Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
What makes maps an analogy to the geographic conditions? This paper explores the ways multiple realities are created when people make analogies between the virtual and actual, by examining how people jointly created the land census data out of their memories and historical documents. It seeks to understand how various memories of land become "social knowledge" (Camic et al. 2011; Longino 2001), and how the ordering of geography through knowledge is linked with social practices (Kuhn 1962; Tsing 2005). The analysis draws on the fieldwork about the land census taking place in rural South China, part of an ongoing reform which aims to validate the wet-rice land ownership. Today’s rural land ownership was established in the last land reform thirty years ago, a time long enough to erase the blurred boundaries of wet-rice paddy. During the census, people fought over small pieces of paddy plots which have been abandoned for years. In this ethnographic case, the GIS surveyors, cadres, and villagers decided to use maps to substitute the on-site survey. To what extent realities of land emerge out of map drawing? People make analogies based on the process of finding relationships. On what ground do people pick up similar features to make the relations? This paper takes maps as a genre for people to make sense of social relations and their material environments. It probes into what grants a map validity as an analogy to its counterpart, a geographic reality that may or may not bear similarities to its image.