Mapping threats, hope, and history: A collaborative methodological approach to counter-mapping

Authors: Sarah Kelly*, CIGIDEN, Universidad Católica de Chile
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Indigenous Peoples, Field Methods
Keywords: counter-map, mapping, participatory, dispossession, territory
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Embassy Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Hydropower development in Mapuche-Williche territory of southern Chile articulates with a longer history of territorial dispossession and racism. In the Puelwillimapu territory where I conducted ethnographic research, small run-of-river hydropower, aquaculture, and private conservation areas are locally defined as part of extractivism. Projects are viewed as extractive because they take resources from the territory without following Mapuche-Wiliche territorial order, threatening a fragile equilibrium. All three economic endeavors are developed on fundos (medium- to large-scale farms) granted to Chilean and German settlers, which is historic Mapuche-Wiliche territory. While counter-mapping efforts throughout Latin American have received worthwhile critique, in this collaborative methodological research project with Mapuche-Williche leaders, maps supported knowledge production in line with territorial goals. In this paper, I respond to Wainwright’s (2011) question “can the subaltern map” by narrating how we integrated mapmaking into a collective inquiry to both systematize dispossession and to create visual representations of territory in Mapuche-Williche cosmovision beyond Cartesian space. Trawun, a traditional Mapuche form of meeting, served as the guiding structure for our collaboration, in particular iterative participatory mapmaking exercises. Research collaborators used maps as objects that allowed them to visualize territorial change. We also worked with artists to create maps of their territory which Mapuche-Williche leaders then used in dialogue with state and private actors involved in dispossession. Based on this investigation, I argue that maps in themselves are not necessarily bad nor good, but what is problematic is how they are or could be put to use.

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