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Colección: La Educación
Número: (119) III
Año: 1994

Rationales for, and Examples of, Critical Social Cartography

A map such as the one we advocate is a unique object. Initially, each map, as is true of any written discourse, is the property of its creator—it contains some part of that person’s knowledge and understanding of the social system. As a mental construction, representing either the physical world or the ideologies of cultures, maps can be characterized as what Baudrillard’s translators describe as “art and life.”22 They note that Baudrillard finds that art and life shape the system of objects, that a purely descriptive system “carve[s] out a truth.”23 While we find maps can shape the system of objects, we suggest that rather than carve out a truth, they portray the mapper’s perceptions of the social world instead, locating in it multiple and diverse intellectual communities, leaving to the reader not a truth, but a portrait—art representing the possibilities portrayed by being open to the world’s multiple cultural truths.

Viewed from this perspective, then, what Baudrillard calls “the artistic enterprise” includes the map in the sense that the map is a descriptive system consisting of a collection of objects of knowledge around a “point where forms connect themselves according to an internal rule of play.”24 The map reveals information about space by showing information scaled within the boundaries of another space. Mapping the elements of comparison models contributes to our comprehension of the social milieu, providing a point of departure for new research, as well as for new maps resulting from the knowledge generated by that research.

An example of this type of anti-foundational map is the macro-mapping of worldviews (i.e. paradigms) and ways of seeing (i.e. theories) uncovered using semiotic analysis in sixty exemplary comparative education texts presented in Figure 3 below.25 This map embodies Soja’s concern for “a social ontology in which space matters from the very beginning.”26 It is a study of society establishing “a primal material framework [of] the real substratum of social life.”27 This heuristic map discovers intellectual communities and relationships, illustrates domains, suggests a field of interactive ideas, and opens space to all propositions and ways of seeing in the social milieu. What appears as open space within the global representation, is space that can be claimed by intellectual communities whose discourse is not yet represented on the map. It is conceivable that the part of the world Paulston draws our attention to does look like this, but it is his perception of the world derived from textual exegesis; however, it is probably not what Baudrillard would consider a map carving out the “truth.” If it is not the truth, but only one possible way of rationally seeing some identifiable parts of the world, how should or could Figure 3 be considered as a relevant contribution by those who read the map?


By drawing on paper an image depicting a social framework, Figure 3 addresses Rust’s recommendation to focus on mininarratives rather than metanarratives. The charting of paradigms and theories grants to those constructs the mapper’s recognition of their intertextual space in the real world. Readers may question whether the depiction is accurate, whether the allocation of space is appropriate, and whether the genealogy and relationships suggested by the arrows have developed or are developing in the directions the mapper indicates. If a reader has answers to these questions, the map is available for dialogue; if a reader disagrees, she or he need only redefine the space. We should, however, note that the map in Figure 3 resulted from intensive research of multiple published scholarly articles, each treating one or more of the knowledge perspectives located on the map. The map’s creator defined the specific orientations of the map as criteria for locating each perspective. The mapper’s article accompanying the map both documents and defends the decisions made. Accordingly, any attempt to redefine the space of this map, or of any mapping of the mininarratives of the social milieu developed on any axial orientations, should be given equally demanding and scholarly attention. This is one reason why Figure 3 can be viewed as “a holistic, context-dependent, and integrative” treatment of knowledge not as “isolated facts, but as integrated wholes.”28 Spatial mapping of how paradigms and theories are represented in texts also moves comparative education away from a modernist “system for classifying societal data,”29 and away from structuring knowledge as illustrated in Figure 2, so that knowledge is no longer viewed as positivist data with unmediated access to reality. Instead, knowledge can now be seen as integrated forms of culture,30 where discourses as practices of signification provide new, albeit provisional, frameworks for understanding the world.

Burbules and Rice’s analysis of postmodern sensibility notes Derrida’s insistence “that the relations that bind and the spaces that distinguish cultural elements are themselves in constant interaction,”31 a consideration highly adaptable to the relations Figure 3 shows between the numerous knowledge perspectives illustrated on the space of this map. Burbules and Rice find in Derrida the premise that any “particular formalization is ...nothing more than the momentary crystallization and institutionalization of one particular set of rules and norms—others are always possible.”32 The sense of institutionalization as a concept to be understood or read into postmodern maps, as illustrated in Figure 3, is located in the formalization of scholarly ideas. From this viewpoint, the map cannot seek to authenticate an orthodoxy and remain a scholarly contribution. Thus, Figure 3 may be seen as a “momentary crystallization” of the space claimed by social and ideological ways of seeing only because it represents mutable space subject to continual reinterpretations, and available to be both transferred to and captured in ongoing struggles between interpretive communities.33

Another study showing considerable potential for a critical social cartography is Apter’s phenomenographic representation of the history of the Sanrizuka movement and its extensive use of nonformal education to oppose the construction of the Narita Airport outside Tokyo34 (Figure 4). Using rhetorical analysis, Apter isolates within this confrontation a series of five distinctive episodes, each identified with a metaphor (i.e. transference) and a metonymy (i.e. substitute naming) “derived from interviews and written descriptions of events provided by those deeply involved in the movement.”35 Apter describes the spatial bounds of his study as they were set by the participants of the revolt, “defining a larger cosmological space, underground to a sacred soil, above ground to the sky itself.”36 In this way, Apter provides a readily visual three dimensional physical cartography. The questions raised and considered at Sanrizuka not only addressed whether the land would be retained by traditional farmers or converted to use for a modern airport; but because the land was to be used for an airport, the questions involved the symbolic and real use of the air above the land.


In addition to the physical cartography of Sanrizuka, which politically and socially extends beyond its bounds, there is a moral cartography Apter identifies through the participants’ metaphors and metonymies. This aspect of Apter’s study coincides with our purpose noted above, that accuracy and inclusion in a critical, postmodern, social cartography, considers not only the space being mapped, but the perceptions offered by the claimants of that space.

The ordering of information in Apter’s figure of the events at Sanrizuka offers opportunities to create multiple maps. Our single concern with the information provided is that the metaphors and metonymies, which Apter identifies in the five episodes of Sanrizuka, would seem to be appropriate only from the perspectives of the farmers and militants—it is doubtful the other five participants identified on the map would use these terms to describe the events. So when Apter writes in his caption that the metaphors and metonymies “form a narrative of moral outrage and a radical text” it seems doubtful he is referring to the airport authorities or government officials, for example. We argue that not only would Apter’s figure tell quite a different story when metaphors and metonymies from other participants were substituted, but that the mapping of the Sanrizuka struggle begun by Apter would require multiple overleafings to represent accurately the perceptual semiotics of the multiple participants. In this way, Apter’s analysis might better see the whole from its parts and the parts from the whole. From a critical postmodern perspective, meaning is derived from, and not projected into the text.