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Palestinian Countermapping: Reclaiming Pasts and Futures via Archives and Design

Authors: Nour Joudah*, UCLA
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Political Geography
Keywords: palestine, hawaii, algeria, indigenous, settler colonialism, countermapping, imaginaries, futures
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Nostalgia and imagining the future are often seen as dichotomously opposed temporalities and spaces. However, with indigenous struggle, engaging in critical acts of remembering becomes an inextricable part of both imagining a future and working to realize it.

In this paper, I provide a snapshot from a larger three-case comparative study of countermapping in Algeria, Hawaii, and Palestine. Zooming in on the Palestinian case, I discover how countermapping by documentation and design can become a decolonial praxis for those who engage in it. Examining specifically Visualizing Palestine’s Open Maps project and the Palestine Land Society’s Village Reconstruction competition, I use what Denis Cosgrove (2008) calls the two directions of study in critical cartography – the finished map and mapping process – to ask how these initiatives straddle objectives of historic preservation and imagining entirely new futures.

Blending visual analysis with ethnographic interviews with the Open Maps team and winners of the last three years of the reconstruction design competition, I seek to highlight these individuals’ technical and political considerations of documenting, archiving, and remapping. I seek to answer: How does affirming a particular past spatial presence also challenge the idea of settler permanence? What is reclaimed by including Palestinians across the world in the digitizing process via public mapathon events? In redesigning a destroyed village from scratch, how do the students understand the priorities of such a potential scenario?

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