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Radical Cartographies

Radical Cartographies
Participatory Mapmaking from Latin America

Shedding light on the innovative uses of participatory mapping emerging from Latin America’s marginalized communities, this diverse collection reconceptualizes what maps mean as representations of identity and place.

Series: Pachita Tennant Pike Excellence Endowment

September 2020
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256 pages | 6 x 9 | 16 b&w photos, 10 color maps, & 36 b&w map |

Cartography has a troubled history as a technology of power. The production and distribution of maps, often understood to be ideological representations that support the interests of their developers, have served as tools of colonization, imperialism, and global development, advancing Western notions of space and place at the expense of Indigenous peoples and other marginalized communities. But over the past two decades, these marginalized populations have increasingly turned to participatory mapping practices to develop new, innovative maps that reassert local concepts of place and space, thus harnessing the power of cartography in their struggles for justice.

In twelve essays written by community leaders, activists, and scholars, Radical Cartographies critically explores the ways in which participatory mapping is being used by Indigenous, Afro-descendant, and other traditional groups in Latin America to preserve their territories and cultural identities. Through this pioneering volume, the authors fundamentally rethink the role of maps, with significant lessons for marginalized communities across the globe, and launch a unique dialogue about the radical edge of a new social cartography.


Bjørn Sletto
Austin, Texas

Alfredo Wagner
São Luís, Brazil

Joe Bryan
Boulder, Colorado

Charles Hale
Santa Cruz, California

Bjørn Sletto is an associate professor of community and regional planning at the University of Texas at Austin. His work on participatory mapping has been published in Environment and Planning, Cuadernos de Geografía, and Current Anthropology, among other places.

Alfredo Wagner is a professor of graduate studies at the State University of Maranhão and founder of the New Social Cartography Project of the Amazon.

Joe Bryan is an associate professor in geography at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and coauthor of Weaponizing Maps: Indigenous Peoples and Counterinsurgency in the Americas.

Charles Hale is the dean of the School of Social Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of Más que un Indio: Racial Ambivalence and Neoliberal Multiculturalism in Guatemala.



“[Radical Cartographies] succeeds magnificently...The stories are direct, clear, and well-translated, unfloriated by intellectual language...Community participatory mapping in the global South was first brought to wider academic attention in the 1990s. The 'decolonialised cartographies' in this book develop the vision: they demonstrate the authenticity of local authorship, the culturalauthority, and the political framing. They deserve an attentive audience.”
Society & Natural Resources

“This book’s work is a model of how community-based mobilizations can be connected with university spheres and how they can work together to lead necessary research that creates both scholarly and social, political, ethically-engaged contributions to complex issues on the ground...Those who guide each mapping project and share their rich and original insights with us are often under very direct threat. Their risks they face emphasize that consent and control over the research process and outcomes are crucial at every step. This book is a resounding affirmation of those principles and a real beacon for radical participatory mapmaking projects for social justice throughout the world.”

“[Radical Cartographies] contains seminal research on how native and Afro-descendant peoples view and understand their geographic condition in several Latin American countries, a topic that remains underresearched in this region. Accordingly, this volume aims to fill this lacuna by providing critical analysis of how locals view their geographies. For the uninitiated, each of the 11 chapters provides unique perspectives of marginalized peoples' conceptual understanding of space. Complemented by several mostly black-and-white photos and maps, as well as a rich bibliography, this publication is a must read.”

“Several of the volume’s authors are from the communities they write about while others are engaged intellectuals who have worked with the communities for years or decades...[Radical Cartographies] contains abundant samples of maps and photographs from each community mapping project…radical cartography repudiates the authoritarian practice since the colonial period of 'disappearing' indigenous and Black communities from maps.”
Journal of Latin American Geography

“This is a creative and generative collection that invites the reader in to an array of mapping methods, strategies, tactics, and theories. It is also at once a work of intellectual decolonization and a reworking of what counts as theory, as knowledge, and as method. In an era characterized by new (and not-so-new) forms of accumulation and dispossession, this is essential reading for academics, activists, and social theorists writ large.”
Raymond B. Craib, Cornell University

“This book offers valuable insight into the ways that Afro-descendant and Indigenous peoples are mapping differently throughout Latin America to fend off further displacement and deterritorialization These radical cartographies not only galvanize political agency and collective action, but they also foster community connections and fuel cultural continuity.”
Laurel C. Smith, University of Oklahoma


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3M Cloud Library/bibliotheca