Critical cartography means map-making that challenges dominant worldviews by illustrating and amplifying narratives and analyses of space that do not usually get seen or heard.
In the Western tradition, maps have historically been used to justify logics of domination, colonization and imperialism. They have contributed to the reification of borders and territories, the destruction or extraction of environments, and the diminishing or erasure of populations or cultures. The ways that these maps are generated is through a cartographical practice that closely ties knowledge and truth to hegemony. To be critical of how knowledge is generated, and by whom, is important: maps are not necessarily a precise rendering of reality, although map-readers often learn to read them this way.
An important part of counter-mapping is the collective authorship of maps, the collaboration of scholars and community members at making maps that are accurate to the social reality experienced by actual people in a certain place and time. I look forward to creating counter-cartographies, or “mapping-back,” this summer as part of my research on geographies of freedom, but could not do it alone.
My cohort is made up of students with diverse backgrounds and research foci, and I look forward to leaning on them for constructive feedback and suggestions that will shape and morph my map into something that does not belong exclusively to me, but also to the place and people by which the map is situated. My cohort is made up of historians, philosophers, scientists, literary scholars, and linguists. What ties our work together is our interest in how learning about the world can impact everyday life. I appreciate the perspectives of my peers who will be able to see the world through lenses that I alone cannot. I look forward to critique and dialogue that will challenge me to make my work accessible and meaningful to various audiences, and hold me accountable in the process of generating work that may involve complex relational work and ethical questions–because what does it mean to research a place and the people in it? How does one hold the simultaneous existence of several stories, multiple truths?
I hope my cohort can help me answer these and many other questions, and that I also can offer questions to my cohort about their work, so that our learning may be enhanced by collaboration and reciprocity.
(Here is a map called “Mesoamerica Resiste” by the Beehive Collective, one example of counter-mapping).