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Counter-mapping in the Americas 16th-21st centuries

Contre-cartographies dans les Amériques, XVIe-XXIe siècle

Contra-cartografías en las Américas, siglos XVI-XVIII

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Published on Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Quels enjeux se trouvent derrière les dynamiques contre-cartographiques dans le contexte des Amériques ? Dans quel contexte les logiques contre-cartographiques peuvent-elles se mettre en place ? Comment se créent-elles et de quelles impulsions émanent-elles ? Quels savoirs sont mobilisés dans les processus d’élaboration contre-cartographique ? Dans quelle mesure parviennent-elles à déjouer les représentations hégémoniques de l’espace ?


Counter-mapping in the Americas 16th-21st centuries
FLSH University of Limoges, EHIC research team, Thursday 7- Friday 8 February 2019


The emergence and gradual consolidation of the hegemony of maps as tools to represent space are intimately connected to the European colonization of the New World. The rapid expansion of the “known world” from the 16th century onward spawned a profound redefinition of the concept of space and largely contributed to the development of cartography which aimed at translating the world into a mobile and mobilizable image (Mignolo). Maps then became strategic tools, the instruments of fundamental geopolitical knowledge and power. For the Europeans who had embarked upon their conquest of the American continent, mapping was not solely a means to acquire knowledge and render the world intelligible, but also a way to domesticate, subdue, obscure, control, and even refute the natural order. As instruments of war, sovereignty, and symbolic as well as material control over national spaces, maps became the indispensable medium of governmental power in modern states: they made the vertical administration of populations, territories, and resources possible. In the Americas, by objectifying the myth of terra nullius, maps enabled the naturalization of the dispossession, extraction, and elimination operations that came along with the frontier’s constant inland progress and the gradual inclusion of peoples and places into the rule of nation-states and their development policies. Far from being extinct, these violent processes continue today with the help of new technologies that enable limitless mapping.

Perceived as an analogical image that aims at producing a true reflection of reality, the discourse of cartography (Hartley) does not create a mere “view of the world” but the world itself. This discourse recognizes, institutes, and sanctifies the vision of space it created all the while obliterating the power struggle on which its legitimacy and its conformity to reality are based. Yet, although maps are major instruments of the territorial and symbolic construction of hegemonic power, they can also be subject to demystification and re-appropriation efforts by communities, organizations, and individuals who question their claim of describing the spatial order objectively. Thus, in America, minority and/or subordinate groups (e.g. indigenous peoples, African Americans, Chicano/as, women, members of the LGBT community) have produced counter-maps that deconstruct the globalizing vision of hegemonic maps, so as to reveal the underlying epistemic, ethical, and political issues they raise and unveil what they conceal. Another form of resistance can also be through radical criticism of the primacy of visuality, of vertical and disincarnated description, and of the instrumental rationality upon which cartographic representations are founded. The objective is not solely to deconstruct the principles of vision and division established by maps, but also to build new geographies and create new cognitive relations with the notion of territory as a place and sustainer of life.

The same logics of manipulation, subversion, and diversion of the cartographic order are at the heart of an imaginary world to which American authors and artists have largely contributed, thus including its representations into the field of cultural production. Their variation in literature as well as in visual and performing arts invites us to view maps as creative material and objects for fiction, allowing a new “distribution of the sensible” at a crossroads between disciplines and languages (Rancière). This cultural dimension will be explored through cross-examinations of fictional and metaphorical maps, their construction, their effects on the reader or the audience, and the possible transfer of hegemonic and/or counter-hegemonic mechanisms from one world to another. From this viewpoint, maps are no longer reduced to their role as companions of a global, unified (Eurocentric, official, patriarchal, and capitalist) History. They have the power to become the engine of a critical pluralization of histories, worlds, subjectivities and territorialities.

What is the potential impact of counter-mapping dynamics in the context of the Americas? In which circumstances can counter-mapping processes develop? How are they created and from which impulses do they emanate? What knowledge is mobilized to elaborate these counter-maps? To what extent can they successfully evade the hegemonic representations of space? This international conference will address the mechanisms behind the alliance between maps and domination and their subversion through the notion of counter-mapping. This concept, derived from radical geography (born out of counter-cultural movements of the 1960s in the United States), will be applied to other fields and understood in a broader, diachronic, trans- and pluridisciplinary sense to include the plurality of maps (e.g. cognitive, sonic, bodily, artistic, digital) and logics of representation that aim to challenge the hegemonic forms of production of space.

Submission Guidelines

Paper proposals may fall into the following categories (non-exhaustive list):
  • Critical and radical cartography (e.g. activist, decolonial, feminist, ecologist maps)
  • Counterstate and anti-imperialist dynamics: alternative cartography
  • Geopolitical issues in spheres of influence (e.g. movements, migrations, borders)
  • Questioning and redefining cultural and/or linguistic geographies
  • Mapping underworlds (e.g. mafias, smugglers, hackers)
  • Diverting and deconstructing maps in the arts and literature
  • Digital counter-mapping
Proposals are limited to 500 words and must include a short 200-word biography of the author. Please send them to lucie.genay@unilim.fr and diane.bracco@unilim.fr before September 15, 2018.
Reply deadline: October 30 2018
Conference languages : French, English, and Spanish. The University Press of Limoges will publish a selection of the conference papers in French. The authors of papers in English or Spanish will be requested to have them translated into French before publication.

Scientific Committee

  • Diane Bracco (Hispanic cultural studies) diane.bracco@unilim.fr
  • Philippe Colin (Latin-American civilization) philippe.colin@unilim.fr
  • Luis Fe-Canto (Spanish history) luis.fe-canto@unilim.fr
  • Lucie Genay (US civilization) lucie.genay@unilim.fr
  • Saïd Ouaked (US civilization) said.ouaked@unilim.fr
Selected bibliography
Besse, Jean-Marc. Face au monde : atlas, jardins, géoramas, Paris, Desclée de Brouwer (Arts & esthétique), 2003.
Bryan, Joe & Wood, Denis. Weaponizing Maps: Indigenous People and Counterinsurgency in the Americas, New York/London, Guilford Press, 2015.
Crampton, Jeremy W. “Maps as social constructions: power, communication and visualization, Progress in Human Geography,” Progress in Human Geography, Atlanta, Georgia State University,   25, 2, 2001, p. 235–252.
Foucault, Michel, « Questions à Michel Foucault sur la géographie », Hérodote, n° 1, janvier-mars 1976, Dits Ecrits tome III., p. 71-85.
Garfield, Simon. On the Map: Why the World Looks the Way it Does, Londres, Profile Books, 2013.
Harley, John B. “Maps, Power and Knowledge,” dans The Iconography of Landscape, dir. D. Cosgrove et S. Daniels, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1988, p. 277-312.
Harley, John B. The New Nature of Maps: Essays in the History of Cartography, Baltimore, John Hopkins University Press, 2001.
Lefebvre, Henri. La production de l’espace, 4e édition, Paris, Economica, 2000.
Mignolo, Walter. The Dark Side of Renaissance, Literacy, Territoriality and Colonization, Ann Harbor, The University of Michigan Press, 1997.
Poole, Peter. Cultural Mapping and Indigenous Peoples, Geneva, UNESCO, 2003.
Porto, Carlos. Geo-grafías. Movimientos sociales, nuevas territorialidades y sustentabilidad, México, Siglo Veintiuno, 2001.
Rekacewicz, Philippe.“Cartographie radicale,” Le Monde Diplomatique (Atlas du monde diplomatique), 2013.
Speranza, Graciela. Atlas portátil de América Latina. Arte y ficciones errantes, Barcelona, Anagrama, 2012.
Westphal, Bertrand. Le Monde plausible. Espace, lieu, carte, Paris, Les Éditions de Minuit, 2011.
Westphal, Bertrand. La Cage des méridiens. La littérature et l’art contemporain face à la globalisation, Paris, Les Éditions de Minuit, 2017.
Wood, Denis. The Power of Maps, New York/London, Guilford Press, 1992.
Wood, Denis & Fels, John. “Design on Signs/Myths and Meanings in Maps,” Cartographica, Ottawa, Canadian Cartographic Association, 23, 3, 1986, p. 54-103.


  • Faculté des Lettres et des Sciences Humaines - 39E, rue Camille Guérin 87036 LIMOGES CEDEX
    Limoges, France (87)


  • Saturday, September 15, 2018


  • contre-cartographies, cartes, Amériques, pouvoir, hégémonie, contre-pouvoir


  • Diane Bracco
    courriel : diane [dot] bracco [at] unilim [dot] fr

Information source

  • Diane Bracco
    courriel : diane [dot] bracco [at] unilim [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Counter-mapping in the Americas 16th-21st centuries », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, March 28, 2018, https://calenda.org/437902

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