Cartographic Storytelling, Migration, and Reception Environments
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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OriginalversjonEnvironment, Space, Place (ESP). 2020, 12 (2), 1-30. 10.5749/envispacplac.12.2.0001
This article focuses on mapping and spatial thinking in migrant storytelling and knowledge-making across diverse border infrastructures. Set against the carceral regimes' investment in migration research, schooling, and aesthetics in the US and Europe, this project turns to diverse, smaller—and larger-scale counter-cartographic projects: To Whom It May Concern (2013), Zakaria Mohamed Ali's cinematic map of his return to the Lampedusa detention site; Migrant (2014), a children's book and a codex about undocumented migrants on the Mexico-to-US journey, by José Manuel Mateo and Javier Martínez Pedro; Torn Apart / Separados (2018), a Mobilized Humanities polyrhythmic cartographic intervention; and public storytelling and pedagogical initiatives in Norway (2016–19). Drawing on the work of Laura Lo Presti, this article examines how these projects activate complex affordances of cartography that expand beyond its basic instrumental uses. Maps can express simultaneously diverse spatiopolitcal subjectivities and relations in symbolic, multisensorial, and metacritical ways. As such, they can represent the personal, intimate, local migrant experience as always emplaced in macro-scale geopolitical, infrastructural, and institutional geographies. Therefore, such acts of migrant storytelling often become acts of spatiopolitical reflection and critique. Most important, the discussed projects are as concerned with narrating bodies, networks, and relations on the map as they are with transforming the habits of sociocultural reception of and off the map. They encourage new listening and interpretation practices that engender new reception environments, socioaesthetic and politico-legal alike. The article concludes with a meditation on the place-changing and sociopolitical promise of such understood narrative “cartographic acts” (Brian Holmes) and pedagogy to create noncarceral sites of encounter.