Keynote Address Abstract
“Research as Reparative Storytelling: Lessons from the Black Living Atlas”
Dr. Derek Alderman argues for enhancing storytelling as a core professional skill and responsibility among researchers. Importantly, he calls for the stories written, told, performed, and visualized by scholars to be reparative in nature. They should challenge and redress the fallacies and inequalities that have come to characterize our “post-truth” world. Reparative storytelling, according to Alderman, is about scholars translating their science, theory, methods, and technologies into clear, compelling accounts that make an intervention in how public groups and decision-makers think about, care for, and act on today’s pressing social and environmental issues. Reparative storytelling is also an ethical commitment to create spaces for amplifying and responding to the voices, experiences, and knowledge production of diverse, historically marginalized groups within our society and professional communities. Mapping and geospatial analysis—which now stretches across many disciplines and professions—is a potentially powerful tool in creating and transmitting reparative stories. Yet, realizing this potential requires a reckoning with the politics of maps in America, including their involvement in settler colonialism, racism, patriarchy as well as tool for resisting these forces. Being a reparative researcher requires looking beyond just academic conventions and expert practices and allowing oneself to acknowledge and learn from the everyday public intellectualism and oppositional research practices of oppressed communities. A growing generation of anti-racist mappers and scientists in universities can learn much from the “living atlas” that constitutes the Black Freedom Struggle. More than simply a passive collection of maps, this atlas is the embodied and always emerging ways that Black communities have deployed counter- and restorative-mapping and other forms of data analysis and visual storytelling as they live with and against White supremacy. In doing so, they redefine what counts as maps and data and what social and political work maps and data can and should do to advance equality and justice.