Doing Critical GIS


  • Dillon Mahmoudi University of Maryland-Baltimore County
  • Taylor Shelton Georgia State University


Critical GIS, geographic thought and methodology, mapping


This special issue emerges from a two-day workshop of the same name, held on April 1st and 2nd, 2019, in Baltimore, Maryland. Inspired by the continued growth and purchase of theories and practices of critical mapping, this workshop began from the provocation: “what should the doing of critical GIS look like?” Avoiding any single, universalizing answer to this question, the diversity of contributors to this special issue is mirrored in the diversity of their responses. ​​Through examinations of indigenous, queer, and feminist mapping practices, new theoretical framings for critical mapping and new technologies for producing non-Cartesian maps, and approaches to participatory data collection and mapping (and the limitations thereof), the collected papers each present their own partial perspective on expanding what doing critical GIS can, and ought to, look like. Despite the variety of approaches offered up by the special issue’s constituent papers, this introduction frames these contributions through a focus on two general themes that run throughout these papers: (1) the mapping of presences, absences, and relations, and (2) rethinking the processes of mapping. Or, put slightly differently, what we map and how we map. Ultimately, while the papers in this special issue offer a number of different paths forward, there are similarly many paths still untaken when it comes to doing GIS critically, which offer countless opportunities for continued growth in this work moving forward.


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Brown, Lawrence T. 2021. The Black Butterfly: The Harmful Politics of Race and Space in America. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Brown, Michael, and Larry Knopp. 2008. “Queering the map: The productive tensions of colliding epistemologies,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 98 (1): 40-58.

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Chambers, Samuel Norton. 2020. “The spatiotemporal forming of a state of exception: repurposing hot-spot analysis to map bare-life in Southern Arizona’s borderlands,” GeoJournal 85 (5): 1373-1384.

Chambers, Samuel Norton, Geoffrey Alan Boyce, Sarah Launius, and Alicia Dinsmore. 2021. “Mortality, surveillance and the tertiary ‘funnel effect’ on the US-Mexico border: a geospatial modeling of the geography of deterrence,” Journal of Borderlands Studies 36 (3): 443-468.

D’Ignazio, Catherine, and Lauren F. Klein. 2020. Data Feminism. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Elwood, Sarah. 2022. “Toward a Fourth Generation Critical GIS: Extraordinary Politics,” ACME: An International Journal of Critical Geographies 21 (4).

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Harvey, David. 2022. “Reflections on an academic life,” Human Geography 15 (1): 14-24.

Jefferson, Brian Jordan. 2018. “Predictable policing: Predictive crime mapping and geographies of policing and race,” Annals of the American Association of Geographers 108 (1): 1-16.

Kelly, Meghan, and Amber Bosse. 2022. “Pressing Pause, ‘Doing’ Feminist Mapping,” ACME: An International Journal of Critical Geographies 21 (4).

Kim, Annette Miae. 2015. Sidewalk City: Remapping Public Space in Ho Chi Minh City. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Kitchin, Rob, Justin Gleeson, and Martin Dodge. 2013. “Unfolding mapping practices: a new epistemology for cartography,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 38 (3): 480-496.

Lally, Nick. 2022. “What can GIS do?” ACME: An International Journal of Critical Geographies 21 (4).

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Lucchesi, Annita Hetoevėhotohke'e. 2022. “Mapping violence against Indigenous women and girls: identifying and moving beyond colonizing data and mapping practices,” ACME: An International Journal of Critical Geographies 21 (4).

Mahmoudi, Dillon, Amy Lubitow, and Mackenzie A. Christensen. 2020. “Reproducing Spatial Inequality? The Sustainability Fix and Barriers to Urban Mobility in Portland, Oregon,” Urban Geography 41 (6): 801–822.

Mahmoudi, Dillon, Chris L. Hawn, Erica Henry, Deja Perkins, Caren B. Cooper, and Sacoby Wilson. 2022. “Mapping for whom? Communities of color and the citizen science gap,” ACME: An International Journal of Critical Geographies 21 (4).

McElroy, Erin M.B. 2022. “Digital Cartographies of Displacement: Data as Property and Property as Data,” ACME: An International Journal of Critical Geographies 21 (4).

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Scott, Darius. 2021. “Normalized Alterity: Visualizing Black Spatial Humanities,” GeoHumanities 7 (2): 475-493.

Shelton, Taylor. 2017. “The urban geographical imagination in the age of Big Data,” Big Data & Society 4 (1): 1-14.

Shelton, Taylor. 2022. “Situated mapping: visualizing urban inequality between the god trick and strategic positivism,” ACME: An International Journal of Critical Geographies 21 (4).

Shelton, Taylor, Ate Poorthuis, and Matthew Zook. 2015. “Social media and the city: Rethinking urban socio-spatial inequality using user-generated geographic information,” Landscape and Urban Planning 142: 198-211.

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Swab, Jack, and Jack Gieseking. 2022. “Toward Queering the Map 2.0: A Conversation with Michael Brown, Larry Knopp, and Bo Zhao,” ACME: An International Journal of Critical Geographies 21 (4).

Thatcher, Jim, Luke Bergmann, Britta Ricker, Reuben Rose-Redwood, David O’Sullivan, Trevor J. Barnes, Luke R. Barnesmoore, Laura Beltz Imaoka, Ryan Burns, Jon Cinnamon, Craig M. Dalton, Clinton Davis, Stuart Dunn, Francis Harvey, Jin-Kyu Jung, Ellen Kersten, LaDona Knigge, Nick Lally, Wen Lin, Dillon Mahmoudi, Michael Martin, Will Payne, Amir Sheikh, Taylor Shelton, Eric Sheppard, Chris W. Strother, Alexander Tarr, Matthew W. Wilson and Jason C. Young. 2016a. “Revisiting critical GIS,” Environment and Planning A 48 (5): 815-824.

Thatcher, Jim, David O’Sullivan, and Dillon Mahmoudi. 2016b. “Data colonialism through accumulation by dispossession: New metaphors for daily data,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 34 (6): 990-1006.

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Wilson, Matthew W. 2017. New Lines: Critical GIS and the Trouble of the Map. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Xu, Wenfei. 2022. “The contingency of neighbourhood diversity: Variation of social context using mobile phone application data,” Urban Studies 59 (4): 851-869.




How to Cite

Mahmoudi, D., & Shelton, T. (2022). Doing Critical GIS. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 21(4), 327–336. Retrieved from



Special Issue - Doing Critical GIS