Feminist cartography and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality: Emotional responses to three thematic maps

N. Pirani, B. A. Ricker*, M. J. Kraak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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Thematic maps facilitate spatial understanding of patterns and exceptions. Cognitive ability, spatial cognition, and emotional state are related, yet there is little research about map readers’ emotions. Feminist critiques of cartography recognize emotion and affect as legitimate experiences on par with quantitative ways of knowing. We conducted an online survey to measure users’ affective states before and after engaging with three thematic map types. The maps showed data from the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to achieve gender equality, on the proportion of girls and women aged 15 to 49 who have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting. Participants viewed a choropleth, a cartogram, and a repeating icon tile map; completed map‐related tasks; rated certain map qualities; rated their affective states before and after engaging with the maps; and answered open‐ended questions. The maps piqued curiosity and evoked emotions for most users, while some users perceived the thematic maps as clinical or neutral despite the sensitive topic. After viewing the maps, female participants who were affected expressed deeper engagement in their open‐ended comments than males. Traditionally, cartography construes the human experience as male experience and denies or trivializes women's experiences. Our findings corroborate feminist critiques of this disembodiment and entrenched rational rhetoric of maps.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-198
Number of pages15
JournalCanadian Geographer / Geographie Canadien
Issue number2
Early online date14 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • affect
  • cartography
  • emotion
  • thematic maps
  • cartographie
  • cartes thematiques
  • UT-Hybrid-D

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