Ground-Truthing: Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as Community-Based and Anti-Racist Praxis
Critical race scholars in education have recently developed a methodological framework that employs GIS and spatial analysis from a critical race lens. This approach, known as critical race spatial analysis (CRSA) extends GIS from its traditional use in geography and urban planning into new avenues and possibilities for examining educational interests concerned with the social, cultural, political, and historic role of space and place as it relates to schools and educational (in)opportunity. By re-imagining how socio-spatial relationships are explored, analyzed, and displayed, CRSA positions GIS as a critical research tool for addressing spatial inequities and furthering racial justice efforts within education.
This presentation explores the potential of CRSA as critical community-based and anti-racist praxis, through a case study of Latina (im)migrant mothers who initiated a community-led GIS project to explore spatial indicators of educational (in)opportunity, drawing evidence from their own lives and the lives of their children. These mothers engaged GIS to tell counter-cartographic narratives about the racial divides, or “color lines,” defining uneven geographies of opportunity in their school district. Findings of this study suggest both methodological and pedagogical considerations for the use of GIS in critical race scholarship in education. By (re)defining GIS mapping as a community-based praxis, the mothers “ground-truthed” the maps, making visible spaces and spatial relationships that otherwise would go unnoticed. They transformed the power of the maps to rest not in their “gee-whiz” displays of data, but in the weaving of a spatial narrative that linked their current efforts to historical struggles for educational equity. Methodologically, their efforts reveal the potential of GIS and CRSA, specifically, to build spatial models of the world from the lived experiences of People of Color. Beyond the importance of GIS for critical race research, it also serves as an important pedagogical tool for teaching about race and racism. Through a CRSA framework, GIS maps function as teaching devices that highlight the importance of geographical and spatial features for maintaining racial divides in schools and society.
Verónica Vélez, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor & Director, Education and Social Justice Minor & Program, Western Washington University.
This talk is co-sponsored by the Wilson Map Collection.
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