Critical Mapping 101

Pitfall #1: Encouraging Propaganda

Maps are not facts. They are also not objective. Rather, maps are a way of telling a story. Historically, maps have been used as a way to tell fictional stories of land ownership and the need for intervention of allegedly “weak”, “underdeveloped”, or “undemocratic” states. With this history in mind,

Pitfall #2: Claiming Ownership

Maps reinforce ideas about ownership – both over the ideas and the land represented. When settlers were first colonizing the United States, they used cartography and the authority of a written document to justify displacing indigenous people from their lands. When we create maps about others who have less power as a

Pitfall #3: Forming Extractive Relationships

Oftentimes, when academics create maps, we extract information from the communities we attempt to “explain” without ever actually ameliorating the conditions we are allegedly working to fight. As a research process, this is unjust and extractive, especially when we are given large grants to do this work. The more that

Pitfall #4: Normalizing Surveillance

Ultimately, when you’re pitching for that next social justice mapping project, think to yourself: whose interest is this map serving? Am I just doing a project because I want to do something “good”, but really normalizing the processes of extraction (see last blog post) and surveillance? Scholars Evelyn Nakano Glenn

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