“These issues of using these new applications are tempered by questions of sources yet again. How do we reinterpret these sources? Assemble them? Deal with the ever present question of mediation and the masking of local agency? The first and most immediate risk comes from the nature of the sources themselves as these maps, charts and sketches that lend themselves to these exercises are almost always exclusively produced by people who are not familiar with these areas. So how does spatial analysis move us beyond well-worn schemes that plot power along specific axis of race, space and technology? How can we use these sources without reinscribing old ways of seeing the world? (Or new ways also?) How useful are these data-hungry tools for instances in circumstances where empirical data is uneven or sparse (such as in the period I am looking at). For me, one way of doing this is thinking about turning the maps inside out and subtracting what we know is “European” and focusing on spaces within the boundaries of what seems unknowable or unquantifiable. And by looking at these areas and using these new technologies, it becomes possible to plot the past and place in Africa.”
This excerpt from a panel presentation by Ademide Adelusi-Adeluyi highlights important reflections on sources and histories of Africa that scholars, especially historians, must grapple with.