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"Personal/Political/Feminist Maps: Reflections on Spatial Methods for Action Research"
Talk given at Feminist Social Justice Conference, a Workshop on Participatory and Feminist Research Methods
March 16, 2015
San Diego State University, San Diego, CA
In _The Practice of Everyday Life_, de Certeau writes that "What the map cuts up, the story cuts across." But what if the everyday stories you seek are already cut up by centuries of structural inequality and oppression, such as those of lesbians and queer women? In this talk I investigate what can be gained for the study of women’s lives and spaces by bringing together the isolated but overlapping stories of lesbians and queer women in maps, from the hand-drawn to the most technologically advanced and interactive. Drawing upon qualitative and quantitative work on lesbians' and queer women's spaces and economies in New York City from 1983 to 2008—including multi-generational focus groups and mental maps, archival research and GIS—I work through three different types of mapping methods and platforms within a participatory action research framework. Through a close analysis of mental maps and GIS maps created using QGIS and TileMill/Mapbox, I suggest that while the spatial and verbal can both obfuscate and illuminate understandings of everyday life. It is the queer practice of holding these seeming binaries in tension that reveals the most rich and complicated knowledge.