Unsettling Territory: A Decolonial Mapping Workshop

Unsettling Territory: A Decolonial Mapping Workshop

Two Saturdays, October 10th & 17th, 2020. 12pm-3pm EST. Online via Zoom.

Rebecca Manski

Join Incite Seminars for a two-part workshop to explore counter-mapping as a tool for what Anishinaabe scholar Jean-Paul Restoule calls the twin goals of “decolonization” and “reinhabitation.” To decolonize, we will “identify and change ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places.” To reinhabit, we will “recover, and create material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in our total environments.” 

Maps have shaped the physical and social topography of the landscape as much as they have reflected it. Whether we look at the so-called “discovery” and mapping of the “New World”, “peace plans” superimposed over morphing maps of Palestine, or red-lining schemas in New York City, we see the world through a top-down lens. So what happens when we shift the vantage-point downwards, and stand in solidarity with those on the ground, looking up? What would a perspective excavated from below, from the layers of history beneath our feet, grounding its viewers across time and space, look like? And what might it feel like to inhabit the terrain described by a decolonized map?

The Reinhabitation Project, a decolonial mapping and militant research project developed by Rebecca Manski, brings those whose lives have been impacted by colonialism (which includes us all) into a counter-mapping process. Working together towards the ongoing projects of unsettling and decolonization, we  create collaborative maps that upend the “official story” and the traditional top-down view of mapping.

Our goal in this two-part workshop will be to locate ways to reinhabit a seemingly unrelenting state of emergency, or what Giorgio Agamben called a “state of exception.” We will co-create a map that traces the ways some of our predecessors not only managed to inhabit uninhabitable times and places, but actually transformed them into spaces of liberation. 

This workshop will be especially relevant to critical educators, researchers, activists, artists, and community designers!

Part I – October 10th – Unsettling Origins, Starting with the Capitol of Capital

In Part I, we will introduce the practice of counter-mapping. As a starting point you will be invited to draw your own “map of origin” and consider how it emerges from, or in relationship to, the legacies of colonial settlement and displacement. Next, we will explore an example of a decolonial map of Lower Manhattan in a manner that engages the past as present. Taking the Wall Street area as a microcosm, we will take apart the border zones at the center of the city and ask: What has it meant to “fix” this country’s borders, and what is the nature of the effort to define the perimeter of American nativeness and belonging? How have people made themselves belong within and without its perimeters, and how have people broken free from them entirely? Taking a “walk” through America’s most famous financial district, we will trace the series of crises in which this country has rooted itself since its inception. Participants will receive instructions for how to begin research on their local projects and learn the basic open source mapping tools needed to create their own maps. 

Tuesday, October 13th  – This will be an optional space to learn and troubleshoot the open source mapping tools, or just have a supportive co-working atmosphere for making progress on personal projects. 

Part II – October 17th – Reinhabitation through Collaborative Mapping

In Part II we will come together to share lessons from our own homes, exposing the ways many of our cities were circumscribed through a process of enclosure that resulted in artificial borders, detention centers, prisons – and the ways that many of our predecessors broke these walls down. We will dig into histories of resistance in our own local communities, connecting them in an embodied way.

Grounded in what Restoule calls a “critical pedagogy of place”, with its twin objectives of “decolonization” and “reinhabitation,” this portion of the workshop will invite you to unearth your lived experiences of displacement and rooting and to incorporate them into the mapping process. The final product will be a joint map which will take us beyond mere visualization of past resistance movements and uprisings and towards a deeper sense of place and rootedness in the midst of this strangely disembodying crisis.

Facilitator: Rebecca Manski is an independent educator, curriculum designer and researcher who participated in Occupy Wall Street as a member of the Press and Outreach Working Groups. Today she writes and teaches about the fortresses, walls and detention centers in one of this country’s first borderzones, New York’s financial district. Rebecca’s interest in the interplay between enclosure and mobilization were shaped by a decade in the contested spaces of Palestine, and sharpened in recent years through involvement in the self organized refugee relief centers of Athens. You can find her at Unsettling Wall Street/Borderless Walks and Social Justice Tours Collective.

Example Maps:

Time: Two Saturdays, October 10th & 17th, 12pm-3pm. Online.

  • $90 – True Workshop Cost
  • $60 – Incite Seminars Patreon Supporters
  • $45 – Employed Educators/Activists
  • $15 – Educators/Activists in Transition
  • $Donation – Solidarity Ticket


Please register by buying a ticket below or visiting the Eventbrite page here. We are committed to making all our offerings accessible to those who are eager to learn, regardless of financial means. If you have any questions or concerns, please email inciteseminarsphila@gmail.com.

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