Posts Tagged ‘Activism maps’

Cover of dissertation

André Luiz Mesquita’s dissertation (in Portuguese), Mapas Dissidentes: Proposições Sobre um Mundo em Crise (1960-2010), (Dissenting Maps: Propositions on a World in Crisis, 1960-2010), looks at the maps and diagrams of artists and activists from 1960 to 2010, all working in social, political, and economic contexts of crisis and change, conflict and various forms of resistance. He approaches the work of three generations of artists through an analysis of endless documents, catalogs, manifestos, articles, photographs, documentaries, art works, reproductions of maps, and interviews.

Mesquita begins by examining the games and maps created in the 1960s and ’70s by the Swedish-Brazilian artist, Öyvind Fahlström (1928-1976), made under the geopolitical tensions of the Cold War (1947-1991) and the structural and organizational changes in global capitalism of the 1970s.

Öyvind Fahlström's World Map

Öyvind Fahlström’s World Map

He then turns to the work of the American artist, Mark Lombardi (1951-2000), who, in the 1990s, mapped international power networks and obscure financial transactions involving banks, governments, and neoliberal elites.

Mark Lombard's World Finance

Mark Lombard’s World Finance

Finally Mesquita addresses the counter-cartography practices developed between the 1990s and 2010’s by three activist art collectives: Bureau d’Études (France), the Counter-Cartographies Collective (United States), and Iconoclasistas (Argentina). Based on the interrelations between contemporary art, political activism, and critical cartography, Mesquita holds that the work of these activists-artists has created a significant opposition to the “neutral and objective” maps made in the interests of corporate, governmental, and military bodies.

Bureau de'Etudes's Refuse the Biopolice

Bureau de’Etudes’s Refuse the Biopolice


Counter-Cartographies Collective's DisOrientation Guide

Counter-Cartographies Collective’s DisOrientation Guide


Iconoclasistas' Radiografía del Corazón del modelo sojero

Iconoclasistas’ Radiografía del Corazón del Modelo Sojero

What’s really exciting is the mining Mesquita has done, coming up with a range of map work that will surprise the causal observer of, say, Fahlström (in particular); but also the way he attaches all this work to that of antecedents (like the Surrealists and the Situationists) and parallels (as in the work of Trevor Paglen).

Structure of the dissertation's argument

Map of the Dissertation’s Argument

This is an important piece of work. Mesquita is currently working on a translation to English.

The full dissertation can be downloaded here or here (55.4 mb)

Contact André Luiz Mesquita

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When Bill Bunge mapped out the locations of car/pedestrian collisions in Detroit (Detroit Geographical Expedition, 1968) he and the map were advocating a way of thinking about what was happening to the black community in Detroit – and advocating for change.

All maps advocate.

To advocate means to “to speak or write in favor of; support or urge by argument; recommend publicly.” The word derives from the Latin advocate: “to call to one’s aid.”

What map does not advocate, or argue for something? We are always calling maps to our aid.

Three free books on maps and advocacy have been made available for download recently, and are worth a look.


Two New PDF Books [added June 6 2009]:

Good Practices in Participatory Mapping (2mb PDF here, 2009). Published by International Fund for Agricultural Development.

A review of participatory mapping methods.

This report will review existing knowledge related to participatory mapping and recent developments. Specifically:

  • Section 1 will define the main features of participatory mapping;
  • Section 2 will discuss key applications of participatory mapping;
  • Section 3 will present specific tools used in participatory mapping, including their strengths and weaknesses;
  • Section 4 will identify good practices and explore the significance of process in participatory mapping initiatives.



Toolbox & Manual: Mapping the Vulnerability of Communities (4.4mb PDF English version here, Portuguese version aqui, 2008). Published by Salzburg University Centre for Geoinformatics.

A overview of concepts and methods for community mapping, focused on vulnerability.

Within the research and project context it is aimed to provide the local communities with appropriate maps of their communities. The maps should enhance planning and decision making processes within the communities in regard to reduce local vulnerabilities and allow appropriate planning of disaster response measures. It is the first time in Mozambique that maps have been produced with such an accuracy (high resolution data) and for disaster risk management through the integration of participatory practices.




Visualizing Information for Advocacy: an Introduction to Information Design (7mb PDF here, January 2008). Published by Tactical Technology Collective.

Succinct, well-designed, with many good examples of maps and information graphics for advocacy.

…a manual aimed at helping NGOs and advocates strengthen their campaigns and projects through communicating vital information with greater impact. This project aims to raise awareness, introduce concepts, and promote good practice in information design – a powerful tool for advocacy, outreach, research, organization and education.




Maps for Advocacy: An Introduction to Geographic Mapping Techniques (3mb PDF here, September 2008). Published by Tactical Technology Collective.

A great overview of maps and advocacy with many examples and resources.

The booklet is an effective guide to using maps in advocacy. The mapping process for advocacy is explained vividly through case studies, descriptions of procedures and methods, a review of data sources as well as a glossary of mapping terminology. Scattered through the booklet are links to websites which afford a glance at a few prolific mapping efforts.



Field Guide for Humanitarian Mapping (3.2mb PDF here, March 2009). Published by MapAction.

A textbook for using maps and GIS in humanitarian work.  The Guide provides detailed information on data collection (GPS) and the use of Google Earth and MapWindow (free mapping software).

The guide was written to meet the need for practical, step-by-step advice for aid workers who wish to use free and open-source resources to produce maps both at field and headquarters levels. The first edition contains an introduction to the topic of GIS, followed by chapters focused on the use of two recommended free software tools: Google Earth, and MapWindow. However much of the guidance is also relevant for users of other software.

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Some related resources:

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