Author Archives: countercartographies

Teach-In: Understanding Gaza

Thursday, Jan. 15, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Nelson Mandela Auditorium, Fed Ex Global Education Center, UNC-CH

Laila El-Haddad is a freelance journalist from Gaza. Her blog, “Raising Yousuf and Noor: Diary of a Palestinian Mother,” explores the complex relationships between the personal and the political as she raises her children while negotiating displacement and occupation.

Rann Bar-On is an Israeli activist and graduate student at Duke University. He has worked with the International Solidarity Movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Rann advocates for an end to the Occupation and resistance to militaristic Israeli government policies. He is especially interested in the Shministim – a group of Israeli high-school students who are imprisoned for daring to refuse to serve in Israel’s occupying army.

Marty Rosenbluth: Formerly Amnesty International USA’s Country Specialist for Israel, the Occupied Territories and the Palestinian Authority, he is currently a human rights lawyer working with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in Durham. Through his work with Amnesty, he documented violations by all parties to the conflict, including participating in Amnesty’s fact-finding mission in northern Israel during the war between Israel and Lebanon in the summer of 2006 where he documented Hezbullah attacks on Israeli civilians as well as meeting with Israeli officials to discuss IDF attacks on civilians in Southern Lebanon.

Dr. Sarah Shields: Associate Professor of Middle Eastern History at UNC-CH, she is the author of Mosul before Iraq and teaches courses on the Arab-Israel conflict, Islamic civilization, the Modern Middle East.

Mapping Gaza

We are horrified/outraged/saddened by the tragedy/massacre/something occurring in Gaza. We want to do something to stop the Israeli attacks. We often turn to mapping in times like these. But of course, cartography was born in the midst of war, conflict and violence and that bond is not easily broken.

The BBC has a map comparing “Israeli Attacks on Gaza” to “Palestinian Rocket Attacks against Israel”
From this map one might be lead to think this is a conflict between two equals, with equal numbers of causalities on both sides. One might even be led to believe Israel’s claim that it is defending itself, only attacking “targets”, that all the Palestinians are dying in “clashes” between Hamas forces and the IDF. One certainly would not see the over 900 Palestinians that Israel has killed in the last 17 days, the nearly 300 children that have been killed, the refugee camps and schools that Israel has bombed. Nor would one see the effects of Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip — the lack of clean water, electricity, food, medical care. Even less would one see the cumulative effects of the Israeli occupation — the constant threat of violence, people denied their basic human rights and their ability to control their own lives and make their livelihoods.

But then again, how do you show horror, outrage, sadness on a map? How can you map even a single lost life? But 917 people killed in 17 days, 284 children? Or even write about it…

mapping borders: race, ethnicity, and highway patrols

As part of our new project on border-mapping, I’ve started poking through the database of traffic stops by North Carolina police agencies in 2006 (provided by the thoroughly-helpful North Carolina SBI Crime Statistics Unit). Our eventual goal is to track how 287(g) enforcement, immigrant populations, and traffic stops interact and vary geographically across the state but in order to get into the data I first wanted to answer some broader questions about how race, ethnicity, and age influence the rate at which folks are stopped by the police in this state.

The data was provided to us in text-delimited format; I dumped it into a database using the highly-flexible (and recommended) sqlite3 database engine. For each stop, we have access to information about the age and perceived race, ethnicity, and gender of the driver (in addition to stop location, agency, time, etc.):

Screenshot of the traffic stops database

–next step: to the spreadsheets!–

First, I grouped the data by age, by perceived ethnicity (hispanic and non-hispanic) and by perceived race (white and non-white, since those are the categories which correspond with the 2006 state population-by-age data I had). Then, I grouped distinct ages into age classes to match up with the age classes used by the census, from 15 and 16-17 through 85-94 and 95+, so that I could calculate the number of stops of folks in each age and race or ethnicity class as a percentage of the total state population belonging to that class. The result would be more-or-less a likelihood of being stopped by the police if your age is such and you are (white/non-white/hispanic/non-hispanic). Following another analysis I also grabbed census data on 2006 NC car ownership-per-person, and used that to rescale the statewide population counts to get an estimated count of drivers statewide (note that this would not be as accurate as using drivers license data, if anyone has a lead on getting it).

The resulting graph is pretty clear, but there are still lots of questions to ask (click for a bigger view)…

Call for Ideas: Reworking the University – Visions, Strategies, Demands

Reworking the University: Visions, Strategies, Demands
Call for Ideas – Please Distribute Widely!
April 24-26, 2009, University of Minnesota
The current “financial meltdown” has exacerbated the ongoing crises within the university, resulting in even greater budget cuts, tuition hikes, hiring freezes and layoffs. Responses from university administrations have been predominantly reactive and have served to fortify the university as an institution of neoliberal capitalism.  The administration and others have narrated this crisis as an external force that, while dramatic in the short run, can nonetheless be managed properly.  It is clear to many, however, that the neoliberal logic that has been used to transform the university over the past few decades has failed at a systemic level; the neoliberal death spiral has come home to the university.
In contrast to these reactionary responses, we seek to create a space for collective re-evaluation of the university in crisis as an opportunity for real transformation. Last year’s conference, “Rethinking the University: Labor, Knowledge, Value” (April 2008), sought to challenge the supposed inevitability of the neoliberal university.  As a continuation of this project, “Reworking the University” seeks to draw together academics, artists, and activists, to share and produce political visions, strategies and demands for building an alternative university in common.
“Reworking the University” seeks to generate a vibrant, political exchange by troubling the traditional format of the academic conference.  To this end, we hope to produce spaces for individuals and groups from different backgrounds and across a variety of institutional boundaries to converge.  While the conference will include the presentation of papers on the topic of “Reworking the University,” the committee’s selection process will prioritize workshops, roundtables, trainings, art installations, film screenings, performances, and other forms of creative engagement.
The conference organizing collective has selected several questions and themes that emerged out of the 2008 conference that we will address in various formats. If you have interest in participating, please provide us with a description of your proposed contribution.  We encourage you to self-organize a session (i.e. a performance, workshop, roundtable, training, etc.) and submit it as a whole.  Feel free to use the blog ( to help facilitate session organizing.
Below is a list of possible topics and we, of course, welcome additional suggestions.  In submitting your ideas for sessions, please give us as much information as possible—suggestions for themes, other participants and the session format.
The Reworking the University conference coincides with “Reclaim Your Education – Global Week of Action 2009” (April 20-27: Organizers also encourage suggestions for additional actions as part of this event.
Send your submissions (of up to 500 words) to  The deadline for submissions is February 10, 2009.
– Confronting American Apartheid: Access to education
– The financial crisis and the university
– Counter/Radical Cartographies and Disorientation Guides
– Corporate funding and the university
– Autonomous/Open/Free Universities
– The Poverty of Student Life
– Post-Enlightenment Visions: Beyond the Liberal Model
– Anarchism and Education
– Adjunct Unionization
– Organizing Across Campuses, Cities, and Regions
– Post-Antioch Universities/the Antioch Legacy
– Anti-militarization Movements in the University
– Prisons and Education
– Undergrad Education Beyond Commodification
– Historical Struggles in the University: May ’68 and beyond
– Autoreduction and Tactics for Direct Action in the Workplace
– Contemporary Struggles in the University: The Anomalous Wave & Movements in
Italy, Greece and elsewhere
– Expropriating Institutional Space
– Graduate student unionization and Radicalizing the Academy
– Anti-professionalization; Anti-disciplinarity
– Student Debt
– Pedagogy of the crisis
– Creating Radical/Open Access Publications and the Politics of Citation
The schedule and proceedings from last year’s conference can be found at:
Committee on Revolutionizing the Academy (ComRAD)

3Cs colloquium and panel

Sept. 5, 3Cs organized the Geography department colloquium – a panel including John Krygier, Jeremy Crampton, Lize Mogel, and Denis Wood. John spoke on the autistic characteristics of maps, Jeremy gave a history of critical cartography, Lize spoke on maps as art and political tools, and Denis also discussed the history of art mapping and critical cartographies and what this means for the future of mapping. Later that evening we gathered again (despite the predicted hurricane). Alexis Bhagat and Lize Mogel presented An Atlas of Radical Cartography, Pedro Lasch, another artist-mapper included in An Atlas, discussed his work and Denis Wood showed a slideshow of the history of art-mapping.