Arid Lands Resource Sciences GIDP
Society for Applied Anthropology Annual Meeting
March 19-23, 2019
Maps are embedded with assumptions, uncertainties, privileged knowledge, and
Socio-ecological consequences. Qualitative Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Methodologies extend GIS capabilities for analyzing and interpreting ethnographic data.
Socio-Institutional network mapping (SNM) is an empirical tool for mapping governance networks through illustrations of actors’ goals, power, and influence. I examine the vast options for connecting GIS with SNM to create rich geo-ethnographies. I explore the possibilities of comprehensive mapping in research to show drivers of land use change, histories of socio-ecological transformation, and relationships between actors and institutions. I also discuss ethical implications such as privacy and risks to marginalized peoples.
Abstract for Lay Audience
Maps are embedded with assumptions, uncertainties, privileged knowledge, and consequences--both societal and ecological. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) allow us to visualize and analyze spatial and temporal relationships between objects (such as irrigation canals and roads) and fields (such as vegetation cover and climate). Qualitative GIS extends
GIS capabilities for analyzing and interpreting ethnographic data, thus allowing inclusion of human narratives, experiences, historical events, perceptions, and local and indigenous knowledge. Socio-institutional Network Mapping (SNM) is an empirical, ethnographic research tool for mapping governance networks through illustrations of actors’ goals, power, relationships, resources, and influence. Just as GIS mapping can illuminate fragmented land cover/land use change, SNM uncovers fragmented socio-institutional networks. The former helps visualize where irrigation links access to agricultural land, or where roads bisect ecosystems, while the latter highlights where individual rather than group action predominates, or where individuals are linked to organizations but don’t bridge them.
I propose that combining research methods of traditional GIS with SNM tools could be a powerful research approach when exploring how features of the land such as land use and ownership, irrigation infrastructure, hydroelectric dams, political territories, and road construction, transform and are themselves transformed by, the relationships between actors (individuals and institutions) on the land. I theorize that this combination can prove highly advantageous for research fields such as mine, which study complex, dynamic formal and informal political, legal, social, and environmental influences on communities in one region over time. In particular, I will examine blending SNM and GIS to look at a community’s access to irrigation water and land tenure in a politically ambiguous, mountain region in Pakistan undergoing enormous changes as a result of foreign direct investment in dams and road infrastructure. One example which demonstrates of the utility of this original approach is analysis of the migration of displaced farmers (some landowners, some landless) whose fields, homes, and businesses will be inundated by the dam construction. Where they will relocate and how much compensation they will receive is as much a function of their relationships with other land owners, tenant farmers and government officials, as it is their physical proximity to irrigation canals and markets. I explore the possibilities of comprehensive mapping in research, where maps can show drivers of land use change, histories of socio-ecological transformation, and relationships between actors and institutions. I also discuss ethical implications such as privacy and risks to marginalized peoples.