Cartographies of Differences

Interdisciplinary Perspectives

by Ulrike M. Vieten (Volume editor) Gill Valentine (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 240 Pages
Open Access

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Counter-Mappings: Cartography and Difference
  • Part 1 Cartographies of Normality and Normativity
  • Unpacking Prejudice: Narratives of Homophobia in Cross-National Context
  • When Beliefs Become Property: Liberal Legal Discourse, Employee Resistance and Anti-Gay Christian Politics
  • Facial Difference, Consumer Culture and Being ‘Normal’
  • Part 2 Cartographies of Citizenship and (Non-)Belonging
  • National Belonging in Cosmopolitan Times
  • Notions of Conflict and ‘New’ Citizens’ Inclusion: Post-Cosmopolitan Contestations in Germany
  • Everyday Active Citizenship the Balkan Way: Local Civil Society and the Practice of ‘Bridge Building’ in Two Post-Yugoslav Cities
  • Part 3 Cartographies of Languages and Cross-Cultural Communication
  • The Territorial Principle: Language Rights and Linguistic Minorities in Spain and Italy, 1992–2010
  • Conducting Qualitative Research in English and Spanish: Recognising the Active Roles of Participants in Cross-Linguistic and Cross-Cultural Projects
  • Visible Difference, Stigmatising Language(s) and the Discursive Construction of Prejudices Against Others in Leeds and Warsaw
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index


Counter-Mappings: Cartography and Difference

The title of this edited collection, Cartographies of Differences, is inspired by Avtar Brah’s groundbreaking book Cartographies of Diaspora: Contesting Identities. We aspire to create a synergy between interdisciplinary theoretical-analytical approaches and thorough empirical studies, with all the chapters addressing the theme of ‘encounters with differences’. Brah suggests the concept of ‘diaspora space’ (1996: 16, 178), approaching the non-fixed and dialectically constructed spaces of a diasporic identity. Moving beyond her focus on gender, ethnicity and race, framed by and framing diaspora, this collection takes religion, sexualities, nationality and class as further intersecting social categories that are relevant to the notion of difference and differentiation. All of these angles are crucial to how we experience and locate social space, justice and equality in a contemporary world characterised by fluidity and temporality. Jeffrey C. Alexander (2013) coined the term ‘the mode of incorporation’ to describe current European policies and polemics that are opposed to multiculturalism and aim to stifle the development of a more fragmented, increasingly diasporic and vernacular diversification of lifestyle choices and late modern biographies.

In contrast with the journey towards acceptance of multiculturalism in Britain in the 1990s (conflict-ridden as it was), today in a post 9/11 climate we are witness to much polarising anxiety about ethno-national minorities, particularly orthodox Muslims, in and beyond Europe. At the same time, ideas about intercultural communication, cosmopolitan openness towards ‘the Other’ and management of diversity do receive approval as signifiers of community cohesion in the twenty-first century. For example, the ‘fairy tale’ of early September 2015 in Germany and Austria, which saw an immense wave of sympathy towards Syrian refugees, particularly in Vienna and Munich, might indeed be an indicator of the arrival of a ‘new’, ← 1 | 2 →cosmopolitan and more open version of civil society engagement in some places. Problems arise where structural asymmetry with respect to power and resources is underestimated, and new formations and experiences of social injustice are neglected. Alongside the euphoric cheering and the hospitality shown towards refugees, resentments – and even arson attacks – in some of the more rural areas of Germany, both in the east and the west, remind us that cosmopolitanism(s) means plurality and complexity: it is very much a situated (Vieten 2007), and therefore contested, phenomenon.

Since the early 1990s, the allure of cosmopolitanism has spread across academic and public discourses. A number of scholars engaged explicitly with the concept of cosmopolitanism in the 1990s (e.g. Bhabha 1996, Nussbaum 1996; Brennan 1997; Appandurai 1998; Cheah and Robbins 1998; Nava 1998; Kleingeld 1999). The academic and interdisciplinary scope of research and writing on cosmopolitanism broadened in the twenty-first century (e.g. Derrida 2001; Stevenson 2003; Mouffe 2004; Beck 2006; Calhoun 2007; Fine 2007; Held 2010), and also brought feminist and post-colonial approaches to the debate (e.g. Mignolo 2002; Nwanko 2005; Yuval-Davis 2005; Kofman 2005; Reilly 2007; Werbner 2008; Nava 2007; Vieten 2007; 2012). In the final chapter of Gender and Cosmopolitanism in Europe: A Feminist Perspective (2012), Vieten highlights the sophistication in the labelling of different types of cosmopolitanisms. She refers to Nora Fisher Onar (2011: 13), who argues that we might approach a ‘“cosmopolitan outlook” as a promising formula on how to live together despite our differences’ (Vieten 2012: 184). Here, Onar follows Hollinger (2002: 228), listing ‘“vernacular cosmopolitanism, rooted cosmopolitanism, critical cosmopolitanism, comparative cosmopolitanism, national cosmopolitanism, discrepant cosmopolitanism, situated cosmopolitanism, and actually existing cosmopolitanism”’ (ibid). Post- and de-colonial critiques (e.g. Mendieta 2009) provide further intellectual challenges within what has been called the ‘“cosmopolitan turn” within the social and political sciences’ (Strand 2010: 229). As is widely argued (Vieten 2007; 2010; 2012; Vieten and Valentine 2015), the Janus-faced and largely Eurocentric non-feminist imagination of the new cosmopolitanism tends to ignore the structural impact of gendered, classed, racialised and dis/abled positionalities that are present as specific individual ‘baggage’ beyond the discourses and ← 2 | 3 →phenomena of cosmopolitanism. It is important to reflect on intersecting dimensions within social categories, in order to realise the potential of a cosmopolitan consciousness. Here, the situated (Vieten 2007)1 context matters most, calling for detailed and analytical exploration of difference and otherness with respect to localities, histories, actors and the interdependences of spaces (‘cosmopolitan scales’).

Contests and controversies over the notion of group difference and individual identity, and the question of how to keep the balance here, require further investigation. What kind of community cohesion and cooperation do we need in different societies and localities, and how is difference performed, perceived and prejudiced in various places and spaces?

This is why a counter-mapping of differences is so important: the pluralisation of lifestyles and migration/mobility axes produces a complexity of new and hybrid forms with respect to social identities and cultural groups, further reshuffling the classic Western division of public and private space. This shifting of the boundary between public and private matters – a restructuring of the ‘politics of belonging’ (Yuval-Davis et al. 2006) – might affect individual claims to different faiths and religious beliefs, and might also affect the public consensus on gender equality, anti-discrimination policies or notions of secularism.

New and puzzling spheres of conflict emerge: for example, the racist ‘panics’ which overtook the neighbourhood of Page Hall in Sheffield in November 2013.2 In this instance, white English and black South Asian ‘Brits’ organised ‘community self-help’ against culturally different Roma, who happened to be continental European/EU migrants from Slovakia, both white and ‘black’. In some areas of Britain we witness the emergence of new local bedfellows who cross the post-colonial divide: they articulate a much older, and often racist, claim made by established communities willing to defend their material, cultural and social interests against newcomers.

← 3 | 4 →However, we also see newly emerging spheres of contact: for example, again in Sheffield, a rising cohort of overseas students, particularly from China and South-East Asia,3 changing the local social fabric. Local sites of conflict, after all, become contact zones.4

The presence of new immigrants, coming from distant empires or European republics, brings a new aspect to the post-colonial struggles of post-Empire Britain. The new visibility of more diverse ethnic and ‘racialised’ groups in Britain, as well as elsewhere in Europe, has generated significant academic, public and policy interest in understanding the current complexity of ‘diversity’ (Kraus 2011) or ‘super-diversity’ (Vertovec 2007). Speaking about difference and migration, local spaces have become more socially and culturally complex; experiences of cosmopolitanism might be benign or irritating, but all are experienced in a vernacular context. These new assemblages of local populations, alongside changing patterns of prejudice and cultural crossroads, urge us to analyse spatial and social sites more closely. Or, to put it differently, in the words of Rosa Bradiotti (2005: 171), ‘[h]ow to dis-engage difference or otherness from the dialectics of Sameness is therefore the challenge.’

Turning now to the (inter-disciplinary) framework of this book: critical cartography is located within the discipline of geography but shares with sociology an interest in the mapping and – crucially – the counter-mapping of social practices. The focus moves from an interest in maps as objects to maps and mapping as reflections of social relationships. Critical cartography addresses the multiplicity of cultural narratives, and also aims to deconstruct and de-colonialise spaces that are governed by cartographic maps based around control and fixed representations of territories. We regard ‘mapping’, with Crampton (2009), as an expression of ‘performative, participatory and political’ processes: counter-mapping follows on from this idea in order to challenge hegemonic perceptions of difference. It may use creative-cultural, performative-(re)representational or organisational-political tools.

← 4 | 5 →We aim to develop a post-cosmopolitan narrative of counter-mappings that tracks spatial and social transformations more specifically; we are looking for embodiments of difference that present global conflicts at local sites, a kind of re-drawing of a map of routes to understand differences. In that sense, cartography is the geo-visual expression of a ‘micro-geography of power relations that are simultaneously local and global’ (Bradiotti 2005: 178).

It is important to emphasise that the wide range of contributions to this collection, in terms of discipline and linguistic/semiotic-cultural location, sets the style of writing, reflection and interrogation. As part of the counter-mapping, we, the editors, follow a de-colonialising strategy by leaving more space for the articulation of each author’s thoughts in her and his original voice. Although there is a common thread linking each distinctive part of this book, the way in which the authors play out the theme of ‘encounters with difference’ remains within their particular disciplinary and cultural reading. In order to make the narrative of the book into a coherent whole, we have organised the parts and chapters in such a way that some of the arguments (and potential counter-considerations) of each contribution align with the subsequent contribution.

The nine chapters presented in this collection follow some of the practices of diversification and illustrate a more complex, but paradoxical, cartography of differences. The three parts of the book map out controversies about living with difference as conflict, but also understood as contact zones. In the first part, ‘Cartographies of Normality and Normativity’, the contributors concentrate on different notions and readings of legal norms, national sites and the normal of the everyday. In ‘Unpacking Prejudice: Narratives of Homophobia in Cross-National Context’, Aneta Piekut and Gill Valentine explore the scale and structure of homophobia in Warsaw and Leeds. Going beyond a comparative approach that examines different spatial (local and national) sites, they adopt a social topographical method (Katz 2001) that addresses Europeanization as an intersecting sphere of influence, thus connecting these two different cities and national spaces. They demonstrate that, despite surveys that show that the UK is more liberal and tolerant towards difference, homophobic prejudices in the UK are simply expressed less directly than in Poland. However, the demographic ← 5 | 6 →profile of people holding such prejudiced views is quite similar to the profile they came across in Poland. The normative structure of the public sphere – i.e. what morality means in this context – is decisive in both societies.

While a web of anti-discrimination legalisation in Britain gives legal protection to sexual minorities, those protections are increasingly competing with individual claims to be exempt from anti-discrimination laws, based on private and subjectively experienced religious grounds. In May 2015, the Newtownabbey bakery Ashers in Northern Ireland was fined for unlawfully discriminating against a gay customer when they refused to bake a cake for him. The cake was intended to display the famous comic characters Bert and Ernie and promote ‘gay’ marriage. The owrners of Ashers refused to bake the cake on the grounds of their Christian faith. This site of conflict in Northern Ireland links to ongoing legal disputes elsewhere in the UK: in ‘When Beliefs Become Property: Liberal Legal Discourse, Employee Resistance and Anti-Gay Christian Politics’, Davina Cooper and Didi Herman discuss the normative substance of these competing claims. They argue that what both claims share is a ‘“social property” paradigm in which beliefs and sexuality constitute part of individual’s estate’. In this chapter, different legal cases are analysed, contextualising the way individual claim-making works against anti-discrimination rules, employer commitments and a general language of rights.

The tension between normality and (legal) norms becomes even more complex when one considers the way in which mainstream culture is shaped by conventional understandings of beauty and a presumed right to look at the Other. Here, the vulnerability of the face, increasingly politicised in the context of female veiling across Europe, is discussed in Rosemary Peacock, Anita Sargeant and Neil Small’s chapter ‘Facial Difference, Consumer Culture and Being “Normal”’. Whereas the individual effort to comply with gender and/or sexuality norms, for example, might be a decision that individuals take privately, in the public or semi-public realm it is impossible for individuals with facial difference to hide. Peacock, Sargeant and Small expose the ‘discursive formation of disfigurement’ while critically accessing bodily representations in Western cultures and exploring more concretely the experiences of individuals living with facial difference and their support networks. They argue that we need new ways to think through the ← 6 | 7 →notion of the cosmopolitan, to counter the dominant culture of aesthetics and bodily standards.

The three chapters in the next part of the book examine more closely the idea of ‘Cartographies of Citizenship and (Non-)Belonging’. Alongside a diminished general role for ‘national identity’, we find a strong national-cultural identity present in specific localities, for example Scotland, as Nichola Wood argues in ‘National Belonging in Cosmopolitan Times’. In the context of the UK Westminster election of 2015 and the stunning victory of the Scottish National Party (SNP), this is a very timely and urgent issue. Although cosmopolitan advocates are excited about the possibility of overcoming chauvinistic nationalism, Wood shows in her chapter that the emotional drive of feeling connected to the nation and to a specific territory of nationhood should not be underestimated. The tension between parochial, national and regional affiliations, however, is very much situated: in the next chapter, the historical faultlines and ideological legacy of the German ethno-national community, which tends to reject migrant others and non-Christian minorities, are traced in the narratives and testimonies of ‘new’ Germans from a Turkish and Kurdish background. In ‘Notions of Conflict and “New” Citizens’ Concerns About Belonging: Post-Cosmopolitan Contestations in Germany’, Ulrike M. Vieten argues that in a post-migration and post-cosmopolitan age the cosmopolitan vernacular culture of contemporary metropolitan cities such as Berlin still has to overcome a narrow perception of native national belonging, and also a conventional perception of the migrant Other, who has now become a fellow European citizen. While using narrative methodology to understand the stories individuals tell against a background of restrictive integration debates, Vieten illustrates how ‘new’ Germans enact citizenship as a cosmopolitan potential, while balancing local belonging and transnational identities against anti-Muslim discourses in twenty-first-century Germany.

In the third contribution to this part of the book, ‘Everyday Active Citizenship the Balkan Way: Local Civil Society and the Practice of “Bridge Building” in Two Post-Yugoslav Cities’, Piotr Goldstein argues ‘that active participation in local civil society can be considered to be a form of active citizenship, even if the sector of civil society in which a person is active is not particularly political’. He draws on extensive fieldwork conducted ← 7 | 8 →in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Novi Sad, Serbia between 2010 and 2014, in which he explores a wide range of challenges (and opportunities) within contemporary post-Yugoslav societies.

In the final part of the book, ‘Cartographies of Languages and Cross-Cultural Communication’ are mapped out. Linguistic dynamics, both as conflict and contact zones, shape personal lives and patterns of friendship, social association and interaction in different social spheres. Alternative routes to bridging difference lead us to the possibility of a deeper communication, indicating potential for a deeper democracy. When we think of nationalism and cosmopolitanism, one thing that is crucial to understanding these as distinctive concepts is a certain privileged or de-privileged meaning of territory: territory as locality; territory as an ideologically and emotionally loaded geographic space (or the lack of it); territory as the site for attachment or detachment. Naomi Wells takes a challenging look at the limits of territorial regimes, in the context of accommodating the interests of minority languages within nation states. In her chapter ‘The Territorial Principle: Language Rights and Linguistic Minorities in Spain and Italy, 1992–2010’, she addresses the question of ‘how the territorial principle encourages a tendency to oversimplify or ignore multilingual contexts at both sub-state and state levels’. She discusses in more detail how a specific minority language, the Austro-Bavarian Tyrolean dialect, is not explicitly covered in a state policy enforcing the learning of the standard language, ‘German’. This failure does not help immigrants to Alto-Adige/Südtirol, who may then be able to speak to people from, for example, Hamburg, but not to residents of the region they are going to settle in, Tyrol/North Italy. These disparities between different dominant languages (e.g. Italian and German), on the one hand, and their minoritised dialect counterparts, on the other, are also apparent in other countries, beyond Spain and Italy. Hence, Wells’s considerations are relevant beyond the specific cultural cartography of South-West Europe.

Moving from state policy on language and culture to research with different language communities, Rosa Mas Giralt shares her experiences in conducting cross-lingual interviews, exploring the difficulties encountered when it is less than straightforward to translate and communicate Spanish from the point of view of an English-speaking world. In her chapter ← 8 | 9 →‘Conducting Qualitative Research in English and Spanish: Recognising the Active Roles of Participants in Cross-Linguistic and Cross-Cultural Projects’, she refers to her fieldwork in Northern England with Spanish-speaking migrants whose cultural and linguistic background is Latin American. Here, the multiplying of hybrid cultural practices becomes visible, engendered in the actual translation of transnational societal spaces. Giralt, a European Spanish (Castilian) speaker (who comes from Catalonia and therefore has another mother tongue), had to cross various layers of linguistic, social and cultural difference when reaching out to her interview partners. In addition, they were speaking through the lenses of mestiza, colonialized/post-colonial culture and gendered social class. After all, Giralt highlights the active role of her participants when narrating their selves into the research narrative.

The final chapter, ‘Visible Difference, Stigmatising Language(s) and the Discursive Construction of Prejudices against Others in Leeds and Warsaw’, by Ulrike M. Vieten and Anna Gawlewicz, explores the issue of translating difference and communicating concepts, terms and views of the world (Weltbilder), between and across English- and Polish-speakers. With this, the last contribution, we return to the research project that initiated the book, ‘Living with difference: Making communities out of strangers in an era of super mobility and super diversity’,5 which carried out research on the populations of Leeds and Warsaw. Both cities, as urban and local sites, were investigated to understand how diversity, migration and distinctive national histories impact on contemporary approaches to, ideas about and everyday engagement with difference. As Vieten and Gawlewicz argue, ‘Polish and English colloquial spoken language offers a window to explore how perceptions of (ascribed) difference are spelled out in private communication’. In their view, it is crucial to understand the similarities and differences as embedded in particular Polish and British histories. What ← 9 | 10 →is striking, though, is the finding that ‘alongside similarities in the construction of the gendered working class (parallels between ‘dresiarze’ and ‘chavs’), significant differences are noticeable with regard to how people in Warsaw and Leeds relate to the intersection of ethnicity, religion and gender’. Regarding the discursive overlap between prejudices and dismissive language against socially declassed individuals (e.g. ‘chavs’) in both national contexts, the social topographic argument about Europeanization made by Piekut and Valentine (chapter 1) could be equally applied here. Furthermore, we may be able to discern a global neo-liberal capitalistic discourse that constructs those who fail within the competitive market system as a global inferior ‘Other’.

The chapters presented in this collection come from very distinctive disciplinary angles; nevertheless, they all map the varieties of vernacular cosmopolitanisms as a paradoxical trajectory embedded in transformed local and transnational spaces. Some of these spaces are less visible than others, but all are important in order to understand how a new vision of contemporary cosmopolitanism – or rather, the post-cosmopolitan condition – might take shape.


Alexander, J.C. (2013). ‘Struggling over the mode of incorporation: backlash against multiculturalism’. Ethnic and Racial Studies 36 (4), 531–556.

Appiah, A. (1998). ‘Cosmopolitanism, universalism and the divided legacies of modernity’ in: P. Cheah and B. Robbins (eds) Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling beyond the Nation,.Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota, 265–289.

Beck, U. (2006). The Cosmopolitan Vision. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Bhabha, H.K. (1996). ‘Unsatisfied: notes on vernacular cosmopolitanism’. In: L. Garcia-Moreno and P.C. Pfeiffer (eds). Text and Nation: Cross-disciplinary Essays on Cultural and National Identities. Columbia: Camden House, 191–207.


This volume investigates the process of learning how to live with individual and group differences in the twenty-first century and examines the ambivalences of contemporary cosmopolitanism. Engaging with the concept of ‘critical cartography’, it emphasizes the structural impact of localities on the experiences of those living with difference, while trying to develop an account of the counter-mappings that follow spatial and social transformations in today’s world. The contributors focus on visual, normative and cultural embodiments of difference, examining dynamic conflicts at local sites that are connected by the processes of Europeanization and globalization.
The collection explores a wide range of topics, including conflicting claims of sexual minorities and conservative Christians, the relationship between national identity and cosmopolitanism, and the ways that cross-cultural communication and bilingualism can help us to understand the complex nature of belonging. The authors come from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds and all contribute to a vernacular reading of cosmopolitanism and transnationalism, aimed at opening up new avenues of research into living with difference.


ISBN (Book)
Open Access
Publication date
2016 (April)
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2016. VI, 234 pp., 4 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Ulrike M. Vieten (Volume editor) Gill Valentine (Volume editor)

Ulrike M. Vieten is a Queen’s Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice at Queen’s University Belfast. Her research deals with the (de-)construction of racialized, classed and gendered boundaries in the context of cosmopolitanism, nationalism and citizenship and currently focuses on right-wing populism in Europe and beyond. Her publications include Gender and Cosmopolitanism in Europe: A Feminist Perspective (2012) and Revisiting Iris Marion Young on Normalisation, Inclusion and Democracy (2014). Gill Valentine is Professor of Geography at the University of Sheffield. Her research focuses on social identities and exclusion; childhood, parenting and family life; and cultures of consumption. She has published widely and was one of the founding editors of the journal Social and Cultural Geography. Her research has been recognized by the award of a Philip Leverhulme Prize and the Royal Geographical Society/Institute of British Geographers Memorial Award.


Title: Cartographies of Differences