Cartographers of disrupted belonging: Sudanese mothers drawing maps of Portsmouth (UK)

Charlotte Emily Sanders

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Map-making is an everyday practice for Sudanese women in Portsmouth. Arriving to the city within the last twenty-five years, women continue to work hard to reconfigure their sense of place, to reorient themselves in urban space, and to relearn the landmarks of everyday life so as to produce comfortable homes and lives for their families. Through the methodology of ‘mental mapping’, in which women sketch the city from memory, their practices of everyday cartography are revealed. This invests women’s mundane movements in unfamiliar – and frequently hostile – urban spaces with agential power. At the same time, these visual articulations of urban space make clear the limitations of women’s mobilities and spatial knowledges in the city. The city’s landmarks describe everyday circuits of mothering, timetables of domestic and child-rearing duties which both produce and repress particular urban mobilities. Furthermore, their maps also trace classed and racialised formations of space in Portsmouth, underscoring the centrality of both mothering and ‘Othering’ to the construction of Sudanese women’s urban spatialities and spatial knowledges. Interweaving these visual articulations of space with women’s oral insights, I show how spatial domination produces particular im/possibilities for subjecthood, belonging and the liveability of life in urban contexts as gender, race and class intersect. More specifically, these routes and rhythms of everyday life disrupt Sudanese women’s capacity for relational belongings, the pursuit of study and employment, and the securing of citizenship. Taking the spatial and the temporal contours of the everyday seriously illuminates the infra/structural configurations of domination which shape different sorts of lives in the city through particular nodes of im/mobility and in/visibility. This paper contributes to discussions in critical migration studies and feminist geography by making M/othering – that is mothering and ‘Othering’ – central to conceptualising everyday experiences of disrupted belonging.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-23
JournalJournal of International Women’s Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2019


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