Unsettling Colonial Mapping

Editors’ Choice: Unsettling Colonial Mapping – Sonic-Spatial Representations of amiskwaciwâskahikan

This map is a sonic exploration and representation of the North Campus of the University of Alberta. Campus has a long history as Native Land, be it as a traditional meeting place for diverse Indigenous peoples (Cree, Blackfoot, Métis, Nakota Sioux, Dene, Saulteaux/Anishinaabe, Inuit, Haudenosaunee and many others) on the banks of the kisiskāciwani-sīpiy (North Saskatchewan River), as a Papaschase settlement, or as the homestead of Métis leader Laurent Garneau.  All of this was long before the University’s founding in 1908.

With this digital experiment, it is our goal to detail spacetime aurally on this land where we learn, grow, and imagine, with a focus on Indigeneity, gender and sacred ecology. To hear the stories of the Land and its people reimagines mapping as a potentially decolonial praxis where boundaries aren’t lines on a map at a specific place in time drawn by the powers that be. It is a deconstruction of a colonial land claim, and we respect the knowledge from the Land imparted upon us through its story.

Deepest gratitude to Kaitlyn Grant and Femlab, Dr. Mo Engel, HUCO 530, Dr. Trudy Cardinal, Drs. Christopher Sturdy and Marisa Hoeschele and the Songbird Neuroethnology Lab, UAlberta Libraries and Archives, the many librarians invested in the project, CJSR, Shout4Libraries, Kahn Lam, Violet Archer, Ursula Pilmeier, kisiskāciwani-sīpiy, and all who make our campus vibrant–– be it human, animal and other.

Satahóntsatat – Listen  

Pauline Oliveros has taught me a lot about sound. Her declaration that “everything is sounding”  shifted my listening practice and, somewhat painfully, revived a personal awareness of the bioacoustic environments through which I move (Oliveros, 2017). Pauline’s life’s work was oriented towards deep listening: “creating an atmosphere of opening for all to be heard, with the understanding that listening is healing” (Oliveros, 2017). This resonates with me, I believe that all kinds of healing happens when we allow ourselves to listen to (and feel) that which animates our surroundings. However, I find deep listening really fucking hard.

When I typically navigate campus I usually have my oversized headphones on, blasting the world away through music. I usually have a certain amount of time to run errands on campus, or I’m rushing from one meeting to class to another meeting. There’s no time for intentionality or exploration. Sound easily distracts me. As such, my surroundings fade behind the auditory boundaries I’ve constructed in an effort to focus. Still, sounds seep past the headphones. It’s rhizomatic, to use the terminology of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. I reconstitute this plane, this campus, through my headphones. To retread into the realm of Deleuze and Guattari, “Each of these becomings brings about the deterritorialization of one term and the reterritorialization of the other; the two becomings

interlink and form relay in a circulation of intensities pushing the deterritorialization ever further” (2014, p. 10). More simply, making this map forces a reorientation. Headphones off, listening intently with my audio recorder at hand, ready for action.


Read the full post here.

This content was selected for Digital Humanities Now by Editor-in-Chief Justin Broubalow based on nominations by Editors-at-Large: