Countermapping: New South Wales and Southeast Asia

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Denis Byrne


Taking Back the Map

In the course of the last fifteen years there has been a heightened awareness of the power of maps (e.g., Harley 2001, Monmonier 1991, Wood 1992). Recent critical cartography has addressed itself to the question of how reality is distorted by the two dimension nature of maps. There has been increasing attention to which interests in society are spoken for by maps, in asking who gets left off maps and way they are left off. This emergent critical tradition in geography has been paralleled by a growing assertiveness on the part of many minority and marginalised groups in today’s world. These groups appear to realise that disempowerment has a great deal to do with visibility and that their own relative invisibility relates quite directly to the kind of hypervisibility achieved by those with power. We only have to look at the history of colonialism to observe how the technology of mapping has been employed for purposes of domination and territorial dispossession. What is perhaps novel today, though, is that mapping technology has become increasingly available to the dispossessed and that they are actively availing themselves of it.

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