Mapping Syrian Refugee Border Crossings: A Feminist Approach
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees calls the ongoing Syrian Civil War “the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era.” Since 2011, over 5.4 million individuals have fled across borders throughout the region and further abroad into Europe. Western media have documented Syrian border crossings and stories through riveting journalism, interviews, photography, and maps. While the written and photographic reporting of Syrian stories use captivating imagery and testimonials to convey the traumatic experiences of individuals, these experiences are limited in the accompanying cartographic coverage. Instead, Western media’s cartographic practices commonly aggregate refugees into flow lines, proportional symbols, and reference points, and frequently simplify border experiences into homogeneous, black line symbols. Flow lines, homogeneous border symbols, and other mapping conventions silence the experiences of individual Syrians and negate emotions, perils, and geopolitical issues linked to border crossings. I ask the following research questions: How can the cartographic portrayal of Syrian peoples’ border experiences be improved to more fully represent their experiences? Furthermore, how can a feminist perspective inform an alternative mapping of borders and border experiences? Through a feminist lens, I have developed an alternative mapping technique that emphasizes borders as a theoretical and conceptual advancement in cartographic design and border symbolization. By rendering Syrian border stories and experiences visible with cartography, my work nudges critical and feminist cartographies forward and gives Syrians a geographic voice unavailable to them through conventional cartographies.
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