October 4: Critical Cartography + Counter Mapping

Cover, The Chronic, March 2015, via Africa is a Country

Map Critiques: Tim, Juana, Ayesha



William Bunge, Fitzgerald: Geography of a Revolution (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2011[1971]).

Kate Crawford & Megan Finn, “The Limits of Crisis Data: Analytical and Ethical Challenges of Using Social and Mobile Data to Understand Disasters,” GeoJournal (November 2014).

Lindsay Palmer, “Ushahidi at the Google Interface: Critiquing the ‘Geospatial Visualization of Testimony,’” Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies 28:3 (2014): 342-56.

Denis Wood, Excerpts from “Counter-Mapping and the Death of Cartography” In Rethinking the Power of Maps (New York: Guilford Press, 2010): 120-129.


MIT Center for Civic Media on The Detroit Geographic Expedition and Institutea collection of Bunge maps on Detroitography

DGEI Field Notes @ Antipode, as well as papers from a symposium reflecting on those notes

Andy Merrifield, “Situated Knowledge Through Exploration: Reflections on Bunge’s ‘Geographical Expeditions,” Antipode 27:1 (January 1995)

Linda Campbell, Andrew Newman & Sara Safransky’s “Uniting Detroiters” project, inspired by Bunge.

2 Replies

  • I found Nancy Paluso’s “Whose woods are these?” article to be really interesting because I spent the 3.5 years before I came to Parsons working on a Palm Oil Campaign focused in Indonesia. This article was written 9 years before I began that job and yet so much of what she is discussing is still very challenging territory. An interesting element of this discussion of claims to trees/tracts of forests/territories and how that impacts who has access to that land in more recent years (though I don’t know much about this historically) is the way that the land categories and subsequent protections are manipulated by different human communities in order to gain access to that land. One of the large issues that we covered in the campaign was the prominence of people committing arson in primary forests in order to change the land category from protected to available for farming (during a period over the last several years where there has been a government enforced moratorium on clearing primary forests). Even in cases where there is a clear native claim (adat) to the land, palm oil corporations are using intimidation tactics to force non-consensual use of the lands. Another interesting mapping consideration on this issue is the question of what counts as forest cover in climate/environmental negotiations and policies. In recent years, the Indonesian government has counted oil palm plantations as forest cover as a way to simultaneously expand the industry and meet the demands of international environmental parties that are pressuring the government to protect the country’s peatlands and forests.
    All of this leaves me wondering if the counter-maps that inspired Paluso to write this article are not being honored as a way to protect communities claims to land, how else can mapping be used to protect forest communities as the palm oil industry expands? Continuing to map these issues is crucial for the people working to protect the land and forest-dependant communities, but without a government that will hold industry accountable to the lines that are drawn they don’t get to be the powerful tools that they have the potential to be and sometimes become part of the gas-lighting that takes place in negotiations around forest protection and land disputes.

  • A belated thank you for this fantastic comment, Jessica! It’s fascinating to consider how the “ontology” of the map — protected, available, what counts as forest cover, etc — compels interested parties to reverse-engineer “reality.” We’ll talk more today about the use of drone mapping in Indonesia — but, as you wonder, without a responsive government, what good is any counter-mapping?

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