Geopoliticized Monopoly properties

February 22, 2008

Monopoly, the world’s best-selling board game, is going global. A simple idea, substituting the iconic properties of the original game with hallmark cities of the world.

In this celebration of capitalism, would-be moguls could buy up properties in cities such as Moscow, Russia; Tokyo, Japan and Jerusalem, Israel.

Wait. Nix that last one — at least the Israel part.

What is in a geographical place name? A lot. Hasbro has caught a lot of heat for presenting Jerusalem as being in Israel.

Hasbro told The Associated Press that a mid-level employee decided on her own to take out “Israel” after pro-Palestinian groups and bloggers complained — sparking even more protests from the other side.

The Middle East is a touchy place, but it’s not the only place where what you name something has strong implications for the direct parties involved. For example, in the 1990s Greece has a serious problem with the state of Macedonia in large part because of its name, saying it implies claims on a Greek province of the same name. Greece considers the place that it calls ‘Macedonia’ to be Greek. Anybody else calling themselves ‘Macedonia,’ isn’t. Greece is threatening to block NATO membership for Macedonia over the issue. For their part, the Macedonians don’t consider themselves to be Greek at all but that they are a distinct Macedonian people. Greece has agreed to call Macedonia ‘The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)’, because otherwise it would be awkward to have diplomatic discussions with an entity who would go without a name at all. The UN has suggested the name ‘Republic of Makedonia-Skopje.’ Greece has said that the UN suggestion would be a good start for negotiations on the name.

Geographic place names matter because they define to the outside what the place in question is. The fear from the Palestinian side is, that on board game with millions of potential players, Jerusalem will be Israeli. If large numbers of the global public come to identify ‘Jerusalem’ with ‘Israeli,’ that would 1) acknowledge Israeli claims to the whole city, post-1967, and 2) damage Palestinian aspirations for their own state with Jerusalem as their capital.

“It was never our intention to print any countries on the final boards and any online tags were merely used as a geographic reference to help with city selection,” Hasbro said in a written statement. “We would never want to enter into any political debate. We apologize for any upset this has caused our Monopoly fans.”

So Hasbro removed the country names. They could have I guess gone for “Jerusalem, Israel/Palestine,” but that would have created another round of complaint for them.

Interesting too that Hasbro believed that the country names were even needed for such cities as Tokyo, Moscow, London, etc. (I guess Moscow, Idaho needed to be distinguished for the larger city in Russia / Russian Federation.) I could understand for some cities including the country, but I guess this could be taken as another commentary on perceived or real geographic ignorance, in the US and elsewhere.

Speaking of Hasbro’s Monopoly game, have you voted yet?

Note: Your employer’s internet proxy may well be blocking the site, since they don’t want employees having anything to do with games at work.


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