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GMI World
A Publication of Global Mapping International

Serving Evangelical Ministry Leaders Around the World

Summer/Fall 2000


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Best Practices

Maps aid ethnographic research among India's dense populations

Dr. B E VijayamDr. B.E. Vijayam who envisioned Joshua Vision India as a strategy for reaching the unreached people groups of India, is a former Professor of Geology. He used trend surface analysis to produce lithofacies maps for oil prospects in Michigan Basin, USA, while doing research at Northwestern University, Illinois. This method was then used for producing maps for mission strategy.

Recent statistics reveal more than 600,000 villages in the country of India, most with an extremely high population density. It is important to know the locations and the interrelationships of different people groups in the area to know how to reach them. This is where having the technology to develop appropriate maps is so important to missions research and strategy.

Ethnography is a specialized term for the study of people groups. Facts considered in studies such as this include location, culture, and languages of the group. A map of the target area with the ethnographic contours (see the sample map below) is a great help in bringing these important elements together.

The complexity and variety of the people groups in terms of ethno-linguistic, cultural characteristics, traits, etc. is so great that it is very desirable to put them on a map of the kind generally used for management of natural resources.

Similarly, ethnographic maps can be used to understand the differing characteristics of people groups living in the same geographic area. Knowledge gained from research such as this is useful in planning for mission strategy to reach the groups with the gospel with a more systematic approach.

Joshua Vision India, in collaboration with Olive Technology Pvt. Ltd., collects data on the population and characteristics of each ethnic group in every city, town, and village in the study area. Computer modeling techniques are used to create a mathematical "terrain surface" whose "altitude" represents the varying population density of a particular group within the area.

The surfaces for the various groups are shown on maps by contour lines representing the percentage of the population belonging to the group, population density of a group, extent of ethnic mixing, etc.

Such maps are of tremendous help to mission strategists as they make plans to reach, not just a region, but all of the ethnic groups in that region. Understanding the overlapping and mixing of groups is even more important where multiple agencies are involved in reaching multiple groups occupying the same area.

—by Dr. B.E. Vijayam.

Ethnic Contour MapEthnic contour maps are used in the study of ethnography to under-stand the differing characteristics of people groups living in the same geographic areas.

Operation China book cover

GMI recommends . . .

Operation China by Paul Hattaway—the most comprehensive, up-to-date book on the peoples of China— published in 2000 by Piquant.

490 people profiles including maps and statistics, 704 full color photographs, extensive English and Chinese bibliography.

For more information, use the response form on page 7 or see our web site:

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