In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Cultural Mapping

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Special Journal Issues
  • Methodologies
  • Theoretical Underpinnings
  • Community Engagement, Participation, and Empowerment
  • Indigenous Cultural Mapping
  • Cultural and Creative Industries Mapping
  • Artistic Approaches
  • Literary and Film Mapping
  • Technological Approaches

Communication Cultural Mapping
Nancy Duxbury, Eleonora Redaelli
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0249


Cultural mapping is a mode of inquiry and a methodological tool that aims to make visible the ways local stories, practices, relationships, memories, and rituals constitute places as meaningful locations. Although there is still a fuzziness to the boundaries of this field, cultural mapping has generally evolved along two main branches: The first begins with cultural assets, seeking to identify and document tangible and intangible assets of a place to ultimately develop a cultural resource or asset mapping. The second branch begins with a culturally sensitive humanistic approach, seeking to articulate a “sense of place,” people-place meanings, and distinctive elements. While the former approach tends to emphasize the documentation of “information” and the latter tends to focus more on “participation” and “meaning,” they are increasingly mutually informing approaches. Cultural mapping/cartography is allied with deep mapping, community mapping, participatory asset mapping, counter-mapping, qualitative GIS, and emotional mapping. These are connected through their focus on bottom-up processes for making visible the knowledge of citizens/residents, and shared topics of narratives, identity, histories, and local practices that bring meanings to places. Cultural mapping has shifted from focusing on tangible cultural assets to intangible aspects of place, aiming to discover what makes a place distinctive. Cultural products such as literature, film, and music draw from and contribute to the cultural meanings of a place; and the mapping of these onto a territory also forms a branch of cultural mapping. This work is also found within the fields of geography (see the separate Oxford Bibliographies in Geography articles “Geography and Literature,” “Geography and Film,” and “Geographies of Music, Sound, and Auditory Culture”), tourism, and digital humanities. Artist map traditions also influence the field of cultural mapping (see the section on “Map Art” within the separate Oxford Bibliographies in Geography article “Community Mapping”), with artists taking on a leadership role in many community-engaged cultural mapping initiatives. Cultural mapping has been co-developed through a loosely formulated international community of practice consisting of scholars, in-community practitioners, and policy/governance agencies (e.g., UNESCO, national cultural ministries, local authorities). While this annotated bibliography focuses mainly on the leading scholarly work in this field, it also provides an international selection of cultural mapping handbooks and toolkits as well as examples of cultural mapping projects. Following General Overviews, Special Journal Issues, Methodologies, and Theoretical Underpinnings of the field, this entry is organized according to seven domains of contemporary cultural mapping research and practice: Community Engagement, Participation, and Empowerment; Indigenous Cultural Mapping; Cultural and Creative Industries Mapping; Local Cultural Planning and Governance; Artistic Approaches; Literary and Film Mapping; and Technological Approaches.

General Overviews

As a relatively new field, books focusing on cultural mapping have aimed to define the contours and approaches of research and practice in different contexts. The theoretical approach in Roberts 2012 examines the place of maps and mapping in cultural studies and theory, while Pillai 2013 provides a well-designed overview and pragmatic guide, contextualized in work conducted in Malaysia. Duxbury, et al. 2015 brings together an international array of perspectives and approaches to this emerging field. Ashton, et al. 2015 focuses on mapping cultural assets in rural areas in Australia.

  • Ashton, Paul, Chris Gibson, and Ross Gibson, eds. 2015. By-roads and hidden treasures: Mapping cultural assets in Regional Australia. Crawley: Univ. of Western Australia Press.

    Developed out of a five-year project to determine how to best map regional culture in contemporary Australia so to assess that culture’s value. The chapters discuss culture and its connection to community, particularly in isolated circumstances; regional Australia’s colonial and cultural heritage; and innovative new methods for measuring cultural assets in these contexts.

  • Duxbury, Nancy, W. F. Garrett-Petts, and David MacLennan, eds. 2015. Cultural mapping as cultural inquiry. New York: Routledge.

    Provides an introduction and overview of the interdisciplinary field of cultural mapping. The chapters address themes, processes, approaches, and research methodologies drawn from examples in Australia, Canada, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Egypt, Italy, Malaysia, Malta, Palestine, Portugal, Singapore, Sweden, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and Ukraine.

  • Pillai, Janet. 2013. Cultural mapping: A guide to understanding place, community, and continuity. Petaling Jaya, Malaysia: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre.

    A guide to the various tasks involved in cultural mapping, outlining the processes, tools, and techniques for collecting and assessing both tangible and intangible cultural assets and resources of a community. It bridges a bottom-up perspective, considering components such as the unique character and identity of a historic place and its community, and a top-down perspective, i.e., the larger picture and final goals.

  • Roberts, Les, ed. 2012. Mapping cultures: Place, practice, performance. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

    This interdisciplinary collection explores the practices and cultures of mapping in the arts, humanities, and social sciences and aims to re-evaluate the place of maps and mapping in cultural studies and theory more generally. The book is organized into three parts: place, text, and topography; performance, memory, location; and practice, apparatus, cartographics.

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