Critical Atlas

„We map-makers must make a point of demolishing the illusion that there can be an official, universally accepted representation of the world’s political divisions“.(Rekacewicz 2007: 226)


We are a collective of critical cartographers and intent to put together a “critical atlas.” On this behalf we invite cartographers, mappers, artists, activists, geographers and everyone who deals with critical maps, to contribute maps, texts, photographs and ideas. Beside printed and digital maps, we plan to integrate reports of mapping initiatives or exhibitions as well as interviews or articles about mappings. We look forward to contributions and suggestions from all parts of the world.


Why a critical atlas?

As dusty wall maps in school, city tour guides, thematic maps in newspapers or digital map extracts on the smartphone, maps accompany us constantly and in varying contexts. We use maps to navigate unknown places, to grasp geographic knowledge and we find them as arguments in political debates. Yet, maps are by no means neutral tools to present spatial information. Instead, they reproduce social systems and power relations, shaping both, our imaginations of spaces and our activities in spaces alike.

Since the 1980s, a growing number of actors confront traditional Western cartography through twofold efforts in theoretical critique and critical practice. These engagements are not limited to deconstructions or ideology criticisms of maps. In fact, critical cartographers create maps themselves to wield their power for constructive goals.
Simplified, we can distinguish between three interrelated directions: firstly, there is a great number of participative and collective mapping initiatives which open the process of map production and enable “lay cartographers” to raise their voices through maps.
Secondly, countermappings confront hegemonic ideas of space and society that are often shaped by commercial or governmental interests. Examples are mappings of social inequalities, resistances or visions that are excluded from mainstream discourses. A third form of applied critical cartography is artistic engagement with maps and their established conventions and rationalities.

„We map-makers must make a point of demolishing the illusion that there can be an official, universally accepted representation of the world’s political divisions“. (Philippe Rekacewicz)

These are plenty of motives to compose an atlas of critical cartographies. The format of this pub- lication will be somewhere between a companion for critical mapping and a discussion of critical mapping projects. We seek for an unconventional atlas as a critical voice in cartographic discourses. It aims to display strengths and weaknesses of cartographic approaches, to discuss existing mapping initiatives critically and to encourage people to engage in mapping practices themselves. Thus, the atlas will be a compilation of critical mapping initiatives and practical experiences.

We hope for contributions to all these dimensions of critical mappings. We are especially interested in experiences with and critical reflections on practical mapping projects, participatory mappings, maps as instruments for development, maps as articulations of political demands and maps as counter narratives against dominant everyday realities.

We call for contributions, abstracts and statements of interest until September 20th 2015. Emails should be sent to kritische-karten@posteo.de. Published maps will be printed in A3 format. This atlas is a non-profit enterprise.

The editors collective.


Ps: Naturally this book project does not serve any commercial ideas.


Download the Call (PDF) here in English.


  1. Dear Boris and team of the collective,

    I am a PhD student of cultural criminology at the Universities of Kent (UK) and ELTE (Hungary). My project uses critical maps to reveal an illegal practice conducted by the military forces in Colombia, called ‘batidas militares’, which consist in illegal conscription operations through raids in peripheral urban neighbourhoods and isolated rural areas of the country. This practice, which creates enormous physical risks and economic strains, affects exclusively low-income people and their families. Other institutions of the state such as the police and the public ministry, instead of controlling and sanctioning, coalesce with the military. Only the Ombudsman, a handful of congressmen, human rights organisations, and especially the conscientious objectors movement engage in protection of youths and their families from this practice.

    Through the joint work with social organisations and youth collectives in Bogota, we gather data on ‘batidas’, plot it in maps and analyse their linkages with socio-economic stratification, the massive transportation system, and other spatial features. Maps and statistics we produce are therefore instrumental to denounce the systematic practice conducted by the military and to better organise the social mobilisation strategy of nonviolent resistance.

    Please let me know if this type of exercise could be interesting for the critical atlas and, if so, what is the format you are expecting for reception of contributions (e.g. language, bibliography style, number of words, etc.). I speak English and Spanish, but unfortunately I cannot speak German.

    All the best and congratulations for this effort,

    • Hello Jairo,

      thanks for contacting us. What you write there sounds very interesting and might well be something which we would use for the atlas. We are planning two pages per map. One page for the actual map (DIN A4) and the second page with text, explaining the map. We are not sure yet what kind of content will be on that page (questions regarding the map, an essay, etc.). We have not agreed on a language, but most likely it will be english since we recieved transmittals from all over the world. We are happy to help translating :).
      What we need right now is as much information as you can send us regarding your map (like the text you wrote here), and the map itself. Beginning of October we will meet, discuss all the transmittals and get back in contact with you.
      Please send the map (and text) to kritische-karten@posteo.de

      The editors

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