University of Oklahoma  |  Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability


Spatial Narrative in the GeoHumanities: Aesthetics, Methods, and Theory

American Association of Geographers Conference
April 5-9, 2017
Boston, Mass.

Session organizers: Nicholas Bauch, University of Oklahoma; Kenneth Foote, University of Connecticut

Maps promise something that text cannot: a graphic picture of a world of objects, events, and institutions that come together to make meaning.  Text does this, too, but without the immediate visual snapshot given by cartography.  Though we may want this promise to be true, we know that it is somewhat empty; that is, one must critically read maps and interpret them, their meaning emerging from the assumptions and politics of the reader as much as the mapmaker (e.g. Harley 1989).  This promise that maps make in their ability to capture reality and communicate its various strands simultaneously has nonetheless captured the imagination of practitioners across geography and the humanities seeking to tell and re-tell stories with a renewed focus on cartographic representation (e.g. Bodenhamer et al. 2015).  Paper proposals are invited to join this conference session that will interrogate the graphic role of maps in extending, deepening, or otherwise changing how narrative can function.  Lukacs (1970), White (1980), and Cronon (1992), among others, have articulated the power and the character of narrative in history and modern Western culture.  This session ultimately asks the question what is the adjective “spatial” doing to these rooted understandings of narrative?  Papers in this session grapple with how to merge the exceedingly visual nature of maps in making arguments with the rhetorical power of narrative.  Despite the promise maps make to clarify, how exactly one goes about making an argument using spatial tools does not have an immediate or universal graphic solution (e.g. Pearce 2008, Knowles et al. 2015).  By moving past the common practice of placing events on a reference map, we begin to uncover how the “spatial” in spatial narrative is actually changing the character of narrative as we know it.

Interested parties should submit an abstract (250 words max) and a short bio (75 words max) to Nicholas Bauch < > and Kenneth Foote < > no later than October 7, 2016.

Works Cited
Bodenhamer, David J., John Corrigan, and Trevor M. Harris, eds. 2015. Deep Maps and Spatial Narratives. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Cronon, William. 1992. "A Place for Stories: Nature, History, and Narrative."  Journal of American History 78:1347-1376.
Harley, J. B. 1989. "Deconstructing the Map."  Cartographica 26 (2):1-20.
Knowles, Anne Kelly, Levi Westerveld, and Laura Strom. 2015. "Inductive Visualization: A humanistic alternative to GIS."  GeoHumanities 1 (2):233-265.
Lukacs, Georg. 1970. "Narrate or Describe?" In Writer and Critic, 110-148. London: Merlin Press.
Pearce, Margaret Wickens. 2008. "Framing the Days: Place and narrative in cartography."  Cartography and Geographic Information Science 35 (1):17-32.
White, Hayden. 1980. "The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality."  Critical Inquiry 7 (1):5-27.