those "other maps": Feminist gis and cartography

This map is a stunning example of feminist GIS practice by one of the pioneers of the field – Dr. Mei-Po Kwan. This rendering of the time-space paths of African American women in Portland, OR shows how the activity spaces of these women is more restricted than that of other racial and ethnic groups. To see more of her work visit    her website.

This map is a stunning example of feminist GIS practice by one of the pioneers of the field – Dr. Mei-Po Kwan. This rendering of the time-space paths of African American women in Portland, OR shows how the activity spaces of these women is more restricted than that of other racial and ethnic groups. To see more of her work visit her website.

What is a map? What makes a good map? Who has the right to make maps? What should maps do for us? And who decides?

With the advent of increasingly advanced technologies for mapping our world, the questions we must ask of maps today are questions of power. Since the early 2000s, feminist geographers have been critiquing the traditional practices of GIS and cartography. Technique-driven methods, an obsession with quantitative data, an attachment to Cartesian representations of space, the reduction of human experience to points, lines, and polygons, the masking of multiple stories – these are elements of traditional mapping practices that feminist geographers take issue with. And their alternative, feminist GIS, brings in key parts of feminist theory to make different kinds of maps. These "other maps" challenge traditional understandings of what a map can be and look like, what types of data can be mapped, and who can participate in the science and art of making maps.

This piece was produced as part of my final work for the 2015 senior seminar in Geography, Feminist Geography, under the instruction of Dr. Kacy McKinney. Special thanks to Dr. Sarah Elwood (University of Washington), Dr. Lisa Armstrong (Smith College), and Dr. Bradley Gardener (Middlebury College) for their participation in this project.