I’m having map issues with Sudan. I’ve been looking for sites called New Bor in Magwi and New Site in Bor, and I can’t find them on Google, National Geographic’s version or on general searches.
There are a few mapping campaigns for South Sudan running. Some of the most detailed maps I’ve seen of the South are the de-mining charities’ ones, but Google Maps is getting better and better as more data goes up.
But I don’t really buy into some of the justifications for the GPS mapping initiatives. From Clooney watching like a hawk for war crimes, to the idea that we’ll be able to see where there aren’t schools and sort of parachute one in – these don’t really make sense to me. Mapping discussions always raise the slightly sordid memories of colonial cartography; there is a lot of power in having access to GPS tools, the money and the internet connections to map an area. With the disputes over payam and district boundaries, some of which turned violent during the referendum voting, whacking in a dotted line is part of a political argument, particularly when a lot of land is not necessarily “owned” but negotiated throughout the year. I think it’s quite interesting that so far the expatriate Southern Sudanese, with the World Bank, are those organising this mapping, justifying it by saying returnees – and the local government – don’t know where things are. Do returnees use maps? Is this just a case of the local government seeing an opportunity to avoid spending their own money on updating maps? The streets are hardly nameless – actually, most of the main ones have excitingly prosaic “B41” style names. I don’t really think that a lack of street names and marked schools and hospitals on Google equates to a lack of local government understanding of where the “population centres” are, or clinics are needed. And I’d love to know how these mapping tools are trying to take into account the majority of the population of most states that is fundamentally migratory.
That’s not to say I don’t want maps. I’d love to have some of these new sites being built up around Juba on a map, as well as the older communities of New Cush, New Bor and New Site. It’s just that the news reports on all the mapping projects give some slightly strange justifications for this new wave of mapping.