Map Archive

 

This is a corridor. It puts us in motion between Chicago, Kansas City, Lazaro Cardenas and Panama. But this map is not a representation of a given reality, it is a model for a planning process. How does the corridor emerge?

kcs-map-white

An incomplete collection of maps is one way to trace the conditions under which property was created, movement was enclosed and boundaries became drawn and defended. But maps are historically devices for governing; they are not merely reflections of imperial aspirations, they are models for empire. Map-making tends to naturalize specific futurities within the logic and timeframe of settler colonialism. How then can we sense a different present and future, one not already enclosed by the corridor?

Northwest Passage

European empires conjured a Northwest Passage, a watery route to China and a way around the Ottoman-controlled Middle East. The search for the Passage reconfigured inter-imperial rivalries. It also produced a booming mapmaking economy. The search, and the attendant maps of imagined journeys, meticulous speculations of what might be, anticipate the passage as an event in the making.

From Passage to Canal, from Search to Survey

To survey is to develop a system of geographical accounting, a way of projecting power over a territory. In producing property as a set of relations between settler-owners, surveying attempts to empty the land of indigenous presence and inscribe it with specific possibilities for appropriation, writing the land as a foretold history.  Practices of inhabitation and migration are only portrayed inasmuch as they can be framed to reinforce the trajectory of portage to canal to property-in-land.

 

Path Dependency — a layered corridor

 

Counter-cartographies

Is it possible for mapping practices to point a way beyond imperial imaginations and colonial futurities? Perhaps counter-cartographies are not as easily captured in single images, because they involve participatory and community-based practices. The goal, in other words, is not the production of single authoritative images that obliterate the condition of their own production. Mapping from below is part of a web if traditions and practices directed at reconfiguring power relations. They may point to ways out of the map archive — here are a few examples as a starting point for a different and much more complex journey.