The Africa Map Circle – “Explorations”

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“Explorations…” is a public outreach and teaching initiative of the Africa Map Circle.  The Africa Map Circle is, in turn, a project of the African Historical Graphics Archive.   It originated in 2019 as a collaboration between researchers at the Boston University African Studies Center and Afriterra: The Cartographic Free Library.  Subsequently, participants have joined its activities from across the United States and around the world.   

The Circle operates as an online community of scholars and researchers devoted to sharing and studying maps of Africa.  By participating in its activities students and teachers at all levels — from elementary school through post-doctoral research fellows  — can learn how do research and teach themselves and others about a wide range of African studies topics though both historical and modern maps.

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The cartographic material ranges from maps that illustrate particular incidents or narratives from the historical past to contemporary satellite imagery highlighting land forms.  In addition, contemporary and unfolding environmental crises can be discussed and examined on topics including, for example, drought conditions, flooding and water stress circumstances, Africa’s periodic locust plagues or the contemporary spread of the Coronavirus throughout many particular locations on the African continent.

Participants in the circle are encouraged to share notifications of their own research in African cartography and facilitate the exchange of information in this rapidly burgeoning, multi-disciplinary field of study – both in terms of historical subjects that they have researched or in terms of contemporary and ongoing issues of public interest.

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In the past, for example, as part of the 2019 African Studies Association (ASA) annual meeting in Boston during November 2019, Dr. Gerald Rizzo extended a generous invitation to all members of the ASA to visit and view Afriterra at its Boston headquarters — a visit during which Dr. Jules Carney (UCLA, Geography) presented an important address entitled: “The Trans-Atlantic Horizon: A Cartographic Observance of Africa’s Botanical Legacy,” (22 November 2019) based on several decades of her research on trans-Atlantic ethno-botany. afriterra-map

Six months earlier, during the the Spring of 2019, a public exhibition of maps and historical prints from the slave trade period was presented at Harvard University (see: “Maps, Stones & Plants: Agents of Empire and the Ecology of the Atlantic Trade.”).  The need for integrating cartographic, documentary, social, and biological history along with archaeology were discussed at length.

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In the future further meetings of students at all levels, specialized researchers, historical map enthusiasts and scholars from all over the world who study African maps are anticipated to continue and expand this new field of online digital humanities.

As the social and economic impact of the expansion of the Coronavirus in Africa receives increased attention, emerging cartographic resources for mapping of COVID-19 in Africa will be shared and discussed in the Africa Map Circle.

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For more information see: “Some Advantages of Joining the Africa Map Circle.”   Notices of further developments from The Circle will be posted here as they become available.

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T. C. Weiskel

Visiting Researcher, African Studies Center, Boston University
Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society (London), FRGS
Coordinator of the Africa Map Circle

 

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