Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Top Ten Counter-Mapping Papers of All Time

These are the top academic references on counter-mapping.  There is a gap between 1996 and 2002; while several of the best papers came after 2005, when counter-mapping as a subject of academic inquiry really took off.  Two of those appeared in Current Anthropology.

In the late-1990s gap, one could fit all kinds of material, including Sterritt et al (1998) Tribal Boundaries in the Nass Watershed; writings by Nietschmann and Poole in Cultural Survival Quarterly, and others.  For this list we stick to the academic paper as the relevant unit.  Many of these are mentioned in part two of Denis Wood's Rethinking the Power of Maps

What all of this points to is, really, that counter-mapping is something that is done, by local and/or indigenous peoples.  The outcome is often an atlas of some kind.  Innumerable atlases have been produced focusing, for example, upon the English countryside (parish mapping); Mayan lands; Inuit traditional hunting territories; Sto:lo First Nations; and Nisga'a lands (Sterritt et al, 1998).

Canada has a disproportionate number of counter-mappers producing atlases because of the sheer number of First Nations groups within Canada.

Brody Hugh  1981  Maps and Dreams  Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre is perhaps the all-time best counter-mapping text, but it is a book, and we are focusing here on academic papers.  The title of my book Maps and Memes is a play on Brody's title.


1. Peluso Nancy  1995  Whose Woods Are These? Counter-Mapping Forest Territories in Kalimantan, Indonesia  Antipode  27 (4) 383-406

I always start with Peluso because the Antipode paper is short.  But as noted above Maps and Dreams is really ground zero.

2. Crouch David and Matless David  1996  Refiguring Geography: Parish Maps of Common Ground  Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers  21 (1) 236-255

Denis Wood goes on at length about the Parish mapping project in Rethinking the Power of Maps.  The best academic paper on the subject is, however, Crouch and Matless in TIBG.

3. Hodgson Dorothy and Schroeder Richard  2002  Dilemmas of Counter-Mapping Community Resources in Tanzania  Development and Change  33 (1) 79-100

An early example of authors brave enough to actually use the word counter-mapping in the title of an academic paper.

4. Smith Derek  2003  Participatory Mapping of Community Lands and Hunting Yields Among the Bugle of Western Panama  Human Organization 62 (4) 332-343

Smith's article shows how participation often equates with counter-mapping.  The participatory aspect of mapping is not a requirement for counter-mapping.  It can be a very expert-driven thing.  Smith was a member of the panel of examiners at the defence of my master's degree at Carleton University in 2005 (along with Simon Dalby, Sebastien Caquard, and Iain Wallace).  He was my second supervisor/advisor as well.

5. Aporta Claudio and Higgs Eric  2005  Satellite Culture: Global Positioning Systems, Inuit Wayfinding and the Need for a New Account of Technology  Current Anthropology  46 (5) 729-753

Aporta and Higgs rely heavily upon Borgmann's Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life (Chicago) and, as such, this paper is very critical of new technologies.  GPS upsets rhythms of life for Inuit hunters, forcing straight-line thinking into the traditional wayfinding paradigm.

6. Harris Leila and Hazen Helen  2005  The Power of Maps: Counter-Mapping for Conservation  ACME: An International e-Journal for Critical Geographies  4 (1) 99-130

Over the years ACME has produced some excellent special issues, including one on critical cartographies, in which this paper appeared.  It focuses specifically on conservation.  I found it useful during my time as a GIS technician at the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority to have this reference to hand.

7. Turnbull David  2007  Maps, Narratives, and Trails: Performativity, Hodology, and Distributed Knowedges in Complex Adaptive Systems  Geographical Research  45 (2) 140-149

This paper pushes the boundary of counter-mapping into the cognitive.  It is chosen as an example of alternative or creative counter-mapping.  Maps as art might equally fit this bill.

8. Wainwright Joel and Bryan Joe  2009  Cartography, Territory, Property: Postcolonial Reflections on Indigenous Counter-Mapping in Nicaragua and Belize  Cultural Geographies  16 (2) 153-178

Wainwright makes a very clear statement of his position on counter-mapping in his Decolonizing Development.

9. Sletto Bjorn  2009  'We Drew What We Imagined': Participatory Mapping, Performance and the Arts of Landscape Making  Current Anthropology  50 (4) 443-476

Bjorn was external examiner at my PhD defence (in the UK, 'viva').  His work has been an inspiration and new papers have appeared in places like Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, though his Current Anthropology piece remains his best.

10. Willow Anna  2013  Doing Sovereignty in Native North America: Anishinaabe Counter-Mapping and the Struggle for Land-Based Self-Determination  Human Ecology  41  871-884

This paper was brought to my attention by Thomas Thornton.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Top Ten Critical Indigenous Studies Texts

The ten best books on indigenous methodologies, with a bias towards mapping.  I won't say that it is the all-time best list, but that it is 'a' current selection from 'the' best of what's out there.

What counts as a 'critical' indigenous text?  In my opinion, the text must be critical across the board, reassessing writing from indigenous and non-indigenous scholars alike.  It must be methodological, and theoretically challenging, pushing thinking in new directions.  It cannot accept status-quo formulations.  It should express world-historic content in some sense, without being overtly/overly pan-indigenist or universalist.

The following list is very much focused on Canada and North America, and it is largely culled from my new book, Maps and Memes 2015, McGill-Queen's University Press:

1. Smith Linda-Tuhiwai  1999  Decolonizing Methodologies  London: Zed

This book inspired the title of my master's thesis (Decolonizing Geographic Information Systems, with Simon Dalby supervising).  It was re-issued a couple of years ago, and remains a corner-stone in indigenous methodologies, with implications for indigenous studies, qualitative research, mapping-as-power, and much more.  The approach uses Foucault and Lefebvre to theorize indigenous approaches to research, with specific focus on the Maori.

2. Harris Cole  2002  Making Native Space  Vancouver: UBC Press

This magnificent tome by the legendary Canadian scholar looks at how indigenous spaces in British Columbia are shaped by surveying and mapping practices.  Derek Gregory's The Colonial Present covers similar epistemological issues for Israel/Palestine.  Both texts are very critical of colonial mapping practices that are both ongoing (think drones) and far from neutral or benevolent.

3. Archibald Jo-Ann  2008  Indigenous Storywork: Educating the Heart, Mind, Body and Spirit  Vancouver: UBC Press

This scholarly work makes use of stories to illustrate methods for producing sensitive research by, with, and for indigenous and First Nations peoples.

4. Kovach Margaret  2009  Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations, and Contexts  Toronto: University of Toronto Press

This innovative work positions itself by weaving together stories of indigenous research.  It also has a wonderful sense of the author's own position in the research process, giving the book a sense of deep integrity

5. Niezen Ronald  2009  The Rediscovered Self: Indigenous Identity and Cultural Justice  Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press

Ron Niezen was at the 2011 Annual Association and Anthropologists meeting in Montreal.  I attended his talk "Routes of Exposure: Public Mediation of Indigenous Rights Claims" and asked a question afterwards.  He pointed me to his chapter on indigenous suicide and epidemiology in Healing Traditions (Kirmayer and Valaskakis, 2009, UBC Press).  This got me started in the direction that would result in the final shape of my book Maps and Memes.  All of this occurred after Niezen had attended my PhD defense at McGill University, with Bjorn Sletto, George Wenzel, and Andre Costopoulos in attendance.  The Rediscovered Self covers a range of Niezen's important thought.

6. Hall Anthony  2011  Earth Into Property: Colonization, Decolonization and Capitalism  Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press

This massive tome is a comprehensive look at colonizing/decolonizing practices in North America.  It is a post-Columbian treasure trove of great writing and insight, and it informed my approach in Maps and Memes.

7. Escobar Arturo  2008  Territories of Difference: Place, Movements, Life, Redes  Durham: Duke University Press

If you have ever wondered how the work of deLanda, deLeuze, and Ingold are really relevant to indigenous peoples, this is the book for you.

8. Johnson Leslie  2010  Trail of Story, Traveller's Path  Edmonton: Athabasca University Press

Leslie Johnson explicitly include GIS in her ethnoecological approach to indigenous knowledge.  What is so refreshing about this book is that it brings home the idea that GIS is not epistemologically opposed to indigenous knowledge.  Core structures and 'primitives' cross-over and pollinate each other in a complex and very sophisticated interplay of ideas and connotations about the place of mapping, practices, and knowledge systems in landscapes and their formation.

9. Lewis Malcolm (ed)  1998  Cartographic Encounters: Perspectives on Native American Mapmaking and Map Use  Chicago: University of Chicago Press

This is the only dedicated cartographic text listed here.  It covers indigenous mapping from an historical/North American perspective and is absolutely essential as both an indigenous-oriented and cartographic text.

10.  Mark David  Turk Andrew  Burenhult Niclas and Stea David  (eds)  2011  Landscape in Language: Transdisciplinary Perspectives  Amsterdam: John Benjamins

The first word that springs to mind here is 'ontologies' for some reason, but that could just be my own background working at McGill with people like Renee Sieber and Christopher Wellen.

I first met David Mark along with Claudio Aporta and others in Renee Sieber's apartment in Montreal.  Mark has a wise and humorous presence, in the most respectful of senses.  He is an intriguing speaker and thinker, and his work resonates with that of Stephen Levinson, and others.  It is very much on the linguistic side of mapping, but not at all inaccessible.

Top Ten Critical GIS Papers of All Time

See the previous post on the top ten critical GIS books of all time, and you will notice some overlap. The first list did not include Rundstrom, Chrisman, Sparke, Kwan, Haklay, Leszczynski, or Kitchin.  These are the papers that changed the playing fields of critical GIS and geography.  4 of them appeared in Annals AAG.

Critical GIS took off a few years after the Wood/Harley revolution in the mid-1980s to early 1990s.  There was a half-decade of contentious debate (or all-out battle) between 'positivist' GIS-types, and human geographers that was never really resolved.  However, the work of feminist GIS academics went a long way towards bridging the gap, as reflected in the list below starting around 2002.

1. Rundstrom Robert  1995  GIS, Indigenous Peoples and Epistemological Diversity  Cartography and Geographic Information Systems  22 (1) 45-57

Along with Ground Truth, this publication changed my life.  In my naive (at the time) way, I couldn't believe that anyone had thought the same thought as me.  As a budding GIS technician and future geography post-grad I didn't trust my own thoughts enough to verbalize them or write them down.  Rundstrom gave me the confidence to do so, and I started quoting this paper extensively in 2001 through to my master's degree at Carleton University in 2005.  It is still the key text in critical and indigenous GIS.  The author is a professor at the University of Oklahoma (Norman).

2. Wright Dawn  Goodchild Michael and Proctor James  1997  Demystifying the Persistent Ambiguity of GIS as 'Tool' vs. 'Science'  Annals of the Association of American Geographers  87 (2)  346-62

I love the idea of ambiguity in GIS. At a time when GIS wars were all about binary oppositions and divides between the critical-human and the positivist-GIS views, a dose of ambiguity and/or blurring was necessary.  This paper is still very useful in a pedagogical sense.  I introduce it into my critical GIS and the geoweb class and ask students to tell my why they think GIS is a tool or a science.  Reasons given for why they think so are often fascinating, and go to the heart of philosophies of computing, technology, and society (which might start me waxing poetic about Turing and artificial intelligence or some such thing).  It is a great discussion-starter.

3. Brealey Ken  1995  Mapping Them Out: Euro-Canadian Cartography and the Appropriation of the Nuxalt and Ts'ilqot'in First Nations' Territories  The Canadian Geographer  39 (2) 140-56

Brealey was overshadowed by Cole Harris, but this paper and another by Brealey (published in BC Studies about Peter O'Reilly) are excellent.  It's a shame he hasn't published more.  Mapping Them Out was heavily influenced by Harley, but it made the application to BC First Nations explicit and was, therefore, essential to me in my early days as critical GIS practitioner.

4. Sparke Matthew  1998  A Map That Roared and an Original Atlas: Canada, Cartography, and the Narration of Nation  Annals of the Association of American Geographers  88 (3)  463-95

This paper made much of Edward Said's concept of contrapuntal cartographies (from Culture and Imperialism) and, thus, served as my introduction to post-colonial theory (and Said in particular).  It also had the somewhat unfortunate effect of getting me 'into' Homi Bhabha a bit which, upon later reflection, never really proved to be that productive.  A Map That Roared is an absolutely essential paper.  Sparke's book In The Space of Theory is one of my all-time favourite books of geographical theory.

5. Kwan Mei-Po  2002  Feminist Visualization: Re-envisioning GIS as a Method in Feminist Geographic Research  Annals of the Association of American Geographers 92 (4) 645-61

Around the time Schuurman published her thesis in Cartographica critical GIS took a turn for the better.  That turn took us directly into feminist territory.  Kwan led the way in the sense that she produced theoretically sophisticated, but very tool-grounded, geospatial visualisations of women's lives.

6. Schuurman Nadine  2006 Formalization Matters: Critical GIS and Ontology Research  Annals of the Association of American Geographers  96 (4) 726-739

The leader in critical GIS in all current forms, Schuurman's ontology paper was published at a time when 'ontologies' (in the engineering sense) was beginning to take off.  She clarifies the ontology/ontologies distinction (one is concerned with philosophy of existence; the other with object-worlds).  She also makes a very cogent point about the ontological status of map legends.

7. Chrisman Nicholas and Harvey Francis  2005  Full Circle: More Than Just Social Implications of GIS  Cartographica  40 (4)  23-35

I first met Nick Chrisman at a Spatial Knowledge and Information (SKI) conference in Fernie BC (this was also, as it happens, where I first met Nadine Schuurman).  My paper on Unearthing Google received its first question from Nick.  He advised me (as, he told me, he had advised his student Francis Harvey) to 'forget about the cyborg.'  I couldn't do this.  What I didn't realize at the time was that Chrisman had been part of an original group responsible for what came to be ESRI's ArcGIS.  See his book Charting the Unknown, which tells the story of how computer graphics at Harvard became (rightfully) the industry-leader for GIS.  It is interesting to read in light of current developments: mapping in the cloud and QGIS.

8. Kitchin Rob and Dodge Martin 2007  Rethinking Maps  Progress in Human Geography  31 (3) 331-44

I first met Rob Kitchin at last year's RGS meeting at Imperial College London.  He is a very friendly person and a convincing speaker.  I had critically reviewed his (also with Dodge) Code/Space in Cartographica a couple of years before, which made me feel a bit self-conscious.  However, it was very useful and timely to hear about his new book The Data Revolution, and especially new thinking around data/code assemblages.  A sophisticated thinker, and leader in the field. Rethinking Maps takes a processual view of cartography that is post-representational, ontological, and in-tune with new developments in online mapping.

9. Leszczynski Agnieszka  2012  Situating the Geoweb in Political Economy  Progress in Human Geography  36 (1) 72-89

This is one of the first deeply critical papers to directly address political aspects of the geoweb (as defined by Scharl and Tochtermann in their groundbreaking The Geospatial Web).  But while that text was ever so slightly triumphalist in tone, and a bit uncritical; Agnieszka's paper pulled no punches.  It is the definitive statement on how un-neutral the geoweb is; the question of neutrality in mapping, GIS, technology, and the geoweb is both ambiguous and persistent and will not go away.  Therefore we need papers like this, and this one serves as a model of how to publish critical geographical thoughts.

10. Haklay Mordechai  2013  Neogeography and the Delusion of Democratisation  Environment and Planning A  45 (1) 55-69

I first met Muki at the Association of American Geographers meeting in Las Vegas (pre-2010).  He has since flourished at UCL and is a leader in geographical information science (he is in an engineering department). This paper is required reading for my Practising Sustainable Development and ICT4D students at Royal Holloway.  It gets them thinking about how all these wonderful mapping platforms produce social implications and power structures among those whom they propose to help.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Top Ten Critical GIS Books of All Time

Part of my GIS Tools for Critical Thinking Series, here is a list of the top ten classics or defining texts in the field of critical GIS (in loose chronological order):

1. Pickles, John. (ed.).  1995.  Ground Truth: The Social Implications of Geographic Information Systems.  New York: Guilford.

Ground Truth is the one that started it all.  As a technician in training, struggling with ethical and subjective aspects of mapping, finding this book on the shelves in the College of New Caledonia's library was a conversion experience.  I wrote a paper on ground truth in GIS, which led to subsequent work in indigenous mapping (Wet'suwet'en) and a master's and PhD in the subject.

2. Curry, Michael.  1998.  Digital Places: Living With Geographic Information Technologies.  London and New York: Routledge.

My best association with this book was a discussion had during the defense of my master's degree with Simon Dalby, Sebastien Caquard, Iain Wallace, and Derek Smith.  The Curry text came up again and again.  Its citation and use as a theoretical base for my own master's work in northwestern BC was indispensable.  It still is.

3. Harley, J.B.  2002.  The New Nature of Maps.  Johns Hopkins University Press.

This book holds the ur-text of critical GIS, Harley's "Deconstructing the Map" published six years before Pickles Ground Truth.  It has several other key, indispensable, texts for critical geographical studies.

4. Wood, Denis.  2010.  Rethinking the Power of Maps.  New York: Guilford.

I find this text much more comprehensive and credible than Wood's earlier The Power of Maps.  Here we have the definitive statement on counter-mapping.

5. Pickles, John.  2004.  A History of Spaces: Cartographic Reason, Mapping, and the Geocoded World.  London and New York: Routledge.

Pickles second critical GIS text is subtle, and it has the advantage of being a single-authored monograph.  It appeared just before the Google Earth revolution, which makes it interesting to read.  Pickles missed nothing by this timing.

6. Schuurman, Nadine.  2004. GIS: A Short Introduction.  Wiley.

Also pre-Google Earth revolution, it is this text's strength that it focuses on GIS, and the truly critical aspects for thinking that can be taken from that infamous suite of tools so closely associated with ESRI.

7. Harvey, Francis.  2008.  A Primer of GIS:  Fundamental Geographic and Cartographic Concepts.  New York: Guilford.  

This is an excellent text with pedagogical impact.  It covers GIS and mapping from a very well-grounded base in mapping practices, with sections on ethics of (indigenous) mapping.

8. Cope, Meghan and Elwood, Sarah. (eds.). 2009.  Qualitative GIS: A Mixed Methods Approach.  London: Sage.  

Cope and Elwood's edited volume has chapters by Rambaldi and Corbett; Schuurman; and Matthew Wilson amongst other heavy-hitters in critical GIS.

9. Kurgan, Laura.  2013.  Close Up At A Distance.  Zone Books.

This book covers geospatial mapping projects over decades, with excellent coverage of GPS mapping as / and art.

10.  O'Rourke, Karen.  2013.  Walking and Mapping: Artists As Cartographers.  Cambridge: MIT Press.

Finally we have a text that covers psychogeography and GPS comprehensively under one cover, from one of my very favourite publishers, MIT press.

(apologies to those left off the list...)

Maps and Memes meet the author

1-5 June 2015 at SFU (downtown Vancouver) at the Canadian Association of Geographers meeting

re-blogged from (CAG meeting 2015), Royal Holloway University of London, Department of Geography


Meet the author of Maps and Memes, out now with McGill-Queen’s University Press.  A reading will be followed by questions from the audience. This event will be of interest to academics doing research in Canada, with indigenous and northern peoples, mapping, GIS, and education.  From the back cover of the book: ‘Maps and cartography have long been used in the lands and resources offices of Canada's indigenous communities in support of land claims and traditional-use studies. Exploring alternative conceptualizations of maps and mapmaking, Maps and Memes theorizes the potentially creative and therapeutic uses of maps for indigenous healing from the legacies of residential schools and colonial dispossession.  [I] propose that maps are vehicles for "place-memes" - units of cultural knowledge that are transmitted through time and across space, focusing on Cree, Inuit, and northwest coast communities.’
Les cartes et les mèmes, rencontre avec l’auteur de Maps and Memes (Presses de l’Université McGill-Queen’s), Université Royal Holloway de Londres, Département de géographie


Venez rencontrer l’auteur de l’ouvrage Maps and Memes paru récemment aux Presses de l’Université McGill-Queen’s. Des extraits de l’ouvrage seront lus, puis l’auditoire sera invité à poser des questions. L’événement vise à attirer les chercheurs universitaires du Canada qui s’intéressent aux peuples autochtones et des régions nordiques, à la cartographie, aux SIG, et à l’enseignement . On peut lire en quatrième de couverture (traduction): Les cartes et la cartographie ont longtemps été utilisées par les bureaux des terres et ressources des communautés autochtones du Canada en appui aux revendications territoriales et aux études portant sur les utilisations traditionnelles des terres. C’est d’abord en envisageant de nouvelles conceptualisations des cartes et de la cartographie que l’ouvrage Maps and Memespropose une théorisation des différents usages créatifs et thérapeutiques des cartes susceptibles de contribuer à la guérison des Autochtones aux prises avec les séquelles du régime des pensionnats et de l’héritage colonial de l’expropriation. L’idée défendue est que les cartes sont des supports aux « lieux de mèmes », qui constituent des unités de connaissances culturelles transmises à travers le temps aussi bien que dans l’espace, qui mettent