Maps are instrumental in the commodification of land and its exchange in markets. The critical cartography literature emphasizes the “power of maps” to (re)define property relations through their descriptive and prescriptive attributes. But how do maps work to achieve these outcomes? This paper examines the notion of maps as “inscription devices” that turn land into a commodity that can be bought and sold by investors. It is based on the analysis of a land reform project in the Southern African country of Lesotho. In contrast to the prescriptive notion of maps as inscription devices we argue that cadastral maps are better understood as processual. Maps are only powerful in concert with contingent social forces in changing political and economic contexts. We use the example of cadastral mapping and land sales in a peri-urban village in Lesotho to make the case for a more dynamic notion of maps and mapping in understanding the work they do in making land investable.
- Cadastral maps
- Land reform
- Land titling
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science