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Borders in the English-Speaking World: Mapping and Countermapping

Gwendolyne Cressman, Timothy A. Heron and Marianne Hillion

Deadline for proposal submissions: September 1st 2024

Call for proposal:

This special issue first consists in acknowledging the continued relevance of a reflection on the history of borders, border representations and bordering practices in the English-speaking world, and the second in asserting the importance of mapping and countermapping as powerful modes of aesthetic construction and critical thinking in relation to borders.

How do borders as spatial and geopolitical entities emerge as objects of simultaneous mapping and countermapping leading to competing or alternative discourses that reveal underlying ideologies, specific tactics of representation and creative appropriations? How do literature, art, language, historical discourses and material culture perform acts of mapping and countermapping in the representation of borders, alongside or against maps?

We welcome proposals that present countermapping artworks and accounts of alternative cartographic experiments as well as research that examines the representation of borders in the English-speaking world from the perspective of mapping and countermapping within a large temporal framework (from the Middle Ages to the contemporary period) and in a variety of discourses and media (literature, art, sociolinguistics, historical discourses, geographic and cartographic representations, material culture).

Maps as constructive systems are the result of imaginative and ideological processes as well as of scientific procedures. Although they may appear immutable and unalterable, they are expressions of a cartographic imagination (Tiberghien), predicated on specific contextual considerations, shaped by representational conventions, informed by given epistemologies, political agendas, cultural approaches (Lounissi, Peraldo & Trouillet). Shifting points of view and competing political frameworks often lead to distinct perspectives on maps and mapping, giving rise to phenomena of countermapping, especially in representations of tense borderland regions. The ideological dimensions of the map that have become prominent subjects of academic research over the past decades have completely changed an older paradigm that associated maps and map-making with absolute epistemological and representational accuracy and transparency. The advent of critical cartography in the 1980s consecrated the map as a “proposition about the world” and map-makers as “selective creators of a world” (Wood). The manipulative power of the map was highlighted by geographers like James Ackerman in Decolonizing the Map or Mark Monmonier in How to Lie with Maps, which examine maps in contexts of colonialism, as well as political and commercial propaganda. However, we have recently witnessed a distinct approach in the acknowledgement of the “ambivalence” of cartography (Besse and Tiberghien, 12), which has led to the denunciation of its manipulative rhetoric and political complicity in colonial and warfare projects, but also to the celebration of its huge potential for creative and subversive appropriation in the retelling of alternative histories, in the emergence of experimental modes of representation, communal or subjective. From the “deconstruction” of cartography (Harley) we have moved towards a phase of “reconstruction” (Besse) that recognizes the creative power of the map over time, its adaptability to multiple appropriations, and its participation in the creation of hybrid forms of knowledge and aesthetic representation together with literary, artistic and sociolinguistic discourses.

Given that the naming of places is inextricably linked to “communal memory and knowledge of a space” (Buana and Perdana), there is an important linguistic dimension to counter-mapping projects. Starting in the 16th century, from the Americas to South-East Asia, from Ireland to Australia, local pre-existing place names and sometimes scripts were displaced by colonial administrations, and “indigenous place names were completely erased as colonial coinages became entrenched in official maps” (Buana and Perdana). The (re)deployment of indigenous toponyms has thus been an important aspect of anti-colonial or decolonial counter-mapping efforts, from the Bugi “pirate maps” of the Malay Archipelago in the early 19th century to the Anishinaabemowin language billboards and the renaming of street names by artists in Anishinaabe territory in Ontario (Ogimaa Mikana project).

After the democratization of cartography and the emergence of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), cartography became “unbound” and opened up to alternative communities of map-makers who are not professional cartographers (Pinder). Counter-mapping strategies have thrived over the past decades and various community atlases have been produced which have attempted to put silenced histories, toponymies and marginalized groups on the map, reexamining centuries of history (Solnit; Bhagat and Mogel; Russert and Battle-Baptiste). All these forms of counter-mapping have reinvented the practice of cartography, making space for obliterated histories and place names.

This special issue seeks to foster an interdisciplinary dialogue between geography, history, literature, art and linguistics within the combined thematic, theoretical and critical orientation provided by our keywords (the nexus of borders, mapping and countermapping in the English-speaking world).

We look forward to making full use of the possibilities offered by digital publication by integrating multimedia artwork, such as map renderings, photographs, video work, poetry or interviews.

This call for papers welcomes two types of proposals:

1/ Proposals presenting countermapping artworks and accounts of alternative cartographic experiments with a political, social and/or linguistic dimension. These experiments should be supported with a text providing context and defining their aims and theoretical framework.

2/ Contributions from the humanities, social sciences and related disciplines which problematize mapping and countermapping practices and concepts in the English-speaking world.

The proposed issue intends to focus on the following topics :

1/ Countermapping, ideologies and social relations

- Relations of domination, contestation, and negotiation expressed through mapping and countermapping practices at the border;

- The cultural and political construction of linguistic, literary and/or administrative practices of mapping and countermapping;

- The cultural and ideological dimensions in the process of mapping borders, limits, and boundaries - whether they be jurisdictional, linguistic, geographic and/or political;

- The emergence of mapping practices that are productive of alternative social relations;

- The environmental politics of countermapping practices that seek to foster better resource management and sovereignty.

2/ Social, artistic, literary and linguistic practices of countermapping

- Countermapping as a cultural production of identities (social, ethnic, religious, linguistic, personal identities and their Others) which challenge national, regional and local boundaries;

- Sociolinguistic policies and how maps construct, and are constructed by language;

- Mapping as sociohistorical and sociolinguistic palimpsests building on history and memory ;

- The creation of fictional maps and their production of knowledge;

- The permanent process of redefinition of mapping / countermapping by its actors/readers/spectators;

- Mapping the territories of discourse: gender, genre and the canon.

3/ Sensing borders as countermapping

- Forms of linguistic and artistic expression that capture the complexities of the relation between the border and its cartographic representations;

- The experience of border-crossing and how this translates into diverse mapping practices;

- Mapping (the self and territory) through sensory perceptions;

- Subjective mapping: the construction of the individual in relation to real and fictional boundaries.

Submission Guidelines

· Please send your proposals (700 words) and bio-bibliographical note (100 words) by September 1, 2024 to the guest editors: Gwendolyne Cressman (, Timothy A. Heron ( and Marianne Hillion (

· Authors will be notified of acceptance by the selection committee in December 2024.

· Full articles (5,000 to 8,500 words) should be submitted in April 2025.

· Publication of the special issue: April 2026.

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