Cultural and Participatory Mapping

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Anthropology, as a discipline, has been closely allied with geography for over a century, and mapping is an important practice in each of anthropology’s four subdisciplines: archaeology and biological, cultural, and linguistic anthropology. This chapter focuses on cultural mapping, or representations of how humans understand social and physical environments and relationships, and participatory mapping, a particular technique of inclusive map-making in which researchers and community members-as-researchers create maps collectively. Such maps are often used to document understandings of space that contrast with official maps of state understandings of, for example, resources and rights. In participatory mapping, the questions about what is to be mapped are established collectively as well as the mapping process itself (often, as mentioned, done as part of a larger social justice project). This chapter discusses the history of, and variation in, cultural mapping and then goes on to provide several examples of cultural and participatory mapping. Manuel Boissière, Michael Padmanaba, and Ermayanti Sadjudin describe the participatory mapping process in which they engaged, with many others, in Mamberamo, Papua, Indonesia as part of a long-term project on biodiversity and natural resource management. Residents of six villages, working from base maps on the same scale as state maps, corrected and expanded information about rivers and resource diversity on the maps as well as adding livelihood activities and sacred places. These maps were used in a regional workshop, including government representatives, on land use planning. Sasikumar Balasundaram illustrates, in another example, how children in long-term refugee camps in southern India map their current circumstances and imagined futures.

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