Periodic Reporting for period 2 - TopATLAS (Topological Atlas: Mapping Contemporary Borderscapes)
Reporting period: 2019-12-01 to 2020-11-30
We combine ethnographic and participatory research with digital methods of mapping and modelling in order to challenge the evidentiary urge in social research by exploring ideas around affective witnessing, incalculability and opacity in relation to the circulations and unsettlements of migration. We are also thinking through the material, affective and atmospheric qualities of border areas in order to make room for the faint web of sedimenting relationalities that endure in place and often support the fragile movements of the undocumented. We attempt to think the atlas otherwise beyond the now well trodden ground of critiquing cartographic projections and their complicity in colonisation. Instead, we explore the relationship between neocolonial practices and cartography through considering the role of resolution in machinic vision and the deeply embedded idea of the impermeability of the earth’s surface in relation to maps
The bulk of field research to date has been focused on Pakistan with the emergence of four sites: Karachi in Sindh; Gwadar, Quetta and Mand in Balochistan. We have conducted interviews with migrants, local actors and border officials in these areas as well as organising mapping workshops with local communities and activists in order to understand the spatial dynamics of border areas. We have also analysed a large number of legal cases pertaining to migration in Karachi and Quetta to gain an understanding of how the law operates at an everyday level in relation to border security and migration. Finally, we are producing a series of maps through our fieldwork and analysis that will feed into an in-progress mapping platform, working with the idea of patchy representations and the use of narrative as a form of navigation.