37 - Newyorkistan

The application of the suffix -stan (Persian for ‘home’) generally refers to countries in central Asia – in fact, the formerly Soviet states that occupy Central Asia are sometimes referred to collectively as ‘The Stans’. When used in other contexts, the suffix can have a negative connotation.


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There is, for example, the use of the word ‘Bantustans’ in Apartheid-era South Africa for  the ethnic homelands the black majority was forcibly (and to a large extent theoretically) relocated to. Then there is ‘Londonistan’, a pejorative sobriquet that has been used for several years to describe the apparent ease with which terror networks originating in the Arab/Islamic world operate in the British capital.

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A similar term was applied to New York, labeled ‘Newyorkistan’ by the New Yorker Magazine in its Dec 10, 2001 issue. Note the date: only a couple of months after the 9/11 attacks destroyed the WTC in Manhattan. I’ve seen this famous cover of the magazine before, but I’ve never had the chance to read the accompanying article.

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I can only suppose the magazine (as America in general) was just waking up to the existence (and perceived threat) of the Islamic world abroad, and of Islamic immigrants in the US proper. New York has always been a city of immigrants, absorbing waves of European, African, Asian and other newcomers – and in the process giving rise to ethnic enclaves in the city such as Little Italy or Chinatown.

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This map imaginatively takes this one step further: it divides up New York in new enclaves, at the same time reflecting the fear of contemporary ‘nativists’ and disarming it by placing it in a humourous context. Some examples: 

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  • Trumpistan (a reference to the ultra-rich Donald Trump)
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  • Gaymenistan (right next to Lesbikhs – I suppose this is where the gay and lesbian subculture in New York is concentrated)
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  • Artsifarsis (a clever play on the words ‘arty-farty’ and ‘Farsi’)
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  • Central Parkistan (sounds almost like ‘Pakistan’)
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  • Psychobabylon (a mixture of ‘psychobabble’ – the annoying habit of psycho-analysis by non psycho-analysts – and Babylon)
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  • Kvetchnya ( a reference to Chechnya, but also to the Yiddish verb ‘to kvetch’, describing the knack for endless talk exhibited by Jewish New Yorkers)
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  • Lubavistan (refers to the Lubavitcher Jews, an orthodox sect. Right next door to Kvetchnya, so I guess this must be a Jewish neighbourhood)
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  • Turban Sprawl (a very funny wordplay, combining a term describing the tendency of cities to spread out with an exotic headdress)
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Not being that familiar with New York, I’m  probably missing a lot of references and in-jokes. The map in the previous post reminded me of this one. I found this map of Newyorkistan in this interesting little map collection, apparently floating around the University of Pennsylvania.

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*** UPDATE, 6 Oct 2008 ***

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I never knew who actually created the Newyorkistan map, until now. I’ve just received a mail from Rick Meyerowitz, one of the map’s two creators (the other one being Maira Kalman), who just discovered his work on my blog. He was kind enough not to have a problem with that. And I am happy now to be able to include a link not only to his website, but also to this specific page about the Newyorkistan image, explaining how it came about. Mr Meyerowitz’s site also contains very nice preparatory sketches of the map, and a reproduction of the accompanying article in the New Yorker).

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newyorkistan3.JPG

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