Accepted paper:

Cartography and conceptual space in Eastern Africa


Robert Clemm (The Ohio State University)

Paper short abstract:

Cartography played a critical role in helping conceptualize issues of dominance and power in colonial Eastern Africa. British and German explorers and colonizers used the map to create the colonial space which was the prerequisite to colonization.

Paper long abstract:

One of the understudied historical artifacts that creates space is the map. Cartography has long been ignored as simply something that depicts what "is," however, in the context of colonial Africa the map was a key tool that enabled the conceptual capture of the continent. Maps were critical in enabling both explorers, "armchair explorers" and otherwise, missionaries, capitalists, and governmental officials to complete the conquest of a territory before they even set foot in Africa. This understanding of place, specifically the ownership of the colonial powers, was the chief underpinning of colonial rule. This paper will trace how through the process of exploration and conquest the role cartography played in aiding the colonial success of Germany and Great Britain in Eastern Africa. In the colonies of German and British East Africa, cartography was the language of empire which not only created the spaces to be occupied but justified and substantiated the rule of the Europeans once they occupied the territory. Whether through color or title or the scale of the map, these artifacts served to center Europeans within a colonial space of their own making. Additionally, maps were used to devalue and de-place the indigenous populations that lived in these areas which would make colonial projects to occupy or quarantine these populations that much easier. Every colonial effort, even down to the later efforts at settlement and development, necessitated the conceptual understanding of space and place which the maps gave the colonizing powers.

panel P221
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