Cartographic storytelling: reflecting on maps through an ethnographic application in Siberia



In this paper, we explore the methodical, methodological, epistemological and outreach potential – and related challenges – of cartographic storytelling in ethnographic research, based on the online portal Life of BAM. Our extensive literature review highlights the need for deep self-reflection in the cartographic production of manifold realities and the way in which visualised stories can be co-produced by local people and researchers. It also describes cartography’s conceptual turns and its role in anthropology and ethnography. As an outreach tool, the Life of BAM portal conveys knowledge about social and infrastructural configurations in the greater area of the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) and Amur-Yakutsk Mainline (AYaM) railroads in Eastern Siberia, through a series of lay-language and visualised ‘episodes’ built into the ArcGIS StoryMaps online tool. Interlinking qualitative and quantitative data in the cartographic visualisation of manifold realities can trigger better comprehension of complex matters, through multimodal forms of representing stories in space. Cartographic storytelling, as a means of knowledge and science communication, supports – in our case – civil society, education, heritage work and policy making, and is a way of making local concerns more tangible for state officials and corporate actors. By engaging with cartographic storytelling and building the Life of BAM portal, we affirm that a reflective attitude towards the multiplicity of stories’ ontologies in narration, collection, comprehension and representation is of key importance if we want to do justice to a decolonial approach towards Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and research partners in the field.

Reviews and Essays


2022-05-17 — Updated on 2022-07-07


How to Cite

Saxinger, G., Sancho Reinoso, A., & Wentzel, S. I. (2022). Cartographic storytelling: reflecting on maps through an ethnographic application in Siberia. Fennia - International Journal of Geography, 199(2), 242–259. (Original work published May 17, 2022)