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Mapping the Maps – a guest post from Natasha Pairaudeau

Mapping the Maps – a guest post from Natasha Pairaudeau, 18/04/2017, Cambridge University Library Special Collections Blog

Imagine maps as big as bedsheets, and then imagine the sheets big enough for beds made wide enough to sleep extended families. Only such a double stretch of the imagination can provide the scale of the three Burmese maps in the University Library’s collection, which have recently been made available online in digital format.

From bedsheet to map is not a great leap: all three maps are inked or painted on to generous lengths of cloth. Yet they do not depict lines on a map as the eye in the 21st century is accustomed to seeing them. The most colourful of the three maps, the map of the Maingnyaung region [Maps.Ms.Plans.R.c.1 ; see also above for an extract from this map] is the one which forces the most abrupt lurch, down from that comfortable view on high of modern mapping convention.  Instead, the viewer is positioned near ground level, and invited here to view a stupa, there a crocodile down in the river, away in the distance a noble line of hills. Trees are no mere generic features. While the perspective is mostly from the ground, it co-exists with other even less familiar conventions. Pagodas and stupas either loom large or sit very small, their size and their sanctity apparently intermeshed. Towns and villages, rivers and streams are the sole features which come close to appearing from a bird’s eye view. Yet the neat tracings of brickwork, and of waves on the water’s surface, suggest they may be meant to convey not the lay of the land from the air but other rules of belonging, of enclosure or of flow.

The other two maps, the map of the Royal Lands [Maps.Ms.Plans.R.c.3] and map of Sa-lay township [Maps.Ms.Plans.R.c.2], are less colourful than the first, but in some respects even more intriguing. Like the Maingnyaung map, they take many of their bearings from ground level. Manmade landmarks use scales which vary, apparently,  according to their importance rather than their physical size. With vegetation, there is an insistence on specifics. Yet both maps feature grids traced carefully and evenly across the entire surface. These maps present two worlds at once. There are vistas to be contemplated and meaningful features to be explored in the landscape. But there is also a view from on high, where trees were counted and areas under crop were calculated, and probably, somewhere off the surface of the map, converted into tax exactions.

These maps have already received a share of attention. Allegra Giovine (a doctoral student in the History of Science who studies the production of economic knowledge in colonial Burma) helped to translate notes on the Maingnyaung map from Burmese. The Cambridge maps formed the core of a survey of indigenous Burmese maps in UK collections by Professor Tin Naing Win, the inaugural Charles Wallace Burma Trust Fellow (2015) at the Cambridge Centre of South Asian Studies. They sparked the interest of Marie de Rugy in her recent thesis (Paris 1 – Sorbonne) on Maps and the Making of Imperial Territories in the Northern Indochinese Peninsula. François Tainturier of the Inya Institute continues to study these maps and to re-assess their role in pre-colonial Upper Burma. Much remains nonetheless to be learned about these maps, by those equipped to read the Burmese script which annotates them, and to interpret the wider context of their production and the modes of representation they employ.

Lire la suite sur : https://specialcollections.blog.lib.cam.ac.uk/?p=14308

« There Are No Straight Lines in Nature » : Making Living Maps in West Papua

Droning destruction — aerial view of deforestation in Merauke. Source: Sophie Chao.

« There Are No Straight Lines in Nature » : Making Living Maps in West Papua by Sophie Chao, 17/05/2017, Anthropology Now

With land growing scarce in Sumatra and Borneo, the oil palm frontier is rapidly moving eastward into West Papua, where rainforest and savannah are being razed at an unprecedented rate [2]. In particular, oil palm expansion in the Papuan regency of Merauke, a remote region of swamplands and savannah on the border with Papua New Guinea, has been the subject of growing campaigns led by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including advocacy at the level of the United Nations [3]. Largely implemented without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous Marind-Anim people (hereafter the Marind), oil palm expansion has been facilitated by widespread collusion among corporate, state and military interests.

Along the banks of the Bian River in northern Merauke, I carried out fieldwork among several Marind communities whose lands and settlements are encircled by large-scale oil palm plantations established in the last decade. Participatory mapping with local communities is one of the key tools being used in the area to protect remaining forest areas in indigenous territories from oil palm incursion. This article explores maps as objects and mapping as practice, both of which are part ethnographic method, part advocacy tool.

As ethnographic tools, maps and mapping can provide important insight about how our research participants conceptualize place within their particular cultural value systems and cosmologies. Among the Marind, for example, mapmaking reveals that place is a dynamic entity shaped by the lives and doings of multiple actors, both human and nonhuman. In producing their own maps, the Marind convey this sense of place as a multispecies endeavor by emphasizing the role of different organisms in shaping it and giving it meaning. In this respect, places and the maps that represent them are lively entities, characterized by constant movement and transformation. The consequence of this is that Marind maps themselves keep morphing and never sit still, in the image of the multispecies world itself.

Lire la suite sur : http://anthronow.com/feature-preview/there-are-no-straight-lines-in-nature?platform=hootsuite