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This panel brings together papers on innovative applications of digital mapping technology to the modelling of Indigenous territories, spanning Canada, Brazil, Australia and the USA.
The mapping of cultural territories is a central feature of social anthropological research. In complex colonial administrative settings, mapping of Indigenous territories is one of the critical functions of social anthropology. Social anthropologists working in these settings, whether on behalf of government, the judiciary, NGOs or Indigenous communities, rely on accurate, accessible and functional mapping technologies in order to deliver their expertise effectively. These geographic information systems (GIS) not only augment other methodological technologies in the anthropological toolkit, but also open up new approaches to the modelling and analysis of field data drawn from interviews, surveys, audio and video recordings, and various forms of telemetry. Innovations in GIS, driven by bourgeoning internet and mobile phone use, have allowed recent generations of social anthropologists to develop new methods for mapping Indigenous territories. The proliferation of open source software and code, combined with increasing literacy in programming and readily accessible hardware, is seeing contemporary anthropological practice merge with previously discrete quantitative fields such as computing and data science. Most importantly, more accessible and functional GIS allows for a more equitable engagement by Indigenous communities in anthropological research. Rather than relying exclusively on the skill, expertise and ethical commitment of social anthropologists to develop accurate territorial models, Indigenous communities can now use those same technologies to develop their own models and analyses and to error-check the work of anthropologists. This panel brings together papers on innovative applications of digital mapping technology to the modelling of Indigenous territories spanning Canada, Brazil, Australia and the USA.