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Saturday, June 10 • 1:30pm - 3:00pm
You are Here! Feminist, Decolonial and Community Visualizations of Place

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You are here! Feminist, Decolonial and Community Visualizations of Place asks us to reflect on how the ways we visually represent, and speak about, the land impacts our relationship to it.

The workshop was developed in response to the increasing monopoly of technology-based mapping applications such as Google Maps, Garmin and GAIA that mediate how we orient and navigate spaces and the explosion of interest in “data-driven” maps and visualizations that often reduce human, animal and plants’ lives, activities, and interactions to “dots” of various sizes, colors, and opacities. You are Here! creates openings to visualize space from different orientations and represent the complexities of connection and interaction between people and their environment in creative ways.

In social justice activism it is important that we do not reproduce the colonial harms of reduction and erasure that have often been perpetrated by mapmakers. When we use feminist, decolonial and community mapping techniques we participate in land and language defense by learning, using, and normalizing the use of original place names; build safe spaces by sharing and seeing how others orient emotionally, as well as physically, to space; create space for people to tell their own stories; and decenter the “white male gaze.”

My cartography practice and this workshop are informed by the work of A:shiwi farmer and director of A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center, Jim Enote and Tohono O’odham linguist Ronald Geronimo, and by feminist mapping practices shared by Jill Williams of the University of Arizona and Kate Coddington of the University at Albany.
Jim Enote’s work challenges Western notions of place and orientation by engaging A:shiwi community members in creating maps of A:shiwi land from human-eye view perspectives. Ronald Geronimo’s Establishing Connections to Place: Identifying O’odham Placenames in Early Spanish Documents, peels back layers of land and language colonization to recover O’odham placenames from their Spanish translations to strengthen his community’s connection with their land.

Jill Williams and Kate Coddington’s Feminist Visualization Workshops shared their practice of looking critically at map iconography and how it can reinforce gender inequality, white supremacy, and colonial borders.

Using the frameworks shared by Enote, Geronimo, Williams and Coddington we will look at how historical colonial maps and today’s technology can be subverted to become useful tools in creating feminist, decolonial or community maps. Historical colonial maps can help us restore water courses and place names as they often contain information that has since been buried under layers of concrete, such as the courses of rivers and creeks, and Indigenous place names that have been deliberately erased and replaced with names that honor colonial narratives. GIS technology allows us to embed GPS information in feminist and decolonial maps and visualizations, making then practical aids to navigate physical space as well as guides to orienting to emotional and relational space.

This workshop will be a facilitated conversation and activity, beginning with identifying our perceptions about maps. Next, we will challenge and examine those perceptions through feminist and decolonial lenses. This might include talking about how learning the meanings, origins, and histories of the place names we use to “label” the land and creating map iconographies and orientations that center connection and healing relationships with the land and each other can move us towards different orientations to the land. Participants will then select a common map icon and begin to write or sketch their ideas for decolonializing that icon.

The intended participants for the workshop are humanities and technology students, environmental and social justice activists and anyone who during their paid or volunteer work orients people to space. For example, a university admissions administrator who creates campus maps might use decolonial map practice to create a human-eye view map for new students because many campus buildings are the same size and shape which makes a birds-eye view harder to navigate. Or a government employee in their town or city department of planning may create a feminist visualization to think about how emotional relationship to place may create a barrier to accessing a community resource even if that resource is physically close by. A data analyst for a tech company might think about creating icons that share data in ways that do not minimize the human experience and seek to eliminate gender, race, nationality, physical ability, and other biases.

avatar for Joanne Coutts

Joanne Coutts


Saturday June 10, 2023 1:30pm - 3:00pm EDT
PS 305 (Design Center)