Dilemmas of Counter-Mapping Community Resources in Tanzania



Recent work has celebrated the political potential of ‘counter-mapping’, that is, mapping against dominant power structures, to further seemingly progressive goals. This article briefly reviews the counter-mapping literature, and compares four counter-mapping projects from Maasai areas in Tanzania to explore some potential pitfalls in such efforts. The cases, which involve community-based initiatives led by a church-based NGO, ecotourism companies, the Tanzanian National Parks Authority, and grassroots pastoralist rights advocacy groups, illustrate the broad range of activities grouped under the heading of counter-mapping. They also present a series of political dilemmas that are typical of many counter-mapping efforts: conflicts inherent in conservation efforts involving territorialization, privatization, integration and indigenization; problems associated with the theory and practice of ‘community-level’ political engagement; the need to combine mapping efforts with broader legal and political strategies; and critical questions involving the agency of ‘external’ actors such as conservation and development donors, the state and private business interests.