The Geospatial Rhetoric of Asylum: Mapping Migration in Fortress Europe
In July 2015, a German neo-fascist group published a Google Maps page containing geo-referenced information of the country’s known asylum houses, bearing the title of ‘no refugee centre in my backyard’. This article examines how the group’s information gathering tactics are reflected by long contested relationships between maps, power and the construction of identity. In an effort to expose the narratives, subjects and futures that are galvanized by geospatial imaging and the extremist group’s Google Maps campaign in particular, the article ultimately questions whether it is viable to redirect the growing antipathy for Europe’s new migrant population by appealing to spatial demands that are historically aligned with social justice. In the process of answering this question, the article expands upon selected methodological, historical and theoretical problems. These include: the epistemic assumptions behind rejecting politically motivated maps as propaganda; the logistical or strategic novelties associated with crowdsourcing information; and the narrative power of maps, with an emphasis on the specific narrative practices associated with geospatial technologies.