgard Seegers reviews the German edition of Atlas of Prejudice in Hamburger Abendblatt, 18.03.2013
Thrifty Swabians, stoned Dutch and hot-blooded Spaniards: stereotypes about other nations are usually not nice, sometimes even politically incorrect. The Bulgarian Yanko Tsvetkov has created an atlas with satirical maps. Seriously, it’s just for fun.
Prejudices are stupid and ugly. They almost always turn out to be false when examined closely. Can all Italians sing? Whoever has met an innkeeper in Sienna knows this is not exactly true. Are the Japanese always polite? Whoever tried to enter an elevator full of Japanese people (with cameras of course, just like the cliche) may spend the rest of the day counting his injuries.
Let’s put it this way: It’s fun to play with prejudices. It can be very entertaining to joke about thrifty Swabians, stoned Dutch or hot-blooded Spaniards. Everyone knows the most popular prejudices are often not quite nice and are mostly politically incorrect. However, every society on Earth tends to marginalize specific groups, using the usual insults and slurs against those who are considered strange and foreign. And so even in a globalized world prejudices remain inevitable even if their list is slowly getting shorter.
The Bulgarian Yanko Tsvetkov (wasn’t there a prejudice about Bulgarians saying that they always eat something yogurt-like and therefore live for 100 years?) has made an insightful Atlas of Prejudice in which he displays stereotypes about different groups and nations on geographical maps. Some of the land borders have long since disappeared from the real world maps but the prejudices, like the one that the Americans have about the Russians, which are described as “Commies”, persist.
Now not all people have the same prejudices about Sweden like we do. According to Tsvetkov, for us Sweden is the land of Ikea. But he swears the English think of it as the country of “trashy pop”. For Greeks, he says, in Sweden live the “perverts”, for Italians it’s the land of the “Nobel Prize”, while for Russians it’s the place for “group sex”. But are we really sure that the Russians think so or we just assume it? And does this confirm another prejudice? Tsvetkov has drawn satirical maps with weird stereotypes and it’s a lot of fun to look at them. You may spend a lot of time flipping through. Quite a lot, actually.
Translated by Yanko Tsvetkov. The Atlas of Prejudice is available in English, German and Russian. Find out more by visiting the Mapping Stereotypes project.
17.03.2012 The Mapping Stereotypes project was presented in the Crest Edition of the Times of India, which (as you can probably guess) is the biggest English language newspaper in the world. Indian journalist Gintanjali Dang made me remember my childhood passion for drawing and coloring maps. We touch on many subjects like communism, the European superiority complex, and how simply travelling from place to place is not enough to get to know the world. The article is also available online.
If the political commentary of these maps drives home the point for even a fraction of the billion visitors who’ve inundated Alphadesigner’s site then borders will continue to become porous and stereotypes more recognisably fallible.
02.03.2012 BH Dani is one of the major magazines in Bosnia and Herzegovina and its latest issue features the Mapping Stereotypes project on 4 pages. You’ll find 4 of my maps inside plus a long interview by Bosnian journalist Esad Hecimovic in which we discuss my project from a Balkan perspective, touching on subjects like the break up of Yugoslavia, prejudiced history books and the Western ignorance regarding the region. I consider this article one of the best presentations of my project and I would like to thank BH Dani’s team for their amazing professionalism!
Mnogi ljudi me pitaju za izvor kao da je ovo znanstveni projekt. Gledam na to kao na roman, djelo fikcije koje raspravlja o problemima ukorijenjenim u stvarnosti i unosi u to humor i satiru. Imajući to na umu, nema posebnih izvora koje je moguće navesti, i autor može prikupljati priče postupno, kroz iskustvo. Niko nije pitao Cervantesa o izvorima za Don Kihota. Ne mislim da je moj rad tako značajan, ali je ista vježba.
Many people ask me about sources as if this is a scientific project. I look at it as a novel, a work of fiction that discusses the problems rooted in reality and adds humor and satire. With this in mind, there aren’t specific sources that can be quoted, an author is able to gather stories gradually, with experience. Nobody asked Cervantes about his “sources” for Don Quixote. I don’t think my work is that significant but it’s the same type of exercise.
Za većinu ljudi, posebno na Zapadu, raspad Jugoslavije je sam po sebi kompleksna i zastrašujuća stvar i neki od njih misle da se krvoproliće desilo jer smo mi na Balkanu po put primitivnih Barbara. Nije im stalo ni da istraže zašto i kako su ovi ratovi počeli i kažu istinu. Teško je to objasniti uz pivo jer ima toliko historije kroz ko ju treba proći.
For most people, especially in the West, the break up of Yugoslavia is itself a complicated scary matter and some of them think the bloodshed happened because we on the Balkans are like primitive Barbarians. They won’t even care to investigate why and how these wars were started and it’s pretty hard to explain it over a beer because there’s so much history one has to go through.
I’ve always been cautious with translations of my Mapping Stereotypes project because a lot of the humor gets lost in the process but I was really impressed when I saw 10 whole maps thoroughly translated in Chinese. I have no idea who exactly did the translations or even how successful they are but the painstaking attention to detail suggest the work is not amateur. If I understand correctly, the translations are signed by “xiaolizi”. I found them on this page.
28.02.2012 One of the major newspapers in Hungary, Népszabadság, published an article about my Mapping Stereotypes project and translated two of the maps, Europe According to Germany and Europe According to Italy in Hungarian. Apart from the print version, the article is also available online.
A németeknek „gulyás”, a franciáknak a jelenlegi köztársasági elnök apai gyökereire utaló „Sarkoland” vagyunk. Az oroszoknak és a görögöknek pedig csak „hunok”. Yanko Tsvetkov azonban nem csak a magyarokat pécézte ki magának. A bolgár grafikus nem ismer kegyelmet, ha az egyes nemzetekben a többi nemzetről élő előítéletekről van szó.
We are goulash for the Germans and Sarkoland (the paternal country of Sarkozy’s father) for the French. For the Russians and the Greeks we’re only “Huns”. Yanko Tsvetkov, however, aims not only at Hungarians. The Bulgarian graphic designer knows no mercy when it comes to various national stereotypes.