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.