The habitus of disease maps: Cartographic imagery painting different images of the COVID-19 crisis in Mexiko

Authors: Giulia Montanari*, Universidad Autónoma de México, Instituto de Geografía
Topics: Cartography, Social Theory, Latin America
Keywords: critical cartography, COVID-19, hermeneutics, visual methods, qualitative research
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 38
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Since it became obvious that the new Coronavirus would come to be dispersed worldwide, the number of cartographic infographics that depict the spread of the disease accelerated. The general public is confronted on a daily basis with journalistic maps that illustrate the current spread of the COVID-19 disease – either on a global, national or even local level. Those maps are informing our visual knowledge of the pandemic and are at the same time based on a positivist attitude towards maps as showing ‘neutral’ facts, locatable in a Cartesian space and territory.
This ‘cartographic gaze’ (Pickles 2004) and the scopic regime of modern scientific mapping (Michel 2016) has long been criticised within the field of critical cartography, pointing to the rhetorical nature of maps (Harley 1989). This contribution follows their theoretical proposal and is empirically based on a hermeneutical in-depth analysis of eight maps published in Mexican on- and offline newspapers in June 2020 and includes imagery from some of the most-read news outlets in Mexico. The aim is to show how different styles of map-making, conceptualized as the habitus (Bourdieu) inscribed into these maps, hint to very different understandings of the social mechanics of the COVID-19 crisis – while using the same quantitative data.

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