From Inside Technology
Mapping Israel, Mapping Palestine
How Occupied Landscapes Shape Scientific Knowledge
Digital practices in social and political landscapes: Why two researchers can look at the same feature and see different things.
Maps are widely believed to be objective, and data-rich computer-made maps are iconic examples of digital knowledge. It is often claimed that digital maps, and rational boundaries, can solve political conflict. But in Mapping Israel, Mapping Palestine, Jess Bier challenges the view that digital maps are universal and value-free. She examines the ways that maps are made in Palestine and Israel to show how social and political landscapes shape the practice of science and technology.
How can two scientific cartographers look at the same geographic feature and see fundamentally different things? In part, Bier argues, because knowledge about the Israeli military occupation is shaped by the occupation itself. Ongoing injustices—including checkpoints, roadblocks, and summary arrests—mean that Palestinian and Israeli cartographers have different experiences of the landscape. Palestinian forms of empirical knowledge, including maps, continue to be discounted. Bier examines three representative cases of population, governance, and urban maps. She analyzes Israeli population maps from 1967 to 1995, when Palestinian areas were left blank; Palestinian state maps of the late 1990s and early 2000s, which were influenced by Israeli raids on Palestinian offices and the legacy of British colonial maps; and urban maps after the Second Intifada, which show how segregated observers produce dramatically different maps of the same area. The geographic production of knowledge, including what and who are considered scientifically legitimate, can change across space and time. Bier argues that greater attention to these changes, and to related issues of power, will open up more heterogeneous ways of engaging with the world.
Hardcover$9.99 S | £7.99 ISBN: 9780262036153 336 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 4 color illus., 27 b&w illus.
...a penetrating analysis of mapping in occupied territory that gives us an on-the-ground look at how such spatial politics play out....Bier is thoughtful about how tools and data constrain geographic knowledge, and attentive to cartographers' practices as ways of regaining control.
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
... a crucial reminder that the social construction of knowledge must always include spatiality and that geography is simultaneously material and epistemic.
We knew that maps were political, but Bier's incisive ethnography of cartography gives us an embodied, on-the-ground, on-paper, and on-the-screen study of how this is so in the segregated and asymmetric worlds of Palestine/Israel. A welcome contribution to science and technology studies as well as to studies of today's ever more riven Middle East.
Elting E. Morison Professor of Anthropology, MIT
Bier's brilliant and original book is a richly humane and thoughtful meditation on places with contested cartographies and 'victims of maps.' Bringing together theories of colonialism, tools of science and technology studies, and a keen intuition for what matters, Bier tells us the story of how power is projected through geographies, maps, and force.
Professor of Middle East Politics, SOAS, University of London