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.

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