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Title:Conventional signs, imperial designs: mapping the Gold Coast, 1874-1957
Author(s):McGowan, Jamie
Director of Research:Bassett, Thomas J.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Bassett, Thomas J.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Allman, Jean M.; Flint, Colin; Wilson, David; Akerman, James R.
Department / Program:Geography & Geographic InfoSci
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):history of cartography
Abstract:This dissertation challenges conventional cartographic histories of Africa that invariably present a Eurocentric view of the mapping of the continent. These histories typically consider tend to position the Berlin Conference of 1884 to 1885 as the key moment in the mapping of Africa by European explorers, surveyors, and mapmakers. In contrast, this study offers a more balanced cartographic history examining the roles played by Africans in the mapping of the continent. The mapping of the British colony of the Gold Coast (Ghana) serves as a case study that illustrates the influence of Africans surveyors, cartographers, and chiefs in the mapping of Africa. The research hinges on three central arguments. First, the techniques and technology of mapping enabled the governance of the colony, as maps were everyday tools of rule. Second, Africans were critical to the mapping of Ghana from its colonial inception through its independence in 1957. Their cartographic training and contributions to colonial mapping help to explain the striking continuities in mapping into the postcolonial era. Third, local chiefs, though not directly involved with the mapping practices, informed the mapping of boundaries by the colonial administration, thus influencing their territories of rule in northeastern Ghana. This study demonstrates that cartography was a commonplace tool of colonial administration, and there is a cartomentality to such maps. By this I mean, the maps have an instrumentality fostering administrative strategies while also there is a continuous pursuit of a higher degree of accuracy to achieve better knowledge and administrative coherence. It also correlates these interventions to administrative tactics of governing the population, the economy, and the territory. Further, this dissertation illuminates that maps were not solely constructed by British colonial agents. African surveyors and cartographers were influential in the mapping of colonial Ghana and their contributions to mapping was not solely framed around British colonial affairs, but reflected local and regional socio-political dynamics or an interest in scientific practice. A third contribution of this study is its focus on African agency, demonstrating that individuals not actively involved in the mapping process as professionals still influenced the mapping of the colony. Namely, local chiefs concerned with their territories of rule sought to influence their socio-political territory of rule and thereby influenced the making of colonial maps.
Issue Date:2014-01-16
Rights Information:Copyright 2013 Jamie McGowan
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-01-16
Date Deposited:2013-12

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