Photo Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty

I’ve found, personally, an inverse correlation between how interesting an institutional power squabble is and how significant the institution in question is. A power squabble at the highest levels of a large national government, for example, is not really interesting; it will very often be terrifying or complicated, and nearly always quite important, but none of those things will make it inherently interesting. The stakes are too high for it to be at all entertaining, and anyways, all the players’ motivations are all so clear and one-dimensional as to be very boring. They want power, because power over a national government means something. Or they want money, or access, or some other close simulacrum for power—it doesn’t matter. It’s all the same. It’s frightening, but it isn’t interesting.

But the people driven to fight for power in a homeowner’s association? A seventh-grade class government? A workplace party planning committee? These institutions have very little power or relative significance to begin with, and that makes the petty drama they create so much better. Why do people care so much? How do they care so much? What do they want? Who will they metaphorically kill to get it? It’s great!

Advertisement

Well, folks, here’s a particularly great installment of this genre: whatever the fuck is happening at the International Society for the History of the Map right now.

The ISHM was founded in 2011 for the purpose, as you might guess, of studying map history. If you join, you can attend their annual symposia and get a discounted rate on an academic cartography journal and presumably do other cool map-related things. If you try to look the organization up, you’ll probably end up at this website, which has pages on society news and activities and information on membership. It all looks perfectly official and built-out, albeit with a web design that feels a decade and a half old. But look a little harder, and you’ll end up at this website—which proclaims the first site to be “malfunctioning,” as it’s run by the organization’s former president, a Hungarian professor named Zsolt G. Török, who is no longer a member of the society following a “constitutional crisis” but refuses to give up his power.

Holy shit!!! A run-down directly from the new site:

The Hon. Chair of ISHMAP for 2016–17, Prof. Zsolt Török, failed to complete basic tasks required for the constitutional existence of the Society. As a result, ISHMap’s Annual General Meeting in July 2017 was forced to elect a new council.

Prof. Török has refused to abide by this election, claiming the AGM was illegal. He therefore continues to claim to be Hon. Chair even though, according to the Society’s Constitution and By-Laws, he ceased to be Hon. Chair as of 30 June 2017

....Prof. Török is using his control of the website and listserv to continue to claim to be Hon. Chair and to claim to be the only “democratic” society and to confuse the international community.... The ISHMap Council is adamant that Prof. Török’s actions are illegitimate, ill-advised, and detrimental to the health of the international community of map historians.

Advertisement

(There is a separate page set up to detail the specifics of the constitutional crisis that led to Török being deposed, if you are interested.)

But it gets worse. Today, the first website—the one allegedly controlled by Török to wrongly represent the society—posted a notice that people can now begin signing up for paid memberships for 2018. But it’s unclear where that money would be going, given that Török supposedly no longer controls the society’s bank account.

Why is Török doing this to the international community of map historians? Does he not care for his fellow lovers of cartography history? Does he not realize that his comrades find all this detrimental to the community’s health? Will he never stop? Can the ISHM ever regain sure footing? Will someone, please, think of the map histories???

Advertisement

Do hit up emma.baccellieri@deadspin.com with any information you may have.