Creative Social Cartographies

Creative social cartographies (CSC) are pedagogical tools that are not normative: they are not about describing reality accurately, but about moving conversations beyond points where they often get stuck. They use images (metaphors and analogies) and comparison tables to invite different conversations. These images and tables were designed to help us to trace historical and systemic processes, to draw attention to points of tension, and to make visible aspects that are often made invisible and connections that are usually conveniently hidden.

The cartographies invite us to take a distance from our opinions and to see them with healthy skepticism. Then we can ask where the opinions come from, where they lead to, who decides, in whose name, for whose benefit, how come and how things could be imagined differently. They also invite us to consider what we could be gaining (affectively and materially) from holding on to certain ideas, hopes, desires, perceived entitlements and forms of relationship, and what we could also be blocking, losing and missing out in this process. We say that the cartographies help us to face our “constitutive foreclosures”: what we have to deny in order to continue to believe what we want to believe in, and desire what we want to desire. However, they do not intend to take participants from A to B – to change their positions in a directed way. They do aim to shake things up a little by making hidden processes and gaps visible – and leave it up to each person to decide what to do next.

[we are currently updating some of the cartographies and will post the revised version soon]

  1. HEADS UP CSC:  acronym of a list of patterns of engagement and representations that are common in initiatives involving dominant groups reaching out to marginalized groups. These are: hegemonic practices (reinforcing and justifying the status quo); ethnocentric projections (presenting one view as universal and superior); ahistorical thinking (forgetting the role of historical legacies and complicities in shaping current problems); depoliticised orientations (disregarding the impacts of power inequalities and delegitimising dissent); self-serving motivations (invested in self-congratulatory heroism); un-complicated solutions (offering ‘feel-good’ quick fixes that do not address root causes of problems); paternalistic investments (seeking ‘thank you’ from those who have been ‘helped’).
  2. Towards braiding project: book related to engagements with Indigenous perspectives in Canada offering several CSCs related to the ethics of engagement, including differences between senses and sensibilities, an invitation for a conversation on the topic of appropriation, red flag questions related to inclusion, and what to do when relationships fall apart in organizations due to racial/colonial issues.
  3. Theories of change CSC: comparison of six different theories of change in terms of their understanding of the causes and solutions of global problems.
  4. Soft, Radical, Beyond reform CSC: map of three approaches to change in relation to modernity and their implications: soft reform of modernity (the system is working well, it just needs to change a little); radical reform of modernity (the system is not working well and needs major change); modernity beyond reform (the system was flawed from the outset and we need something different).
  5. With/out modernity cards: questions related to relationality and affective investments that invite us to reflect on our political commitments both within and gesturing out of modernity.
  6. Global citizenship questions CSC: questions related to global citizenship at three levels of depth: methodological (only focusing on “doing” without questioning where this doing comes from); epistemological (focused on tracing reasoning and power relations); and ontological (focused on “being” and opening possibilities that are unthinkable within normalized imaginaries).
  7. Tower, fort and podium CSC: analysis of changes in the means and politics of knowledge production and how the internet has already shifted how we consume, source and apply knowledge (analyses of belly-buttonization, salad-barization, sausagization, sloganization).
  8. Knowledge relations CSC: maps of relationships between dominant and marginalized knowledge systems, presenting two possibilities for our relationship with knowledge and meaning.
  9. Pile of shit CSC: outline of the dangers of using joy and unconditional acceptance for escapism rather than for doing the difficult work that needs to be done in composting collective shit together.
  10. Humanity ship CSC: exploring the layers of the iceberg that was hit by the “ship of humanity” that is sinking as we face the challenges of climate change – this CSC highlights the relationship between climate change and colonialism as the separation between “humans and nature”.
  11. Happier, healthier, wealthier CSC: response to the argument that we should celebrate the present since we have never been happier, healthier or wealthier
  12. Desires and archetypes CSC: inventories of colonial desires and entitlements that prevent us from facing and composting shit together, and of traits and responsibilities that could come out of composting the shit “before will” (not dependent on choice, conviction or convenience).
  13. Sign versus moon CSC: this image illustrates how we may have become more interested in the wording (codifying) of the world rather than being within and encountering the world itself. This was inspired by a Sufi saying that words and stories are like fingers pointing to the moon: most people want to consume the finger rather than engage with the moon.
  14. Excavator, dumping truck and hummingbird CSC: image of a heart being excavated for profit and having its sense of intrinsic worth removed; a dumping truck fills the heart with “stuff” that offers temporary relief, but that does not address the pain. Hummingbirds study the excavator as they feed the part of the heart that has the potential to fight the excavator’s aggression.
  15. Out of the playground CSC: image that shows a hummingbird calling us out of a playground where we are still entertained by pleasurable distractions.
  16. Bigger picture CSC: analysis of the implications of the changes prompted by efforts related to decolonization, Indigenization and abolitionism.
  17. LAPSED CSC: acronym related to colonial aspirations for heroic leadership, canonical authorities, virtue posturing, formulaic solutions, projective empathy and redemptive delights
  18. Responses to decolonial critique BINGO CSC: catalogue of common (resistant) responses to decolonial critique that can be used as a means to disarm and pre-empt, and/or to start a conversation about these responses and where they come from.
  19. From spinning in the living room to composting in the land CSC: pathway from the living room, to the kitchen, to the bathroom, to the land.
  20. The four mountains (story by John Crier retold): this story is used as the introduction to a collective and collaborative “dreaming and drawing” exercise that has been described by a participant as “learning to download from the bio-internet through precarious body-apps”.
  21. Composting party (blindfolded dancing): learning to enable movement to emerge without over-prescribing direction based on visual perceptions (observing movement emerge from a place other than the intellect).
  22. Through other eyes: project booklet (2008) offering CSCs comparing relational and mainstream understandings of education, poverty, equality and development.
  23. ESCAPIST CSC: list of the problems with uncritical forms of spirituality that promote individual enlightenment while turning their back to collective (historical and systemic) “shit”.
  24. Broken mirror exercises: exercises that show how privileged people are often perceived from the point of view of communities of struggle – they help you to see yourself as both cute and pathetic.