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Open mappings in depth or Business as Usual?

by Dr Iain Biggs - 6 February, 2022


The purpose of the material we hope to publish in this section of the PLaCE International website is to facilitate and extend ongoing conversations about the shifting practices and modes of thinking that are sometimes referred to as ‘deep mapping’. What follows here suggests that open mappings in depth are now both an end in themselves, an “outcome”, and articulations, ways of giving form to, minority or still emergent mentalities-in-action that, while always remaining distinct and particular, may share certain underlying characteristics. It is possible, if very difficult, to evoke those mentalities-in-action using language that conforms to the requirements of academic journals. They are better evoked, however, using the ‘hybrid style’ adopted by Rebecca Solnit, one that ‘encompasses first-person experience, researched history, investigation, analysis and description’, and so is able ‘to wander’, to draw together ‘those things that belong together, that need to be together in order to describe the whole in all its complexity, but are so often separated by genre or convention or style’.1 In short, qualities that match the combination of freedom and rigor required of open deep mappings in depth.


One way of thinking about our times is that we are enacting a wonderful success story. Economic and technological development has made many aspects of our lives easier. If we’re looking at how to move forward, the path this story suggests is “more of the same, please”. We’re calling this story Business as Usual.2

Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone

We are now in a situation where the Business as Usual of global capital in all its aspects, including its insistence on perpetuating a mentality predicated on technological “progress” and economic “growth”, has reached a point where it is bringing about ecological and psychosocial changes that are making life in earth for the majority of beings extraordinarily difficult, and very possibly ultimately impossible.

I have long been interested in deep mapping as an expression of an alternative mentality, something prompted both through study and by undertaking various relational mappings in depth. As a result questions about how to maintain its open status in the face of disciplinary appropriation have preoccupying me for at least a decade.3 Such questions are again highlighted by the stark contrast between two recent publications, a contrast I understand as framed by a larger cultural tension between two conceptions of knowledge. On one hand the continuing, academically grounded, commitment to disciplinarity as a basis for education, research, governance and a particular realpolitik. This might now more accurately be described as a commitment to neo-disciplinarity, given the application of terms such as “inter-“, “trans-“ or “post-“ disciplinarity that is in actuality little more than a smoke-screen for intellectual Business as Usual. On the other hand, work conducted both within and beyond the academy, but certainly against the grain of its dominant presuppositions. Work that takes as axiomatic that it is necessary to challenge:

’the contemporary colonial ontological occupation of territories by what John Law calls the one-world world: a world that has granted itself the right to assimilate all other worlds and, by presenting itself as exclusive, cancels possibilities for what lies beyond its limits’.4

Such work involves the slow but steady cultivation of an understanding that acknowledges complex relationalities and combinations of pre- and post- disciplinary positions that are gradually giving form to alternative mentalities able to move beyond those limits.5 (A process that, in relation to deep mapping, I see as articulated in embryo in the orientation of Mike Pearson and Michael Shanks’ Theatre/Archaeology). This tension cannot properly be understood as a simple binary position, but has an explanatory value even in the reductive form just articulated. It can usefully be summarised as related to contrasting attitudes to fundamental ecological processes, and to the histories of colonialism and issues of social justice, equality and psychosocial health from which the circumstances surrounding those processes are inseparable. A tension that Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone describe as that between ‘Business as Usual’ and the ‘Great Turning’.

The two recent publications that have prompted my thinking here are Making Deep Maps: Foundations, Approaches and Methods6 and Mapping Abundance for a Planetary Future: Kanaka Maoli and Critical Settler Cartographies in Hawai'i.7 The first is a collection of individual chapters edited by David J. Bodenhamer, John Corrigan, and Trevor M. Harris, also the co-editors of a new Routledge series on the Spatial Humanities, and of an earlier book: Deep Maps and Spatial Narratives.8 The second is by Candice Fujikane, a settler activist and Professor of English at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and co-editor of Asian Settler Colonialism: From Local Governance to the Habits of Everyday Life. Her book makes no reference to deep mapping and has its own specific cultural focus and terminology. However, read imaginatively and with works such as Tim Robinson’s Stones of Aran in mind, it can be seen as sharing values and concerns with ‘open’ deep mapping. A obvious link being the emphasis on what Richard Kearny refers to as ‘testimonial imagination’.9 That the issues I want to discuss are both current and of more than simply academic concern will be indicated by referring to a chapter in another book published this year. In Co-Creativity and Engaged Scholarship: Transformative Methods in Social Sustainability Research, the Brazilian researcher Talitta Reitz gives an account of the impact of William Least-Heat Moon’s work that is particularly telling in the context of my concerns here.

For reasons set out in the next section it seems clear to me that, for all the informative aspects of individual chapters, the editors of Making Deep Maps have set out to produce a book that, as far as possible, minimises or avoids acknowledging any form of deep mapping that cannot comfortably be appropriated to the neo-disciplinary field of the digital geo-humanities. It is effectively a calculated act of erasure of open, arts-based deep mapping, a second attempt by these three men to appropriate deep mapping to the academy by relocating it within a neo-disciplinary framework. Their framing of the book ensures that despite the qualities of, and claims in, some chapters, it ultimately remains oriented to a technophilic notion of “progress” that can only further underwrite Business as Usual. An orientation still bound, for all the editors’ flaunting of postmodern theory, into the hierarchical and exclusory disciplinary mentality and realpolitik that is ultimately inseparable from what Amitav Ghosh calls “the Great Derangement”.10

Candice Fujikane’s book, by contrast, precisely seeks to address that the consequences of that derangement as manifest in the effects of colonisation on the Indigenous world of Hawai’i. Her book has been succinctly summarised in a a review by Sarah Wright as setting out to articulate:

the struggles of Kānaka Maoli, people of Hawaiian ancestry, and their relationships

to and with place, looking to song, chants, art, storied histories, protest, and practices of cultural revitalization. Foundational to these storied histories, these abundant mappings, is the art of kilo, “keen intergenerational observation”.11

Without in any way wishing to underestimate the particular cultural specificity of Fujikane’s argument or to minimise the very real differences between her work and that of, say, Tim Robinson, I suggest that it is with concepts such as kilo, even when somewhat reductively understood as ‘keen intergenerational observation’, that the links between her orientation and an ‘open’ conception of deep mapping become more apparent.

In contrast to the editorial framing of Making Deep Maps, a growing understanding of the need to combine pre- and post-disciplinary thinking is signalled by the Preface to Co-Creativity and Engaged Scholarship. There Christof Mauch notes that its chapters are the product of:

‘a unique consortium of scientists, practitioners and change agents from eleven public, private and non-profit organisations located in six European Union countries. All of these early career researchers are working towards building a better understanding of – and greater support for – resourceful environmental practices in communities in Europe and beyond’;12

an orientation that, in my view, is in marked contrast to that adopted by the editors of Making Deep Maps. Consequently, and as will no doubt already be apparent, my position in what follows is unashamedly partisan and can be summarised by a further point made by Christof Mauch. Namely that:

‘In order to imagine and to build a more sustainable world, we must re-think the very way in which we create knowledge, communicate across different disciplines and engage with various publics’.13

Neo-disciplinarity and the editorial framing of Making Deep Maps.

Given the conventions that underpin the probity of academic texts, the editorial framing of Making Deep Maps can at best be described as odd. Why is best indicated by an example. Clifford McLucas (1945-2002) is regarded by practitioners in the performing and visual arts concerned with deep mapping, and by theorists and historians who share their interest, as a key figure in its development. This is abundantly clear from numerous references to his ideas in a wide range of publications from Nick Kaye’s Site Specific Art: performance, place and documentation (2000) onwards. As anyone familiar with McLucas’ manifesto There are ten things I can say about these deep maps ….14 will know, his inclusive approach is particularly well placed to engage with the concerns Mauch summarises. So it is to say the least odd that neither the editors’ Preface to Making Deep Maps nor (despite its title), Bodenhamer’s introductory chapter ‘The varieties of deep maps’, make any reference to McLucas.

Odd for a number of reasons. Firstly, because point eight of McLucas’ manifesto stresses the importance of the digital to deep mapping as he conceives of it, a point that would surely have added support to Making Deep Maps editorial position. Secondly, because even if its editors were personally unaware of McLucas’ significance, his importance to considerations of deep mapping are indicated more than once in different chapters in the book. Chapters that its editors presumably read with some care. Furthermore, and despite these references, McLucas’ name does not appear in the index. The reason for his absence is, I believe, indicative of a conscious act of erasure rather than, say, intellectual provincialism, lack of background research, or editorial inattention to the material to be published.

In summary, the framing of this book appears as a conscious attempt to minimise or ignore any work that might question or relativize the editors’ own attempts to co-opt deep mapping to their own, highly reductive, agenda. How else to explain why the rich and varied traditions of deep mapping outside the United States are, with the exception of nominal reference to the early work of Mike Pearson and Michael Shanks, unacknowledged by the editors? Why, otherwise, is there no other reference to Michael Shanks, who is a senior founding faculty of the Stanford Archaeology Centre, a Professor of Classics, a member of Stanford's Centre for Design Research, and who teaches into the programs in Writing and Rhetoric, Science Technology and Society, Urban Studies, Classics, and Archaeology? This is easily explained, I suggest, by the fact that in the past he has aligned the imaginative orientation of deep mapping to an expanded sense of archaeology. This same orientation would also explain why Les Roberts’ Deep Mapping anthology, along with his cogent articulation of the relationship between deep mapping and spatial anthropology, are absent from the editorial framing of Making Deep Maps. Again, this is notwithstanding the fact that Denis Wood, one of the contributing authors, references Roberts’ anthology in which his earlier chapter on deep mapping appears. That the editors of Making Deep Maps have chosen to ignore Roberts’ thoughtful framing of Deep Mapping in anthropological terms is wholly consistent with their commitment to a form of neo-disciplinary colonialism based on erasure. It goes without saying that Roberts too is absent from Making Deep Maps’ index.

Neo-disciplinarity as Business as Usual

I have long been haunted by a particular observation that relates directly to the relationship between the dominant disciplinary system and our ability to address the need to develop what, following Kate Soper, might be called a ‘post-growth’ mentality.15 That observation is as follows:

“To the extent that a particular way of producing knowledge is dominant, all other claims will be judged with reference to it. In the extreme case, nothing recognisable as knowledge can be produced outside of the socially dominant form”.16

I work as a member of a defuse networked community, one that includes many members of PLaCE International, the constituents of which are attentive participants in any number of taskscapes and communities. Although many of these people work in the arts sector and/or are employed by university departments, their concerns are not limited to, or defined by, formal notions of disciplinary or professional expertise. Active participation in those communities requires us to practice ‘disciplinary agnosticism’17 and to draw on many different aspects of our experience. Why this is relevant to open mappings in depth is suggested by Barbara Bender’s observation that:

Landscapes refuse to be disciplined. They make a mockery of the oppositions that we create between time [History] and space [Geography], or between nature [Science] and culture [Social Anthropology].18

Taken together with Doreen Massey’s view that space is a ‘simultaneity of stories-so-far’,19 this is highly suggestive as to why the disciplinary system, with its exclusory and fragmenting approach to knowledge, is no longer appropriate to the demands of our times. Consequently, and following a range of thinkers and activists putting post-disciplinary thinking into practice - from Stephen Sterling, Emeritus Professor of Sustainable Learning at the University of Plymouth to the veteran Irish artist Deirdre O’Mahony – I suggest that it is now clear that we need to acknowledge that the disciplinary system is no longer fit for purpose.

What this requires in practice can be understood from two interrelated perspectives. The first is epistemological and implicit in Barbara Bender’s observation already quoted. The disciplinary focus on a form of specialism authorised by a particular conception of scientific detachment is simply not adequate to the need to address the complexities and relationalities of the concrete reality in which we actually live. Moreover, it has resulted in each discipline developing a competitive realpolitik predicated on what Irit Rogoff refers to as each discipline cultivating a ‘distinct cultural and linguistic tradition and a vehement sense of territorality’.20 Arguably, open mappings in depth, as represented by William Least-Heat Moon, Mike Pearson, Michael Shanks and Clifford McLucas, have been a practical attempt to develop a form of relational thinking-in-action that addresses the short-comings of a disciplinary culture predicated on exclusion and fragmentation. That, at least, is how I understand points six and seven of McLucas’ There are ten things I can say about these deep maps …: ‘Six: Deep maps will require the engagement of both the insider and the outsider. Seven: Deep maps will bring together the amateur and the professional, the artist and the scientist, the official and the unofficial, the national and the local’. The mentality this reflects is the antithesis of the fundamental elements of the disciplinarity system as Bender and Rogoff represent it.

There is however a social implication of disciplinarity that needs to be raised here; namely the relationship between disciplinary realpolitik, the public conception of what constitutes authority, and political control. It is with regard to this relationship that the contemporary manifestations of Ghosh’s Great Derangement start to become starkly evident, a derangement that, as Zygmunt Bauman has demonstrated, makes the Holocaust the signal event of the mentality of modernity.21 It’s in the same spirit that, during an exchange between the founder of the Nevada-Semipalatinsk Antinuclear Movement and nuclear physicists, when the former asked the later what they proposed to do about nuclear waste, they replied that it was ‘not their department, but that of geologists, and so they didn’t think about it’.22 The social outcome of this mentality was demonstrated recently by Jacob Rees-Mogg’s recent dismissal, as a senior member of the UK Government, of the UN’s report on poverty in Britain as barely believable and a political stunt. A report that, after careful research and consideration, had found that much of what had previously held British society together since 1945 had been deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh, officially sanction, uncaring ethos. It seems useful here to offer an detailed example of how this new ethos and its relationship to disciplinary realpolitik plays out in practice.

Some years ago, a research team from a major UK university received over five million pounds for a project. This included, for the first time ever, money provided directly by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). In time the researchers submitted their findings to a leading medical journal. These were peer reviewed, accepted, and published. One of the most senior British academics in the researchers’ field described the research as a thing of beauty. The DWP prepared to use the findings to help justify cuts to disability spending. Insurance companies prepared to use them to justify paying out less money to claimants with certain disabilities. Then an inconvenient problem occurred. The research findings directly contradicted the experience of many of the patients suffering the illness the study claimed to research. Patients alerted other researchers, who asked for access to the team’s data and methodology – access that is a condition of publication in the journal concerned. The researchers and journal refused this request. The case eventually went to court and, despite the university spending over two hundred and forty-five thousand pounds, its researchers were ordered to release their data and methodology. Careful external scrutiny then showed conclusively that their findings had been fundamentally distorted by a methodological slight-of-hand. As a result, academics in some universities now use the project to show how not to do such research.

This situation raises a host of questions. Why didn’t the peer reviewers spot the problem and why, when asked, wouldn’t the editor and researchers share the data and methodology? Why did a very senior academic at the top of the researcher’s field publicly and fulsomely praise such flawed work? Why has the journal concerned still not retracted this discredited paper? And why did a “top” university go to court, at very considerable expense, to try to hide scientific research from legitimate external scrutiny? One answer may well be because of undeclared conflicts of interest, since it later came to light that members of the research team had close links with both the DWP and the insurance companies.23 Another would be: “that’s the inevitable consequence of the growing inseparability of disciplinary realpolitik from the wider struggle to gain and/or consolidate power through economic manipulation”, that is Business as Usual.

Some academics will no doubt argue that this example reflects the “one bad apple” scenario and that interdisciplinarity now provides the necessary corrective to the short-comings of the realpolitik dependent on over-specialisation that dominates disciplinarity. But interdisciplinary thinking still tacitly privileges disciplinarity as the way of structuring knowledge. As McLucas’ two points quoted above make clear, the mentality that informs open mappings in depth precisely sets out to avoid unquestioningly privileging the disciplinary knowledge of professional specialists over that of a variety of other voices. Of, to take a sample from some work undertaken in the Netherlands that I was involved in: farmers, parents, the elderly, community workers, children, local political representatives, or the voluntary maintenance team at the local auxiliary pumping station. In short, open mappings in depth seek to evoke an inclusive, relational and non-hierarchical approach to different types of knowledge and understanding. Something that is central to exploring, through genuine and respectful dialogue, the possibilities for practical, situated, and mutually enacted socio-environmental care predicated on an alternative, post-growth mentality.

I stress this because those involved in open mappings in depth now need to cultivate “disciplinary agnosticism” so as to question the assumption that disciplinary knowledge - including its ‘inter-‘, ‘trans-‘, and other variations - is ultimately the only or principle authoritative basis for understanding and action. Unless we do so we risk contributing to the devaluing, trivialising, dismissing, or excluding of other forms of knowing and understanding. And that, in turn, leads to the dismissal, criminalising, pathologizing and patronising of the feelings and thoughts that animate dissident voices including, for example, those of colonised and Indigenous peoples or those who want genuine action taken on ecological problems. None of this is intended as an out-of-hand dismissal of the specific, practical understanding produced by discipline-based enquiry. What is in question here is the disciplinary mentality that isolates and prioritizes specialist knowledge so as to create exclusive institutional domains and spheres of interest; groups more concerned to with a realpolitik that concentrates their own power than to serve collective needs. Another example of this, taken from a recent report quoting a senior neuroscientist on the allocation of funding for research to a single school of thought, makes it clear that such a mentality has set Alzheimer’s research back by ten to fifteen years; while another says that millions of people may have died needlessly as a result.24

The art of kilo and its possible parallels

I have already quoted Sarah Wright’s paraphrase of the art of kilo as being concerned with ‘keen intergenerational observation’. For Fujikane herself this intergenerational observation is seen as predicated on attention to ‘elemental forms that have been recorded in story and song’, so that ‘kilo adaptation, regeneration, and transformation’ are an essential element of what will enable the Indigenous people of Hawai’i and those who adopt their ‘abundant-mindedness’ in the face of environmental change ‘to survive what capital cannot’.25 At first sign then there would seem to be a radical distinction between Fujikane’s understanding of kilo in its proper Indigenous context and any possible parallels that might be identified within contemporary western thinking. However, it is important here neither to enact some variety of the all-too-common position of ‘excoriating Western civilization’ in the name of Indigenous wisdom, nor to tacitly appropriate just those particular aspects of a complex and sophisticated Indigenous system of knowledge that happen to suit the individual writer’s current purpose.26

Like Rebecca Solnit, to whose thinking the observations above are greatly indebted, I am no attracted to either the ‘modern’ story of progress nor the “Edenic” story that underpins so much environmental thinking; preferring to orient myself by what she refers to as ‘a worldview in which creation of the world is … continual and sometimes comic improvisation, without initial perfection or a subsequent fall’.27 And, like Solnit again, I value the activity of open mapping in depth because it relishes, and engages with, ‘the complexities, the grey areas, the ironies, and the ambiguities that oftenest need ferreting out’.28 The remainder of this section is concerned with what possible relationships there might be between these concerns and what orients them and the art of kilo.

My understanding of the practice of notitia, offered here in the context of thinking about the art of kilo as presented by Candace Fujikane, is derived from James Hillman and, following him, Mary Watkins. As I have argued elsewhere,29 the practice of notitia can be understood as the enacting of a ‘careful attention that is sustained, patient, subtly attuned to images and metaphors’, one that tracks ‘both hidden meanings and surface presentations’.30 As such I take notitia as common to what is most responsive in dialogical art, education, relational ethics and in conversations that are ‘allowed to remain open so as to await the unforeseen whilst allowing ideas to converse with time itself without any foreclosed end set out in advance’.31 Furthermore, notitia may be understood as that capacity for listening that attempts ‘to recover the neglected and perhaps deeper roots of what we call thinking’.32

I would suggest that all this is particularly relevant in relation to the realpolitik that links disciplinarity to institutional power in the kinds of ways indicated earlier. This will remain the case as long as we find ourselves ‘inhabitants of a culture hierarchized by a logos that knows how to speak but not to listen’ – a culture of ‘competing monologues’ in which all officially sanctioned intellectual authority is underwritten by disciplinary, categorical thinking.33 This validates creative conversation as a means to support ‘apprenticeships in listening’ since:

If, as an art, conversation is the creation of worlds, we could say that to

choose to have a conversation with someone is to admit them into the field

where worlds are constructed. And this ultimately runs the risk of redefining

not only the ‘other’ but us as well.34

Varieties of open mappings in depth and the arts of attention and conversation

At this point I want to reference observations made by Talitta Reitz’s account of the practical consequences of William Least-Heat Moon’s book PrairyErth: A Deep Map. That book came out in 1991, the result of over five years fieldwork, research and face-to-face interviews and it’s subject is the last remaining area of tall grass prairie in the USA. Least-Heat Moon makes it very clear that, with one notable exception, the ranchers who embodied local identity were absolutely opposed to any attempt to protect the unique habitat they owned. Yet in 1991 local opinion had shifted towards doing just that. By 1994, when management issues were resolved to the satisfaction of the local community, it became possible to create the Tall Grass Prairie National Preserve.

Talitta Reitz notes that a local rancher is reported as saying: ‘the book had a positive impact, overall. Because I think it raised our self-esteem. We thought: ‘Wow, somebody could see something in us that we didn’t see”’35 She concludes that PrairyErth: ‘added new values to existing relationships between Kansas communities and their environment’. While I don’t doubt that Least-Heat Moon’s six hundred and twenty four page book did make an impact I rather doubt, as someone familiar with the workload of those engaged in rural enterprises, that many of the Chase County ranching people actually read it cover to cover. In the light of my own experience of a deep mapping where we failed to produce such an tangible outcome, I would suggest that the primary catalyst for the change in local attitudes was not primarily the book itself. Rather I believe that it was the approach Least-Heat Moon adopted - the curiosity, humour, patience, close attention to his informants and genuine interest in every aspect of Chase County that is also evidenced in the final publication. I think, that is, that it is those qualities of careful attention and respect for its past and present, as perceived by the Chase County community over time, that gave it a new sense of itself.

I appreciate that, from the neo-disciplinary perspective of the editors of Making Deep Maps, this may appear mere conjecture on my part. However, it is consistent with the research undertaken by James Leach and Lee Wilson that reminds us that the value of the project that resulted in the book PrairyErth lies in people. In people’s expertise, confidence, understanding and orientation to particular issues, problems, concerns, and opportunities; in their sharing conceptual tools and practical abilities. That its informal aspect is a living relationship expressed through processes of investigation, argumentation and understanding, which is why it is able to initiate real change.36 The substantive outcome of such work is ultimately the development, maintenance and support of responsiveness to the world, of response-ability. It is this that, in my view, is lost sight of as a result of the technophilic, neo-disciplinary preoccupations of the editors of Making Deep Maps.

In lieu of any conclusion

I need to end this essay first with an admission and then by posing a number of questions. The admission relates to my comments on Making Deep Maps.

Like Kathleen Jamie in her justly famous review of Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places,37 I must acknowledge that my observations about Making Deep Maps are unfair, at least to the authors of individual chapters who I have almost totally ignored, if less so regarding its editors. While there is good evidence to suggest that Macfarlane has taken Jamie’s observations to heart, since his later writing can hardly be characterised as that of ‘a lone enraptured male’, I am under no illusion that my observations here will have any such effect. Too much is at stake for academics whose careers depend on perpetuating the mentality of Business as Usual. I should add that I have no doubt that those seeking an academic qualification in the neo-disciplinary field of the digital geo-humanities will find useful information in Making Dep Maps. I can only hope that such information initiates a serious study of the topic that moves beyond the provincialism of the editors to discover the real range and variety of practice and scholarship the term deep mapping encompasses.

My approach here is deliberately polemical, designed to raise certain issues relating to the relationship between open mappings in depth and our collective need to set aside the mentality of Business as Usual. Following Felix Guattari I believe we now need to adopt an ecosophical conception of the pluriverse in which attention is given to the interrelationship of psychic, social and environmental realities. Different individuals engaged in open deep mappings in depth will quite properly develop different degrees of emphasis in their engagement with these three spheres of concern. This in itself should help ensure that such mappings remain responsive and open to our shifting needs and priorities. I am left, however, with the following questions.

My first question might be taken as overly scholarly, although its pursuit would have substantive implications for practice. It arises from the sense of possibly productive tensions in what I perceive as the historical relationship between Surrealism and open deep mappings in depth, particularly given both what Richard Kearney describes as the ‘post-modern paradox of imagination – mythic, aesthetic or social’ as ‘to know that one is dreaming and yet to continue to dream’38 and Surrealism’s relationship to a particular politics of knowledge.39 This is too complex an issue to go into in any depth here, where my concern is simply to ask whether there is insight to be gained by a review of aspects of Surrealism through the lens of testimonial imagination. That is, ‘to bear witness to “exemplary” narratives legacied’ not by ‘our cultural memories and traditions’ [italics mine]40, as Kearney would have it, but by those cultural memories and traditions that the dominant culture has repressed, denied or marginalised including, but not limited to, what are called Indigenous knowledges.

A second question relates to the ‘slowness’ of open mappings in depth and its relationship to ‘residency’. For many people the current environmental situation is best described as an emergency or a crisis. That being the case, do the slow processes on which open mappings in depth render it redundant? Equally, do the economic limitations imposed on those undertaking it increasingly render residency, as opposed to say regular visiting in the place under consideration, present a serious problem? Rather than attempt to answer these questions, I will point you to two recent projects undertaken by Rowan O’Neill as part of her work with the Welsh community arts organisation Span Arts, namely Map Digi Penfro: Exploring Pembrokeshire from many perspectives and Cân y Ffordd Euraidd / The Song of the Golden Road.41 While the first can be understood as a “traditional” deep mapping project, the second demonstrates Rowan’s thinking moving in a direction closer to that articulated by Candace Fujikane. Unlike Fujikane, however, Rowan is not in receipt of a full-time academic’s salary and so has to work within a very different set of constraints. What is striking, none the less, is what I see as elements of a similar mentality within their activities.

A third and all-important question here is whether my emphasis above is itself too reductive. By polemically locating open mappings in depth over against Business as Usual, am I in danger of inadvertently proposing an unnecessarily restrictive perspective on the very openness of the mentality-in-action I wish to support? Only further work and reflection can answer this.


1]. Rebecca Solnit (2014) Savage Dreams: A Journey into the Hidden Wars of the American West Berkeley and London: University of California Press, p.xx. The attunement of Solnit’s mentality and writing to my topic here is perhaps best demonstrated by her Unfathomable Cities project, which has currently produced atlases of San Francisco and New Orleans.

2]. Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone (2012) Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy Novato, California, New World Library, p. 15.

3]. I have previously defined “open” deep mapping as interweaves image and concept to work in and with what Harrison, Pile & Thrift call the ‘curious space between wonder and thought”, recognizing this space as vital to ‘a knowledgeable and impassioned engagement with the world’ that requires an approach in which ‘there is no single Disciplinary (in an academic sense) voice’. See my ‘The Spaces of “Deep Mapping”: A Partial Account’ in Journal of Arts and Communities Vol 2 No 1 (July 2011) pp.5-25.

4]. Marisol De La Cadena & Mario Blaser (eds) (2018) A World of Many Worlds Durham and London, Duke University Press, p.3.

5]. See, for example, Anna Pigott (2020) ‘Articulating artfulness: exploring the ecological potential of creative conversation’ Trans Inst Br Geogr. 2020; 45: 877-890

6]. David J. Bodenhamer, John Corrigan, and Trevor M. Harris (eds) (2022) Making Deep Maps: Foundations, Approaches and Methods Oxford and New York, Routledge.

7]. Candice Fujikane (2021) Mapping Abundance for a Planetary Future: Kanaka Maoli and Critical Settler Cartographies in Hawai'i Durham & London: Duke University Press.

8]. A comparison between Deep Maps and Spatial Narratives and a special double issue on deep mapping in the e-journal Humanities (2015-2016), edited by Les Roberts and later published in book form as Deep Mapping, appears in the chapter on deep mapping in Creative Engagements with Ecologies of Place. This essay is, in many respects, a continuation and development of that comparison.

9]. See the concluding chapter of Richard Kearney (1993) Poetics of Imagining: from Husserl to Lyotard London & New York, Routledge.

10]. Amitav Ghosh (2016) The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable Chicago & London, University of Chicago Press.

11]. Sarah Wright Reviewed by (2021) Mapping Abundance for a Planetary Future:

Kanaka Maoli and Critical Settler Cartographies in Hawai‘i, The AAG Review of Books, 9:4, 15-17, p.15.

12]. Christof Mauch ‘Preface’ in Alex Franklin (ed) (2022) Co-Creativity and Engaged Scholarship: Transformative Methods in Social Sustainability Research Cham, Palgrave Macmillan p. vi.

13]. Ibid. p. v.

14]. For this manifesto in full see Mary Modeen & Iain Biggs (2021) Creative Engagements with Ecologies of Place: Geopoetics, Deep Mapping and Slow Residencies London & New York, Routledge p. 73/74 note 44.

15]. Kate Soper (2020) Post-Growth Living: For an Alternative Hedonism London & New York, Verso.

16]. Michael Gibbons, Camille Limoges, Helga Nowotny. Simon Schwartzman, Peter Scott, Martin Trow (1994) The New Production of Knowledge: the dynamics of science and research in contemporary societies London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi, SAGE publications, pp 1-2.

17]. For an explanation of this term see Mary Modeen & Iain Biggs, op. cit. pp. 14.

18]. Barbara Bender quoted in Doreen Massey (2006) ‘Landscape as a Provocation: Reflections on Moving Mountains’ in Journal of Material Culture 2006; 11; 33 pp. 33-48, p. 33.

19]. Doreen Massey (2005) For Space London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: SAGE

Publications, p. 9.

20]. Irit Rogoff (2000) Terra Infirma: Geography’s Visual Culture London: Routledge, p. 122.

21]. See Zygmunt Bauman (1989) Modernity and the Holocaust Cambridge, Polity Press.

22]. Quoted in Rebecca Solnit (2014) op.cit. p. 219-220.

23]. I have removed specifics from this account to anonymise it, since my purpose is not to name-and-shame specific institutions and individuals. I will only add that, for those who want chapter and verse, much of the information on which it is based can be found at

25]. Candice Fujikane op. cit. pp. 26 , 6 & 3.

26]. See Rebecca Solnit (2001) As Eve Said To The Serpent: On Landscape, Gender, and Art Athens, University of Georgia Press p. 12 and Rebecca Solnit ( 2011) A Book of Migrations: Some Passages in Ireland London & New York, Verso, pp. 121-131.

27]. Rebecca Solnit (2001) op.cit p. 12.

28]. Ibid. p. 14.

29]. Iain Biggs (2018) ‘Notitia, Trust, and “Creative Research” in Katja Hilevaara & Emily Orley The Creative Critic: Writing as/about Practice London & New York, Routledge pp. 40-41.

30]. Mary Watkins (2008) ‘”Breaking the Vessels”: Archetypal Psychology and the Restoration of Culture, Community and Ecology” in Stanton Marlin (ed) Archetypal Psychologies: Reflections in Honor of James Hillman New Orleans: Spring Publications Books p. 419.

31]. Paul O’Neill (2012) ‘To Go Beyond – The Emergence of the Durational Commons’ in Sophie Warren & Jonathon Mosely Surface tension Supplement 5: Beyond Utopia Berlin: Errant Bodies Press / Surface Tension Supplement 5, p. 12.

32]. Gemma Corradi Fiumara (1995) The Other Side of Language: A Philosophy of Listening London & New York, Routledge p. 13.

33]. Ibid. p. 85.

34]. Monika Szewczyk (2009) ‘The Art of Conversation, Part 1’ e-flux journal 3 p. 2

35]. Talitta Reitz (2021) ‘Back to the Drawing Board: Creative Mapping Methods for Inclusion and Connection’, in Alex Franklin (ed) Co-Creativity and Engaged Scholarship: Transformative Methods in Social Sustainability Research, Cham, Switzerland, Palgrave Macmillan, p. 343. (This book can be obtained for free as an eBook or downloaded as a pdf).

36]. James Leach & Lee Wilson. Enabling innovation: creative investment in arts and humanities research, 2010.

37]. Kathleen Jamie (2008) ‘A Lone Enraptured Male’ in London Review of Books Vol 30 no. 5 March 2008 pp. 25-27.

38]. See Richard Kearney (1991) op. cit. 183 and Penelope Rosemont (2019) Surrealism: Inside the Magnetic Fields San Francisco, City Lights Books, chapter 16.

39]. See Celia Rabinovitch (2004) Surrealism and the Sacred: Power, Eros and the Occult in Modern Art Boulder, Colorado & Oxford, Westview Press, Part Two, and Penelope Rosemont (2019) op. cit. chapter nine.

40]. Richard Kearney (1991) op. cit. p. 220.

41]. For details of these, see


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