Counter-mapping as urban resistance

Blog Funding 17th October 2022

This guest post from Kristian Karlo Saguin, Ma. Simeona Martinez, Arnisson Andre Ortega, and Yany Lopez details some of the activities held and supported by a USF Seminar Series Awards grant during 2022.

The Counter-mapping as Urban Resistance Seminar Series aimed to explore counter-mapping as a spatial strategy for various urban struggles amid increasing inequalities and challenges to urban life across the world. Through three sets of events – a virtual conference, roundtable discussions and mapping workshops – the series sought to bring together scholars, artists, educators, community organizers and the broader public interested in developing the potentials of counter-mapping as a creative mode of resistance that confronts spatial modes of urban dispossession. The goal is to intervene and discuss ways by which urban communities can challenge cartographic power while experimenting with alternative visions of inhabiting urban space through diverse forms of mapping, storytelling, geospatial techniques, visualization, art, performance and other counter-mapping methods.

The seminar series served as an initial attempt to build a space of solidarity across various urban contexts by collaboratively documenting the plural knowledge, strategies and methods of counter-mapping in the urban context. One of the key goals is to tap the practical element and transformative potential of counter-mapping in reconfiguring urban space. Funded by a USF Seminar Series Award grant, the events in the seminar series was organized by the grantees who also formed the Counter-mapping PH Network and was hosted by the Department of Geography at the University of the Philippines Diliman, with support from the Department of Geography and Environment at Syracuse University and the Social Sciences and Philosophy Research Foundation. Countermapping

The seminar series kicked off with a Counter-mapping Webinar on January 24, 2022, with short presentations from the organizing team that introduced the basics of counter-mapping concepts and methods through particular examples to the broader public. Attended online by more than 40 participants, the webinar launched the roundtable discussion workshops that were held later in the same week. The three-hour roundtable discussion sessions on January 26 and 28 was participated by community organizers working with diverse urban and beyond-the-urban sectoral issues. The roundtable discussion workshops involved engaging with 21 participants from 11 organizations composed of urban poor, transport, indigenous and peasant groups on specific issues that they are facing and the spatial strategies and experiences of their campaigns. The team facilitated mental mapping activities with participants and discussed the potentials of mapping and counter-mapping for their strategies and campaigns.

Countermapping The second event in the seminar series was the Counter-mapping the City International Virtual Conference, which was held on March 15 and 16, 2022. With 81 presenters and more than a hundred attendees, the conference included 20 panels and two plenary sessions over the span of two days. Academic and non-academic participants from more than two dozen countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas and Australia explored various counter-mapping initiatives in theory and practice using oral paper, poster and other creative/multimedia presentations. Presentations examined a broad range of counter-mapping themes, topics and applications, including housing justice, gentrification, informal settlements, evictions, violence, memory, embodiment, community engagement, green cities, liminal urban spaces, digital urbanism, urban planning and governance, pandemic cities, creative mappings and pedagogy, among others. The plenary sessions also facilitated a collective conversation through video presentations and discussion panels regarding the directions where counter-mapping in the city may be taken in the future.

The final event of the seminar series – the two mapping workshops – was held on June 15 and 18, 2022. Facilitated by four invited speakers and attended by more than 70 participants, the mapping workshops covered various geospatial techniques and their counter-mapping applications in urban contexts, including the use of drones in community mapping, mapping of safe spaces, and issues of digital security and privacy. Countermapping

At the end of the seminar series, the organizing team also produced proceedings for the roundtable discussion workshops and pedagogical resources such as instructional video materials for counter-mapping tools, counter-mapping how-to’s and maps generated for community use. The team also plans to initiate a special issue on counter-mapping the city to be submitted to an academic journal, an edited volume that features selected papers from the conference, and a more publicly accessible book that will feature maps and other creative outputs from the participants of the conference. Future plans to build on the seminar series events include continuing the Counter-mapping the City Conference in collaboration with other groups or collectives interested in hosting the conference, and sustaining partnerships with community organizations in the Philippines and elsewhere. The future for exploring counter-mapping’s potentials in the urban context and building a network of interested individuals and collectives is bright. We hope to continue and build on the initiatives and networks established through the seminar series and institute them as regularly held activities. Counter-mapping is able to bring a diverse set of people together with varying concerns, approaches and backgrounds, and we hope to cultivate further these shared interests in the future.

The USF grant profile page for Counter-mapping as Urban Resistance can be found here.

Project website

The USF Seminar Series Awards aim to support the generation of internationally excellent research in all areas of urban studies.The grant funding may be used for research, education, and training events such as seminars, workshops, colloquia, round-tables, public talks, and more. The scheme typically offers up to GBP 20,000 towards proposals, and welcomes applications from scholars, institutions, and venues anywhere worldwide.