About the Atlas

In early 2015 we, a collective of activists and academics in Germany published a trilingual call for papers and maps (http://kritische-karten.net/index.php/call-for-papers/). Our idea was to bring together projects and people from varying backgrounds that use participatory and critical mappings as tools in political struggles, research or education – and create “different” cartographies, as we call it. While some of us come from a more academic “critical cartography” others learned to use and produce maps in their political work (inspired by experiences of collective and social cartography in Latin America). Most of the organizers have worked in the field for a number of years and contributed to the shaping of a “Kritische Kartographie” in social movements and critical geography in Germany (see for example http://orangotango.info/http://www.geographie.nat.uni-erlangen.de/personen/bmichel/?lang=en). One primary goal of the critical atlas is to bridge what is often seen as a gap between academic and activist work.

Following our call, we received more than a hundred submissions from an extraordinary broad range of places, groups and backgrounds dealing with an equally broad range of social, political and ecological issues. We received submissions from activist groups, NGOs and artists as well as younger and senior academics. From the submissions we think roughly fifthy will be published. As the project grew larger than expected we decided that instead of publishing all contributions in their respective native language in a small volume, we prefer to translate all contributions into English and produce one comprehensive, monolingual ‘atlas’.

The atlas will be a compilation of mapping projects, which are, in diverse ways, “different” from conventional cartographic products. Such a “different” cartography largely takes place beyond the realms of professionalised cartography, that is, outside of traditional academic, mass media, governmental or commercial spheres. The actors of these cartographies are often action researchers, activists and social movements. They design maps to raise attention to social grievances and enforce social change, to empower the underprivileged and make their voices heard. Actors of “different” cartographies are also often artists who create maps to reveal and challenge our perceptions of – and positions in the world. The Critical Atlas presents and discusses a broad range of such “different” cartographies, with a cross-cutting focus upon several practical facets: firstly, a range of heterogeneous methods, techniques and technologies of map making will be introduced. Secondly, highly different contexts and motives of map making will be presented. Thirdly, we want to stress the question of usefulness or even effectiveness of mappings. To what extent are the maps actually influencing people and thereby contribute to the overcoming of miserable social or ecological conditions? Lastly, the atlas intends to inspire readers to start mapmaking themselves by introducing lay persons to cartographic practices through practical hints and guidelines.
In the end, the ambition of the atlas is to create a practical and theoretical tool for social activist, activist researchers, social movements as well as people from the educational sector, based on manifold mapmaking experiences in different social and political contexts.

At the moment we are in the process of reviewing and revising the contributions as well as defining structure and layout possibilities. All maps will be contextualized by 2-4 pages of text by the map’s authors and there will be a small number of text-only contributions. Once the draft is ready we will start to contact possible publishers. To remain more independent concerning the design, layout and distribution of the atlas, we decided to go up to publishers with an almost ready edition. This is important to us due to the (visual) complexity of the book and its ambition to be a political and educational practical tool.

For 2017, when the atlas is published, we plan a range of activities to increase the publicity and dissemination of the book in Europe and the Americas in cooperation with authors of the atlas, such as book presentations, reading tours, public discussions with authors, exhibitions, book fairs.
The critical atlas does not serve any commercial ideas and we want to publish the Atlas under the Creative Common license.

Feel free to contact us if you want to support the atlas in any way!


  1. Dorothea Hamilton

    July 28, 2015 at 9:05 am

    super Initative!

  2. Christian Stein

    July 28, 2015 at 10:24 am

    Klingt nach einem spannenden Projekt. Hab euch versucht zu schreiben, leider geht die Mail-Adresse “kritische-karten@posteo.de” leider nicht, Fehler: “Recipient address rejected: undeliverable address: Recipient address lookup failed”

  3. Feine Sache, habe es mal über GeoDACH und Fachschaft Geo Marburg verteilt!

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