Mapping Clark Economic Zone

Maps are often taken quite literally at face value. They are relied upon to give us an objective picture of a place. However, the points of interest on a map represent quite subjective decisions about what to show to the world and what should be obscured and left out. An analysis of the various maps of the Clark Economic Zone is important because it reveals the neoliberal values upholding Clark, as well as totalizes and flattens the experiences of all of the people whose work upholds this structure.

What Google Maps shows when you first type “Clark Economic Zone” is a pretty simplistic version of Clark. Four sites of note are listed in the right hand panel: The President’s Office, the airport, the development corporation and the public safety department. Also visible on the map are golf courses and a leisure complex. If we read this map through an American corporate company’s eyes, we can see that the sites that are denoted mostly have to do with development and tourism. The airport seems to take up the most space, emphasizing the possibility of convenient travel. However, safety also seems to be an important feature. The Public Safety Department is one of the four items of interest that comes up and Air Force City is one of the few locations noted on the map. These details highlight the need for a feeling of safety and seclusion that foreign travelers long for. The desire to feel like “royalty” on these “royalty trips” that Gonzales writes about in “Military Bases, ‘Royalty Trips,’ and Imperial Modernities” is necessitated by a feeling of separation, elevation, and protection from the outsiders, which we can see symbolically inscribed on this map.

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A map from a website that markets travel to Clark is even more overt in its clear distinction of what the viewers’ attention should be drawn to. First, the parts of the zone that are part of the resort and leisure activities are all in green. A lot of this probably has to do with it being a grassy area, but the lighter green might just be a way of drawing the viewers’ attention to the area, since we can see that there is much less green space on the Google Maps version. The industrial areas are noted in grey, which for the most part draw your attention away from them. The difference marks how the marketers of Clark want it to be seen as primarily a beautiful, scenic tourist destination, but the inclusion of the grey industrial zones shows that they also want to include allusions to the global modernization taking place within Clark. The inclusion and special notation of the Texas Instruments Complex is a good example of this. It is specifically marked with a square, unlike anything else on the map. The choice to emphasize an area associated with this American technology company highlights the neoliberal notions of modernity that Clark so eagerly wishes to project.

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These maps do similar work to the museum on the Clark property that Gonzalez discusses, but it is especially helpful to analyze these maps because they are seen as holding objective truths. These maps erase the experiences of anyone not a tourist on the grounds. They also erase the concept of anything outside of the frame of the map. At least one could choose to zoom out of the Google Maps version but the map from the tourism site simply ends without depicting that anything exists outside the borders.  In a similar way that the Brandzel and Desai’s “Race, Violence and Terror” article talks about how race is removed from the conversation about male violence, race and gendered oppression removed from these maps, which instead focus on the utility of the economic production and capitalist exchange that goes on there. The image of leisure and modernity obscures the imperialist domination that laid the groundwork for Clark.

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