Blog 1

One of the most interesting things thus far has been the initial work we’ve seen on Mapping the Mahjar. Looking at the clusters of the Lebanese diaspora in New York was especially interesting after having spent last semester there. Though far from robust, my knowledge of the city is far better than before and I was able to recognize the areas the clusters were in. Outside of a personal city connection I am excited to learn more about the displacement of these groups by infrastructure building. Growing up in a city where this displacement and razing of neighborhoods had a huge impact on the African American community, like to the Tennessee map, learning about the similarities and differences between these changes. Hand in hand with this displacement is the use of red-lining policies. These policies limited the neighborhoods in which minority communities in most American cities could live or buy property. These maps when combined with the current infrastructure paint a clear picture about racism inherent in historical city planning but also how that disadvantage persists in cities today. While our conversations have critiqued the social justice nature of some maps, I think there is some positive impact of mapping injustice. Specifically mapping alone cannot bring about change, in Mombasa the Map Kibera project aimed to bring empowerment through mapping. Kibera is an informal community which means most of it is not planned let alone mapped. The Map Kibera project aims to change that by using locals to generate formal knowledge of the community. The project leaders self-identify this as a naive mindset which did not take into account the many complications and contradictions of informal communities generally but also the specificities of Kibera. The end goal however was to encourage accountability in the government for these formerly unrecognized or ignored populations and thus mapping was a starting point. That being said, it was only a starting point, mapping unsafe areas in itself is not a way to improve safety. Progress beyond acknowledgement is required to bring about change. Likewise in the infrastructure and displacement mapping, real change can only come from attempting to remediate the damage done. In many cases, not only the physical infrastructure caused displacement but through-traffic nature of highways particularly limited cross-town connections for these communities as well. One remediation strategy is improving the corridors that allow for cross-town travel. Road diets or the addition of bus lanes or BRT (bus rapid transit) corridors would make these roads more usable and accessible to people of all incomes. All of these solutions do start with mapping but like in Mombasa, mapping is not a solution in itself.

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