Crowdmapping colonialism and occupation

Perusing through the photos on Panoramio, a platform that georeferences photos and places them on the Google Earth map, I came across a number of users – mostly Portuguese – who have put images from their time in Portuguese Timor in the 1960s and 1970s.

This and reading about the efforts of veterans of the Colonial Wars in Africa to “piece together the puzzle of memory” got me thinking about the power of technology in the future to help fully invoke the room of mirrors, or palimpsest, that (is/)was (post)colonialism.

I spent hours, many hours fueled by Tiger during the dark evenings of 2006, sorting through terms of vassalage and kings (and sometimes queens), attempting to plot them on a map with Professor.

Often we would be attempting to map a “petty kingdom” that no longer existed, and would have no idea where to plot it. (I wonder when Professor will share these maps more widely!)

Thanks to the new online beta application Crowd Map, being only archive rats and not coders, we could potentially map these to share, corroborate and expand on the limitations of the colonizer’s narrative.

Google Earth and Ushahidi both have the capacity to create layers – when I started creating categories my mind ran wild.

During a bout of insomnia in the pre-dawn hours, I decided to model what this would look like.

My interest is obviously Portuguese Timor (where I created Church, Topasses, Military, Rotas/vassalage, Daily Life, Japanese Occupation), but I have created categories for Occupied Indonesian Timor, what I am calling “Pre-European Contact”, and even UNTAET and “Decolonized Timor-Leste”. The latter category could become a place for discussion of Timor’s post-colonial situation.

If anybody would like to have a go, please feel free to leave a report – adding video, photos, or hyperlinks to other text.

Another potential use for this kind of platform would be to pressure the Timorese government and international actors not to forget the victims of these layers of violence.

Imagine if every victim’s family plotted themselves on a map – it would refute President Ramos Horta’s assertion that people are not concerned with this. That nobody raises their voice about this issue.


One thought on “Crowdmapping colonialism and occupation

  1. Pingback: Global Voices in English » East Timor: Providing Spaces for the Memory

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