Cartographies of migration and mobility as levers of deferral policies

Elsa C. Gomis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


This article questions the rhetoric of objectivity attached to cartographies of migration and their relationship to a contemporary political context. A search on Google Images for the keywords ‘migration’ + ‘Europe’ allows us to observe the increasing popularity of maps to portray displacements of people. These maps are created by geographers and analysts from data collected and compiled by international organisations and NGOs. These visual messages are widely disseminated in mainstream media, research papers and educational resources. An examination of these cartographies shows that in their greater part they are representing human displacements by broad arrows, often in warm colours, pointing in the direction of European countries. These cartographies have a war-like aspect conveying the idea of a threatening invasion. How can one reveal the relationships between the messaging conveyed by migration mappings and the public narratives on the same topic? Building on a wide scholarship on critical geography and on art historian Aby Warburg’s theories on the survival of images later theorised by Georges Didi-Huberman, this article focuses on cartographies illustrating the so-called 2015 migration ‘crisis’ to highlight the collective imaginary attached to mainstream cartographies of migration. As a first step, it provides an historical perspective on the way this kind of messaging has impacted visual descriptions of human mobilities to the point of influencing the Brexit referendum campaign. As a second step, it explores the experimental cartographies created by geographers and artists that embrace subjectivity and offer unique overviews of the experience of the border.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-69
Number of pages18
JournalConvergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies
Issue number1
Early online date27 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022

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