Weaponizing Maps by Denis Wood and Joe Bryan
How do maps become weapons? In the fight over land and resources, maps are used to dispossess indigenous peoples from both, while indigenous peoples use maps to establish claims to these same lands and resources. Weaponizing Maps is about the tension between military application and political advocacy in the practice of indigenous mapping.
Denis Wood and Joe Bryan view this conflict through a contemporary case study with roots in the 19th century. The book traces an arc from the America's internal colonialism to external expansion to the ongoing War on Terror. It identifies the links among tactics and strategies of US military counter-insurgency programs, confronting unconventional threats from indigenous peoples (and rebel groups, criminals, and others). The US has had to define the area of struggle, one that spills from the battlefield into the forests, fields, and cities where people lead their daily lives. In these circumstances all of society becomes a battlefield.
Maps are the essential way of understanding this terrain, charting where people farm and get their food, the roads, and waterways they use to move from place to place, and the towns where they gather. The military/political approach accepts the insurgents' (indigenous peoples') view that threats to security exist. Therefore the battlefield is everywhere. This involves detailed mapping.
At the same time, maps are indispensible in indigenous peoples' efforts to preserve their rights as distinct populations. Their maps, showing knowledge of territory derived from use and occupancy, have become a way to counter state claims to authority. Weaponizing Maps examines the conditions under which indigenous mapping has come into existence.
Indigenous mapping, then, constitutes the grounds for the recognition of indigenous peoples' rights to territory, self-determination, and self-government. From the other side, the mapping brings the conquest home. Weaponizing Maps looks at the challenges of intervention, identification, and consolidation of the power of the state. There are two areas of focus: indigenous peoples use of mapping and the aggression of the US in mapping against rebel groups, and, say, the use of maps in the Iraq war.
See also: ODT’s How Maps Change Things (available hardcopy or as an ebook) which includes various maps of Iraq, including V.P. Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force Map which was eventually pried from the US government’s hands by the public interest group, Judicial Watch. That map carries the title: Iraq's Oilfields and Exploration Blocks and was only released by U.S. Court order. It no-so-subtly made the case for the US invasion of that country.
For an introduction to mapping, see ODT’s Seeing Through Maps, originally $24.95 now with copies on sale for $10.95.