‘Print this Map. Get off the Internet. Take to the Streets’: 5 of the Left’s Best Mapping Moments


Mapping and activism have a long history. In the final days of the Paris Commune the military advances of the Versailles army were mapped on a daily basis as the revolutionaries sought to keep them at bay. Fast forward nearly 100 years and the Situationists were once again mapping Paris in altogether more abstract ways – this time to resist the advances of the modern city. In more recent times we’ve seen the rudimentary mapping of protest camps in Madrid, New York and Hong Kong.

The above is from another article I wrote for Novara Wire. This time on mapping and activism. There’s at least one in there that critical cartographers should be familiar with (Detroit) and a few more they may not be. It’s hardly a definitive list but just a couple I think crystallize some of the political issues the left has dealt with historically, notably race relations, anti-globalization, immigration/detention and student activism. The maps themselves aren’t particularly radical in the sense of production and style, I’d argue, but they certainly contain radical content. Moreover, all were produced by extra-state, autonomous actors – historically those without the power to map.

If you want a little more on the intersection between mapping and activism there’s plenty to go at. A recent open-access article [PDF] by Rhiannon Firth (UEL) in Interface is fantastic, and draws on the wonderful map archive at the 56A Infoshop in Southwark to argue for an ‘anarchist pedagogy’.

On the notion of ‘radical cartography’ I’d suggest reading Mark Denil’s critical piece in Cartographic Perspectives, as it seeks to explore what radicality really means in relation to mapping practice. He also suggests the Fürth map I selected has a radicality due to it ‘cutting across the cartographic schema itself’. In other words, it pushes the boundaries of what a map is, and can be. Hackitectura‘s work does similarly.

The final map I chose (‘Sukey takes it off again’) is the subject of my PhD work, and I have an upcoming article in a special issue (‘Spaces of Protest’) of Media Fields on the connection between it and playful protest action. I’ll post a link when it’s live.

Activism II

Another exciting looking event coming up on activism, this time at QMUL on May 1st-2nd. Let’s hope it doesn’t clash with any possible demonstrations, as is common on May Day. Entitled ‘Power and Resistance: Theory and Imaginative Activism’, the conference will look to discuss three themes:

  • New opportunities and possibilities for political interventions and resistance
  • The relationship between theory and practice in the spheres of political struggles
  • New forms of activism on new digital platforms of communication capable of generating radical resistance against hegemonic powers

There is a call for contributions out now, with a requirement to forward a 500 word abstract to powerandresistance2014@gmail.com before March 31st. Based on these three themes there will be three panels:

  • ‘Disobedient Theory: Interventions into Normality’
  • ‘The Agony of Power: Politics and Resistance’
  • ‘Technopolitics: Activism and Subversion in the Digital Age’

For more details on each of these, head over to the Power & Resistance conference website.

Protest and Place

(Re)constructing the meaning of place, even in temporary ways, can be a tactical act of resistance along with the tactics we traditionally associate with protest, such as speeches, marches and signs.[…P]lace (re)constructions can function rhetorically to challenge dominant meanings and practices in place. Place is a performer along with activists in making and unmaking the possibilities of protest.

(Emphasis added)

From: Endres and Senda-Cook (2011) ‘Location Matters: The Rhetoric of Place in Protest’. Available here (subscription required). I’ve italicized that final sentence because it makes an incredibly important point: who, or what makes or ‘unmakes’ the possibilities of protest? Place is no container of action; no empty grid of co-ordinates waiting to be filled by protesters. Place can be made and re-made by anyone and anything – including non-human matter, and protest equally is an event comprised of and changed by bodies, words, data, legal instruments, musical instruments, walls, temporary barriers and more.