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(P17) Cultural maps and hunter-gatherers’ being in the world

Convenor: Ute Dieckmann, Cologne University

Abstract: “Cultural” maps are produced with indigenous communities to protect cultural diversity. This session invites discussion about a) the value of cultural maps, b) the extent to which such maps rather reflect western ideas of the world, and c) alternative tools to reflect hunter-gatherers’ ways of being in the world.

Keywords: cultural maps, perceptions of the environment, spatial representations, cultural heritage, land

Format: standard panel

Precirculated materials: yes


So-called "cultural maps" are generally produced with and for indigenous communities including hunting and gathering communities. Cultural maps are tools to promote and protect cultural diversity, they are aimed at empowering communities and strengthening identities and they are used in court (e.g. for land claims) (cf. UNSECO 2009). Often, they are produced with the assistance of anthropologists, linguists or archaeologists working with the respective communities.

However, maps themselves—although meant to be neutral visual representations of areas or regions (usually on a flat surface)—are rooted in specific historical contexts and human interactions with the environment. 

This session invites discussion about the extent to which cultural maps are able to get across what it means for hunter-gatherers to be in the world, i.e. their engagement and relationship with the environment.

We invite contributions that discuss opportunities and constraints of cultural maps for hunter-gatherers and that explore complementary or alternative ways (including other tools and media) to reflect hunter-gatherers’ relations to the environment. Possible questions include:

  • What are the tools or media used by hunter-gatherers themselves which represent their relations with the environment?
  • How can relations that humans might have with non-human beings (and issues around agency) be mirrored in cultural maps or alternative tools? 
  • How could spirits and ancestors be put “on stage” in these representations?
  • Are there ways to appropriately illustrate the integration of kinship, people, paths, and places?
  • Can time in general (and issues of weather, seasons and movement) be captured?




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