Digital Maps in Israel and Palestine

Digital Maps in Israel and Palestine: How segregated landscapes impact the production of empirical knowledge

Knowledge is situated in geographic landscapes that are at once social and material, and at times this shapes its content in unpredictable ways. In this project, I analyze how the segregated landscapes of Palestine and Israel have impacted the process of making maps of Jerusalem and the West Bank, 1967-present. Through three representative cases on population, governance, and urban maps, I investigate the ways that cartographic knowledge is embedded in specific time, places, and cultures—including international cultures of technoscience.

Cartography includes a range of practices in Jerusalem and the West Bank, from adaptations of decommissioned spy satellite images to a road map made by Palestinian students who tracked their own movements on their mobile phones. Yet the practice of using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software has also changed through its wider incorporation in the region, in part due to the heavily segregated geographic landscapes of the Israeli Occupation, which the cartographers must move through, and live within, in order to produce their maps.

Physical boundaries reinforce, and reverberate across, social and political divisions, shaping and separating communities of cartographers on either side. This encourages the creation of divergent methodologies and standards of practice. With this in mind, here I critique the notion that technology functions as an impartial arbiter in disputes that are said to hinge on empirical observations on the ground. Instead, I argue for a better understanding of how the materialities of knowledge can engender imbalances of power, with the goal of enabling landscapes that are more epistemologically diverse.

PhD candidate: Dr. Jess Bier

Supervisors: Prof.dr. Sally Wyatt and Dr. Bas van Heur

Jess successfully defended her thesis in April 2014.
She is now employed as a post-doctoral researcher at Erasmus University (Rotterdam). Within the ERC-funded “Monitoring Modernity” project with Prof. Willem Schinkel, Jess investigate the changing spatialities of efforts to monitor international financial flows in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis.