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Issue 151

Letters
by Adwoa Afful, Lois Klassen, and Catriona Reid

Dear C,

Maps that confront me daily are deeply disappointing. Disappointing to the point of tears. To make them work, you and I are obliged to surrender not just our locations, but every bit of ambient data that is available when we activate phones, browsers, watches… Further to that point, Sophia Arnold quotes Vladan Joler’s New Extractivism in “Mapping the Black Box”:

“Traditional colonial practices of control over critical assets, trade routes, natural resources and exploitation of human labor are still deeply embedded in the contemporary supply chains, logistics, and assembly lines of digital content, products and infrastructure.”

I have unmapped rage for the way maps continue to create unregulated and exploitative worlds.

So, I am writing to say thank you for countering that reality, and for supplanting it with other possibilities. A standout for me is Maureen Gruben’s We all have to go someday. Do the best you can. Love one another (2019)—a map on stretched deer hide that uses knotted thread and punched holes to materialize the angiogram of the artist’s father, and as an echo of caribou migrations on the land. Recently, I have left numerous diagnostic maps of my body in oncology labs. Gruben’s vision makes me wonder: do these maps carry traces of others on the land?

In “Directions to BUSH Gallery,” the counter-map that Leah Decter and Tania Willard propose for teaching ethical “guest-host relations and [for] visiting as [a] non-colonial/decolonial activation” is an invitation to practice travel and residency with intention. The map that Decter and Willard cite is a 1910 land-rights document from the Chiefs of the Secwepémc, Syilx, and Nlaka’pamux Nations. The Chiefs’ text speaks directly to persistent colonial deception:

“The Queen’s law which we believe guaranteed us our rights, the British Columbia government has trampled underfoot. This is how our guests have treated us—the brothers we received hospitably in our house.”

In Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive, which I am currently reading, a family is traveling to the Mexico-United States border from New York without GPS technology. They frequently get lost. In the section “Map,” the narrator-author inserts a description of how she needs to explain the concept of “refugee” to a five-year-old. She wonders if she should tell the girl about how time and insecurity are demanded of those seeking asylum. Luiselli describes how systemic inhospitality is mapped everywhere.

Thank you for printing maps that, instead, knot hospitality to the land.

Lois Klassen

• • •

Dear C Magazine,

While reading Coco Zhou’s “Octavia E. Butler on Mars,” and Lera Kotsyuba’s “Star Stories and Indigenous Resistance Against Light Pollution,” I thought back to when I first learned about redshift and blueshift. In astronomy, redshift and blueshift refer to changes in light frequency that allow astronomers to deduce whether objects in space are moving toward or away from Earth. That entire galaxies (including our own) are in constant motion, was a revelation to me on two fronts.

Firstly: our galaxy’s stillness, which I had implicitly taken for granted, was an illusion. The second revelation was that an analogy I often use in my writing and community mapping work to describe the various Black diasporic communities I grew up around was more accurate than I had thought. I often refer to African diasporas as constellations or superclusters—a collection of communities and peoples always on the move, and colliding in sometimes traumatic or mutually edifying processes that transform their environments and each other. The ongoing reverberations of these movements (not unlike those of vast astronomical bodies) directly result from the violence of many displacements and dispossessions. Though enduring, these reverberations are often difficult to fully perceive due to the demarcation of space and the temporal division between past and present under colonial cartographies. This difficulty allows us to forget that we are still being pulled toward and away from each other by the gravitational force of these reverberations, sometimes to our detriment.

It is somewhat ironic, but also exciting, that maps are being taken up as a tool of anti-colonial resistance by Black and Indigenous activists, writers, scholars, and artists. Their cartographic practices effectively and affectively chart the reverberations of ongoing displacement and dispossession, while resisting the kind of oppressive fixity that has been imposed on their communities. In ad- dressing white supremacist and colonial notions of time and space, these maps trace counter-logics that fundamentally undermine any illusion of spatiotemporal stillness. In other words, countermapping charts and therefore allows us to more fully perceive the cosmic shifts on Earth that guide our existence.

Adwoa Afful

• • •

Dear C Magazine,

Thank you for including Kat Benedict’s article on Queering the Map (QTM) in C150.

Through my lived experience as a newly-out queer woman living in Canada, I was, in the words of Sara Ahmed, “oriented” toward QTM. Opening the QTM website for the first time, one immediately encounters a world map inundated with clusters of opaque black pins which, when zoomed out, obscure the map beneath them. As Benedict notes, “LaRochelle focuses on the act of disorientation, contrasted against many cartographic and phenomenological studies whose priority is orientation.” Does the disorientation we feel while navigating QTM mimic the disorienting feeling of being queer in the world? Definitely. So, I find myself asking: what is to be said of feeling momentarily lost while simultaneously finding community online? This, I would argue, is how QTM undoes the legacy of colonial maps.

In Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity, José Esteban Muñoz states that queerness resembles being lost. Through my own recent life events, I have become aware of what is strange and what is familiar to me, as well as where I might feel lost. Navi- gating QTM’s website also causes users to become temporarily lost; regions become obscured by black pins, or the site lags when loading, creating blank voids of pixelated earth. However, the project as a whole invites its users, followers, and contributors to take part in the queer community it honours. It encourages users to orient themselves, if only for a moment, toward a global online community they perhaps never knew existed.

Catriona Reid
UP