A View from Somewhere: Mapping 19th-Century Cholera Narratives

Author(s): Alanna Warner-Smith

Year: 2017


Several scholars have explored the role of the empirical sciences in colonial contexts; far from a neutral study of the world, they were actively making and remaking material, social, and geographic boundaries. Cartography was part of these boundary-making practices, as the varying positions and views of actors engaging with the world are dissolved into the singular, authoritative view offered by the map.

Studying a cholera epidemic that moved through the Caribbean in the 1850s, I consider how archaeologists might employ mapping technologies while also keeping in view post-colonial and feminist concerns for positionality, scale, and the situated nature of knowledge. Through the use of ArcGIS and its time-enabled feature, I map the ways in which primary and secondary sources describing the experience of cholera and the disease’s movement spatialize the epidemic. More specifically, I probe the scale at which these varying narratives report the epidemic to determine whether it is understood as a broad, regional event or at the level of specific colonies or islands. In exploring these cholera narratives, I raise questions about the concept of the archaeological site, problems of scale, and the power (and limitations) of maps to represent "views from somewhere."

Cite this Record

A View from Somewhere: Mapping 19th-Century Cholera Narratives. Alanna Warner-Smith. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430875)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -90.747; min lat: 3.25 ; max long: -48.999; max lat: 27.683 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14660