This panel explores the cultural use, interpretation and understanding of maps. In terms of the cartography of identity, the contributors of this panel will unravel certain dialectics that exist between the narrative construction of topographical discourse and the embodiment of spatial practice.
Maps are quintessential tools, symbols and artefacts for geographers and others interested in tourism studies. Heuristically they are important in research design and practice, often acting as representational devices for research outcomes. Despite a rapidly developing interest in visual culture and extra-discursive approaches to images, anthropologists have largely overlooked maps and mapping practices. They have tended to address maps and map-making tangentially, in relation to deciphering the ritualistic, navigational/wayfinding, mnemonic and artistic mappings of 'national' landscapes or socio-political territories. Growing out of concerns raised by Roy Wagner (1981) almost a generation ago, mapping and maps have metaphorical, spatial and artefact identities in and of themselves. This panel will address the broad expression of such identity and its nature through a series of ethnographically informed case studies. It will explore the broader cultural use, interpretation and understanding of cartographic objects. With reference to the relationship that exists between maps and identity, the contributors of this panel will unravel certain dialectics that exist between the narrative construction of topographical discourse and the embodiment of spatial practice. Cartographic portraits condition, and are conditioned by, experiential journeys as well as social images that both project and reflect cultural identities. Such spatial projections embed notions of home, belonging and visitation into the fabric of individual and collective perceptions. The panellists of this session will thus attempt to highlight how maps themselves become powerful social agents, operating as material artefacts in the formulation of social connectedness. By investigating the embodied construction of belonging that takes place through maps and movement, we will be interested in outlining how residents and visitors frame their discursive, visual and sensorial experiences of place. Hence, one of our objectives will be to unpack some of the affective and haptic ways of gauging the interactions that people have with the visual imagery and iconography of maps. Our task will therefore be to present ethnographically informed interdisciplinary methods for understanding maps that chart particular worldviews and lifeworlds of different social groups and groupings. Conceivably, this occurs through a diversity of mapping practices which in cultural terms can perhaps be usefully defined as 'anthropographic'. See posting at http://www.materialworldblog.com/