I am blissfully attending and participating in the Feminist Social Justice Conference at San Diego State University, a Workshop on Participatory and Feminist Research Methods to give the talk “Personal/Political/Feminist Maps: Reflections on Spatial Methods for Action Research.” The abstract and slides are below — I expect those who will find them most helpful are dealing with how to work with spatial methods and layering different data types and sorts in order to place them into conversation. I especially highlight mental mapping in conversation with the GIS platforms QGIS and Mapbox, with helpful hints on all as to how to move forward using the methods and analytics in your own research. One addition: my own 2013 paper on the methods and analytic techniques for mental mapping can be found here.
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.