Feminist Mapmaking in Practice: Applying feminist concepts to mapping workshops for enhanced community engagement

Authors: Meghan Kelly*, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Angela Jones, United Way of Dane County, Linda Ketcham, Madison-Area Urban Ministries, Catherine D'Ignazio, Emerson College, Tanya Buckingham, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Robert E Roth, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Topics: Cartography, Social Theory
Keywords: feminist theory, feminist cartographies, critical cartographies, map design, participatory mapping, community engagement
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Roosevelt 4, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Feminist digital geographies, design justice, and data feminism have sparked renewed energy, motivation, and exciting new directions for feminist design and process. While applicable to cartography, an emphasis on feminist mapmaking is missing from these arenas. Broadly, we explore the intersections between feminist theory and map design in an effort to rethink, question, and subvert conventional cartographic practice. In this paper, we draw on participant surveys, interviews, and our reflections from an all-day mapping workshop or “Design Challenge” to reveal feminist mapmaking practice. The Design Challenge, an annual event hosted by the UW–Madison Cartography Lab, challenges teams of students—22 cartographers and geographers—to design maps on real-world issues with community partners. In 2018, we partnered with the Journey Home Initiative in Madison, Wisconsin to better understand local recidivism issues through visualization. We collaborated with feminist data visualization expert, Catherine D’Ignazio, and asked students to reflect on and integrate feminist principles into their work. This included considerations of power, empowerment, subjectivities, pluralisms, labor visibility, embodiment, uncertainty, and binary disruption. Here, we share our approach, analysis, and insights from the Design Challenge as an exemplar of feminist mapping practice and argue for continued and deliberate work in this area.

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