Making Rain, Making Maps: Competing Geographies of Water and Power in Southwestern Africa

Making Rain, Making Maps: Competing Geographies of Water and Power in Southwestern Africa

Author: 
McKittrick, Meredith
Publisher: 
Cambridge University Press
Date published: 
2017
Record type: 
Journal Title: 
Journal of African History
Source: 
The Journal of African History, Vol. 58, No. 2, July 2017, pp. 187-212
Abstract: 

This article explores the alchemy whereby ritual and political worlds invisible to Europeans were rendered visible on European maps. It begins with a puzzle: representations of southwestern Africa's rivers on those maps bear little resemblance to physical reality as the cartographers would have understood it. Using GIS technology to georeference a series of maps and highlight the placement of rivers on them illustrates the convergence of cartographers' representations and regional political cosmologies linking power to control over water. Travelers' accounts and colonial archives illuminate how knowledge was produced and why African ideas about geography were inadvertently embedded in those maps well into the twentieth century. This method opens a window into otherwise-obscured African intellectual history and demonstrates that even something as apparently and unambiguously 'European' as modern mapping was the result of on-the-ground negotiations well into the colonial period.

Language: 

CITATION: McKittrick, Meredith. Making Rain, Making Maps: Competing Geographies of Water and Power in Southwestern Africa . : Cambridge University Press , 2017. The Journal of African History, Vol. 58, No. 2, July 2017, pp. 187-212 - Available at: http://library.au.int/making-rain-making-maps-competing-geographies-water-and-power-southwestern-africa