Mapping against settler colonialism: Eleanor Benson, Morgan Brigg, Ke Hu, Sarah Maddison, Alexia Makras, Nikki Moodie, Elizabeth Strakosch, ‘Mapping the spatial politics of Australian settler colonialism’, Political Geography, 102, 2023


Abstract: Cartography has historically been a weapon of colonists used to demarcate land stolen by empire. More recently, however, ‘critical cartographies’ have emerged as a means of critiquing colonial discourses, revealing maps as representations of the dominating ideologies that produce them. This article explores a series of ongoing questions raised by our own work seeking to map the intersection of colonial and Indigenous governance regimes in so-called Australia. As a visualisation of the intense intervention into Indigenous lives by the settler state, this map tells a story of colonial extraction and elimination, as well as of Indigenous survival, thriving, resistance and resurgence, “denaturalis[ing]” settler geographies of power to contextualise current tensions in governance relations within a continuing history of colonisation (Razack, 2018). Drawing on Indigenous critical theory and the Latourian concept of the immutable mobile (1986) as a way of naming the apparatus that operationalises colonial mapping, we explore the ethical and political dynamics of critical cartography, characterised by a tension between reinscribing and undoing colonial power. We argue that, in navigating and attempting to foreground these tensions, our mapping project has value in its visual inversion of conventional representations of sovereignty. It reveals the fragility, incompleteness, and material violence of colonial sovereignty, which is so often understood as neutral and inevitable. It maps this colonial project in relation to and as rendered impossible by the endurance of Indigenous sovereignty. Against the colonial imagining of Indigenous sovereignty as fragile, disappearing and mutable, it resituates this sovereignty as inhering in the land and in Indigenous peoples as “resilient existent” and as the true immutable.

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