The recent shift from representation to practice within map theorization has led to a renewed interest in mapmaking in terms of calling for both closer attention to the practices involved as well as the employment of ethnographic methodologies in researching how maps come to life. A deep understanding of the making of maps, however, requires a combination of different approaches, from the critical (text-oriented) to the ontogenetic (practice-oriented), from deconstruction to narrative ethnography, and from cultural contextual readings to subjects-centred readings. Two map scholars with very different backgrounds (phenomenology and political geography) seek to put these different approaches into action while investigating mapmaking through a single case study. The life and work of Laura Canali, who has created maps for Limes: Rivista Italiana di Geopolitica (the leading publication in Italy in the field of international relations) since 1993, are analysed in order to show how ethnography and critical reading are better used as complementary rather than conflicting approaches. The comparison between the methodological framework applied here with more traditional approaches employed in the field of historical cartography provides evidence of present day changes in mapmaking and calls for an enhancement of new practice-oriented methods of analysis. Finally, additional insights from creativity studies suggest that there is an interesting line of research on ‘cartographic creativity’ to be further developed.
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