CV-26 - Cartography and Power

Over twenty five years ago, Brian Harley (1989, p. 2) implored cartographers to “search for the social forces that have structured cartography and to locate the presence of power – and its effects – in all map knowledge.” In the intervening years, while Harley has become a bit of a touchstone for citational practices acknowledging critical cartography (Edney, 2015), both theoretical understandings of power as well as the tools and technologies that go into cartographic production have changed drastically. This entry charts some of the many ways that power may be understood to manifest within and through maps and mapmaking practices. To do so, after briefly situating work on cartography and power historically, it presents six critiques of cartography and power in the form of dialectics. First, building from Harley’s earlier work, it defines a deconstructivist approach to mapping and places it in contrast to hermeneutic phenomenological approaches. Second, it places state-sanctioned practices of mapping against participatory and counter-mapping ones. Third, epistemological understanding of maps and their affects are explored through the dialectic of the map as a static object versus more processual, ontogenetic understandings of maps. Finally, the chapter concludes by suggesting the incomplete, heuristic nature of both the approaches and ideas explored here as well as the practices of critical cartography itself. Additional resources for cartographers and GIScientists seeking to further explore critical approaches to maps are provided.