Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Inclusions, Erasures and Emergences in an Indigenous Landscape: Participatory Cartographies and the Makings of Affective Place in the Sierra De Perija, Venezuela

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Inclusions, Erasures and Emergences in an Indigenous Landscape: Participatory Cartographies and the Makings of Affective Place in the Sierra De Perija, Venezuela

Article excerpt


The post-representational critique in critical cartography has conceptualized maps as ontologically unstable, subject to re-makings through performative engagements between the map artifact, map makers, and map consumers. This insight has important implications for participatory cartographies, that is, the sorts of mapping projects which, through strategies of inclusion of indigenous spatialities erased from official maps, aim to produce counter-representations of indigenous landscapes which may serve political and emancipatory goals. Such participatory mapping practices have been critiqued for their own erasures, as meaningful, affective places are subsumed within Cartesian grids. However, an ethnographic study of a participatory mapping project in Yukpa indigenous territory in the Sierra de Perija, Venezuela, suggests that such maps are not secure representations despite erasures of affective space. Instead, they are emergent mappings subject to the agency of performance.


Participatory mapping, indigenous territoriality, performativity, affect, Deleuze and Guattari, Yukpa, Venezuela


This article is concerned with the paradox of inclusion and erasure in participatory cartographies. On the one hand, cartography is intrinsic to the disciplinary apparatus of biopolitics, producing subjects through rhetorical deployments of signs and symbols; ordering movements and shaping social relations through its namings and visibilizations. As a project of inclusion, cartography structures comprehensions and assumptions of the world based on the absorption of what Deleuze and Guattari refer to as nomadic, smooth space which is creatively occupied and lived into striated, strictly ordered, and linear space (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987). Still, at the same time, by implication as much as by design, cartography erases: it erases omissions, intentions, forms of production, and strategies of generalization in order to represent itself as a secure representation of truth instead of an ontologically unstable object always in the making (Kitchin and Dodge, 2007; Kitchin et al., 2013).

Cartography as an ensemble practice of inclusion and erasure is of particular concern for the forms of mapping which aims to produce representations of space that stand in opposition to state-produced maps, such as "participatory mapping" projects with indigenous people which aim to produce "counter-maps" (Peluso, 1995) in order to mediate resource and territorial claims and preserve indigenous toponyms, land-uses, and meanings of places; that is to say, mapping projects that aim to make visible the meanings and materialities of place that have been subject to such violent erasures through statist cartography. However, any easy claims that participatory mapping through its strategies of inclusions and visibilization of indigenous space serve to contradict the erasures of hegemonic cartography merit further scrutiny. Cartography by its very nature always produces tightly structured, striated space. By embedding indigenous spatialities in a Cartesian grid, maps must inevitably cause the erasure of intensively lived "thick places" (Duff, 2010) that are filled with affective resonance but which ultimately escape the representational project. Participatory cartographies thus emerge as an ironic and troubling reproduction of cartographic domination through erasure despite its emancipatory aims as a project of visibilization and emergence on behalf of the subaltern.

In the following, I seek to grapple with this paradox, i.e. the apparent contradiction between emancipatory goals (through visibilization) and cartographic violence (through erasure) of counter-mapping. Although I share the concern that participatory mapping imposes alien epistemological structures and serves to strip places of their affective atmospheres, I draw on postrepresentational literature in critical cartography to problematize the twin assumptions which underlies this critique: that maps are secure representations, and that therefore, because of their stability, counter-maps inevitably fix cultures in place and hence impose new social relations and place-makings in contradiction to situated epistemologies. …

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