September 5: Cartographic Futures, Presents + Pasts

Map of Nippur, 14th/13th c. BCE

Field Trip, 4-5pm: Meet with curator Ian Fowler @ the NYPL Map Division, 42nd St + 5th Ave; meet outside room 117. Please be on time because shortly after we gather, we’ll head to a staff-only area of the building to look at the collection. We’ll then return to the classroom after our visit.


The Old

The New and Timeless: these two pieces foreshadow many of the themes and critical questions we’ll be discussing throughout the semester


See also J.B. Harley and David Woodward, Eds., Cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean, Vol. 1 of The History of Cartography (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987) [especially Catherine Delano Smith, “Cartography in the Prehistoric Period in the Old World”] and J. B. Harley and David Woodward, Eds., Cartography in the Traditional Islamic and South Asian Societies, Vol. 2, Book 1 of The History of Cartography; Cartography in the Traditional East and Southeast Asian Societies, Vol. 2, Book 2 of The History of Cartography; and Cartography in the Traditional African, American, Arctic, Australian, and Pacific Societies, Vol. 2, Book 3 of The History of Cartography; Ed Parsons & Steve Chilton, “The New Mapping Revolution: Google Maps and OpenStreetMap,” Discussion at the British Library (September 7, 2010) [on egocentrism, disposability, availability of aerial photography]; The richly illustrated website companion to Susan Schulten’s Mapping the Nation | David Rumsey Map Collection: 70,000+ historical maps of all continents (except Antarctica) and the world; David Turnbull’s Maps are Territories website


4 Replies


    • “Other” Ways of Seeing & Knowing: Mattern and Parsley’s articles both got me thinking about how Western colonization obliterated other ways of knowing (a.k.a. “epistemic violence”) and how much damage this has caused by robbing us of many rich and embodied ways of understanding our world. How can we return to, preserve, and elevate these epistemologies without appropriating them?

    • Legibility vs. Illegibility: We read examples of crisis situations where activist cartographers were dispatched to undermapped areas to make them more “legible” and easier to reach by aid workers (ex: Haiti). On the other hand, during the colonial era, the “illegibility” of precolonial settlements (for example: medinas in North Africa, an urban form characterized by dense networks of windy streets) offered indigenous communities some protection from being controlled by colonial forces. I wonder how mapping these “undermapped” areas will make certain parts of the world more vulnerable to conquest, resource extraction, and drone attacks. The Office of Creative Research touched upon this in their Great Elephant Census project. As critical cartographers, how can we negotiate this tension?

    • Thank you! You’ve identified two critical sets of problems, Manon! And, fortunately, these themes will recur throughout the semester — especially in our discussions of cartographic epistemologies, critical cartography, indigenous mapping, and other-sensory ways of knowing.

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