Anthropology Seminar | Maps that won’t sit still: Cartographic Conundrums in a West Papuan Village
This paper explores the politics of mapping among indigenous Marind communities in Merauke District, West Papua. Marind criticize government maps and their unnaturally ‘straight lines’ because they epitomize the totalizing control of the state over the landscape and its inhabitants. Some also disapprove of drone-mapping technology because, like the state, drones impose a top-down but lifeless perspective upon space. In contrast, Marind community members produce ‘living’ maps of their environment, that are shaped by the sounds and movements of forest organisms and the relationships that mappers establish with these species. I analyse how Marind maps differ in form and purpose to state maps and examine the qualitative properties of sound that explain its predominance over sight in Marind cartography. I argue that Marind insist on producing maps that won’t sit still as a form of resistance to the state’s hegemonic gaze. However, this dynamism also undermines the legitimacy of community maps in the context of advocacy. State and corporate actors dismiss these representations as legitimate evidence of Marinds’ rights, while Marind themselves disagree over what should be mapped, by whom, and to what ends. I highlight the importance of attending to Marind activists’ cartographic conundrums over the role of perspective, participation, and perception in the production of accurate and effective spatial representations.
About the Speaker
Sophie is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Sydney’s School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry and the Charles Perkins Centre. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Oriental Studies (First Class) and a Master of Science in Social Anthropology from The University of Oxford. Sophie’s PhD at Macquarie University was funded by an International Endeavour Scholarship and received a Vice-Chancellor’s Commendation in 2019. Sophie’s research explores the intersections of capitalism, ecology, and indigeneity in Indonesia, with a specific focus on changing interspecies relations in the context of deforestation and agribusiness development. Her current research deploys inter-disciplinary methods to explore the nutritional and cultural impacts of agribusiness on indigenous food-based socialities, identities, and ecologies.