Deconstructing the conservancy map: Hxaro, N!ore, and Rhizomes in the Kalahari

Saskia Vermeylen, Gemma Davies, Dan van der Horst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


To stand a chance of reclaiming their pre-colonial rights, indigenous peoples often have to deploy the tools and logic of the colonial state. Through a case study of community conservancy in Namibia, we demonstrate that the same holds for the practice of participatory mapping. We engage with J.B. Harley's deconstruction of maps and use our ethnographic data to reveal the silences and lies inherent in the rigid cartographic representations of conservancy maps. The indigenous peoples in our case study are the San, who have been marginalized and displaced from their land. We highlight how these people, once perceived by the colonialists as “rootless,” do have strong relational connections across the landscape. We argue that the practice of counter-mapping, along with its critique, is incomplete without full attention to the silences of the map and the relational rhizomes (across boundaries) of the peoples involved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-134
Number of pages14
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • land rights
  • indigeneity
  • participatory GIS
  • counter-mapping
  • narratives

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