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Mapping Israel, Mapping PalestineHow Occupied Landscapes Shape Scientific Knowledge$
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Jess Bier

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262036153

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262036153.001.0001

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The Colonizer in the Computer: Stasis and International Control in PA Maps

The Colonizer in the Computer: Stasis and International Control in PA Maps

(p.113) 4 The Colonizer in the Computer: Stasis and International Control in PA Maps
Mapping Israel, Mapping Palestine

Jess Bier

The MIT Press

Chapter 4, “The Colonizer in the Computer”, is an examination of how the colonial past and present can affect maps. The Palestinian Authority (PA), the provisional Palestinian government, was founded in the mid-1990s, and they were immediately charged with making their own maps. Their efforts roughly coincided with the second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation. As such it was part of the broader political practice of sumud, or steadfastness, an effort to further the ongoing presence of Palestinians in the local landscape. Throughout their early years, however, the PA experienced constant challenges to its stability, including military raids on its offices and data infrastructure. These affected its ability to build stasis, which is here defined as the ability to ‘stay put’. Furthermore, the only existing maps they had to work with were from 60 year-old British colonial sources. These two factors, the Israeli raids and the British colonial maps, fundamentally shaped the state maps made by the PA. As a result, their maps were less useful for purposes of daily governance like elections, utilities, and infrastructure. PA cartography therefore illustrates the both the challenges and innovations of establishing material sovereignty over knowledge in colonial and postcolonial landscapes.

Keywords:   Cartography, West Bank, Sovereignty, Governance, Palestinian Authority (PA), Postcolonial theory, Israeli occupation, Colonialism, British Mandate, Infrastructure

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