This panel addresses novel understandings and uses of participatory mapmaking. Its papers speak to new forms of cartographic inclusion which listen to and speak on behalf of local communities as a means of de-colonising both our maps as well as the processes and epistemologies of making them.
This panel addresses novel understandings and uses of participatory mapmaking. Over the past century, maps have almost invariably been based on remotely sensed visual data from satellites, with information occasionally sprinkled in from the odd local survey. These top-down modes of cartographic production have led to a concentration of quantified and visually determined phenomena while neglecting more subjective, qualitative and multi-sensorially experiential elements of the physical world. From a human perspective, the sheer scale of satellite data is incommensurate with human experience: to understand what space means to communities requires situated, personal, qualitative data. Participatory research methods have thus gained popularity because they address this lacuna, providing a means to incorporate the experience, attitudes and even ecological knowledge of local community members, empowering residents to envision sustainable futures of their social, cultural and ecological spaces (Warner 2015). For example, participatory mapping and the use of vernacular spatial knowledge is becoming increasingly relevant in court cases over issues of indigenous rights and land-use. The panel encourages papers that speak to epistemic trajectories providing alternative forms of data open to new hermeneutic thinking in which qualitative reflection confronts fixed coordinates and numeric GIS data. It thus calls for explicit linkages of anthropology and geography in cartographic work to align thinking about representation and textual (e.g. ethnographic) production and to hone the methodological apparatus for creating equitable representations of the planet. Contemporary cartographic anxieties (Billé 2016) suggest the need to de-colonise not just our maps but the processes and epistemologies of making them.