What effect do maps have on the world they try to represent? In the case of Africa, the mapping and remapping of the continent under colonial rule continues to negatively affect the process of forming meaningful, modern boundaries. In an essay adapted from a lecture given at the Maps, Identity and World Studies workshop at the University of Chicago, history professor Ralph Austen describes the ways in which European cartography perpetuated colonial power structures, disregarding not only indigenous representations of space, but the integrity of indigenous societies and cultures. Austen explains why cartography is essential to understanding both the natural and political forces within Africa that persistently place this region at a global disadvantage. Copyright 2001 The University of Chicago.