Place, Power, and Critical Cartography: A Spatial Analysis of Community Vitality in Kalamazoo,
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The author’s research critically situates the social processes which produce space and its representation through maps within fields of power. She uses Henri Lefebvre's (1991) idea that urban spaces are socially constructed, and intimately tied to reproducing spatial and, thus, social inequalities which mirror the actions of capital. The author draws on JB Harley (1989) to deconstruct maps and re-inscribe interpretations of place within systems of power as they are mapped onto the physical landscape. The author argues that map-making is an inherently political process, always mediated by power, as it produces and reproduces social spaces. To discuss the political nature of place and its representation, She asks: (1) how vital are Kalamazoo's neighborhoods?; (2) what political choices are made during her map-making process concerning the representation of space and people?; and (3) how do these choices influence the visual products she generates? The research constructs an original index using theories of place-making and politically resonate indicators of vitality. She analyzes demographic and point-level data at the Census tract geography and produce maps using GIS which boldly represent place and socio-spatial relations, while remaining open and plural. The mapped data reflect the manifestation of power through distinct patterns of neighborhood segregation in Kalamazoo. The spatiality of vitality illustrates inequities between race arid class and disparities in resource distribution, aligning with renewed debates of the concentric zone urban model (Dwyer 2010). The findings suggest that measures of vitality indicate uneven social mobility and access to capital between Kalamazoo's neighborhoods. The stories the maps tell are contingent on situated knowledge, but act as powerful propositions and produce real-time reflexivity about the social representation of place and people.