CfP POLLEN18 – ​Making claims, making maps: The politics and practices of mapping in environmental planning and governance

*** Forwarded on behalf of the organizers ***

POLLEN18: Political Ecology, the Green Economy, and Alternative Sustainabilities, 20-22 June 2018, Oslo and Akershus University College, Oslo, Norway

Making claims, making maps: The politics and practices of mapping in environmental planning and governance

Organizers: Synne Movik and Tim Richardson (Norwegian University of Life Sciences)

The use of maps and photographs in the context of environmental planning is commonly associated with an air of neutrality and objectivity. Maps often lack a specified author, and this lends them a degree of authority and legitimacy they would not otherwise possess. Rather than objective, static entities, maps are multi-vocal phenomena harbouring multiple possibilities for interpretation that perform particular work in specific contexts. Maps do not have a secure ontological status, they are relational and context-dependent, constantly in the process of making and re-making, interpretation and re-interpretation – maps are, in short, processual (Kitchin and Dodge 2007). They are, moreover, open to diverging interpretations – while some actors may view a map as the end product of a process, others may regard it as a starting point for further deliberations (Hongslo 2017).
What stories do maps tell? How are power and politics, conflict and consensus, expressed or concealed in mapping? How can mapping be used to manage conflict and inform tough planning choices? What work do maps perform in value-laden and often contested environmental planning processes? What and whose knowledges and values get included or marginalised, and how?  And what are the consequences?

Maps can be used as a means of depoliticising certain issues – e.g. the use of fuzzy spatial representations and relational spatial concepts in strategic spatial planning processes (Olesen and Richardson 2011). How maps conceptualise and render space is often the result of processes of prioritisation and contestation that may be obfuscated through the apparent objectivity of the map itself. Maps are multi-vocal phenomena, harbouring multiple possibilities, rather than representing one objective rendition of reality. Understanding the power of maps requires an understanding of their performative potential (Crampton 2009). This raises a central question: How can we open up the processes of knowledge-making in ways that allow for a better appreciation and understanding of the mechanisms and processes of co-production at work?

A related theme concerns how more participatory mapping practices can serve as bridges of diverse fields of knowledge, of ‘local’ and ‘expert’ knowledge, as well as different understandings and conceptualisations of space. Knowledge exists in multiple forms such as experiential, predictive, and normative knowledge (Rydin 2007).  What potential is there to accommodate diverse knowledge forms in the formation of maps, while ensuring their salience, credibility and legitimacy?

Maps reflect certain claims about the world. They also reflect how certain claims are made on particular resources, e.g. on use of the commons (Fox 1998). Resource use claims can be thought of as being discursively constituted (Movik 2010). Maps function as a form of visual discourse, a rhetorical device that render rights material through visual representations and demarcations, of dots and lines and circles. What roles do maps perform as such rhetorical devices in the staking of particular use claims to resources?

We welcome contributions that address one or more of these issues and questions, either theoretically or empirically, and invite submissions of abstracts of 300 words by 8th December. Please send abstracts to

For more information, please contact:

Synne Movik ( or Tim Richardson (


Crampton, J. W. (2009). “Cartography: performative, participatory, political.” Progress in Human Geography 33(6): 840-848.

Fox, J. (1998). “Mapping the commons: the social context of spatial information technologies.” The Common Property Resource Digest 45: 1-4.

Hongslo, E. (2017). “Background information or future vision? Mapping wild reindeer landscapes in a planning process.” Landscape Research 42(4): 349-360.

Kitchin, R. and M. Dodge (2007). “Rethinking maps.” Progress in human geography 31(3): 331-344.

Movik, S. (2010). “Allocation Discourses: The South African Water Rights Reform.” Water Policy 13(2): 161-177.

Olesen, K. and T. Richardson (2011). “The spatial politics of spatial representation: relationality as a medium for depoliticization?” International Planning Studies 16(4): 355-375.

Rydin, Y. (2007). “Indicators as a governmental technology? The lessons of community-based sustainability indicator projects.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 25(4): 610-624.

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