Maps and Mapping

Cartographies of poverty: Rethinking statistics, aesthetics and the law

The article explores cartographic and statistical registers of poverty as geo-legal technologies operating across shifting visual economies which structure ways of seeing and concealing ‘the poor’ in the urban landscape. Drawing on the fields of critical cartography and digital urbanism, and taking a 2013 controversy around Google Maps’ mapping of favelas in Rio de Janeiro as a starting point, it investigates the aesthetic role of digital maps and data in the legal geographies of urban poverty. It is argued that sociospatial encodings give form to poverty in ways that activate antipoverty responses and continuously support correlations between poverty and criminality. This argument entails a post-representational approach to maps considering their inscriptional, propositional and normative functions. Cartography, statistics and law are interrogated as devices of global governance that work aesthetically to shape poverty and its modes of appearance in the city, i.e., as productive methods of documentation as well as world-making, through which geocodings simultaneously create images of poverty and become functional of spatial transformations. Poverty is thus conceptualized as it is made into an aesthetic category subjected to continuous geo-legal modulations.

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Volume 40 Issue 3

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