More a Cosmology than a Cartography

More a Cosmology than a Cartography: Syllabus

by Ana Iwataki

First, a moment of gratitude:
to all who brought me here
and all who host me here.

I have engaged in a meandering through Los Angeles, a city disguised by the narrative become trope that it is always already a fiction. Our current fiction is a necessary one, as we’ve been reflecting on Los Angeles while moving through it hardly at all. This city is a remembered one, one that we fear will be disappeared and replaced by the time we can immerse ourselves in it again. It’s at once highly individualized and diffused, dreamed up from within our homes, both more vulnerable and more imaginative than the totalizing fiction of a map.

Trinh T. Minh-Ha’s notion of “speaking nearby”1 has become essential to me as at once a modality and an ethic, in its recognition of the impossibility of speaking on behalf of an Other and its encouragement, instead, to speak “in proximity (whether the other is physically present or absent), which requires that you deliberately suspend meaning, preventing it from merely closing.” More a Cosmology Than a Cartography: Syllabus is intended to reflect nearby Los Angeles, on its infrastructures, how we live here together. An expanded psychogeography of Los Angeles is in production, via a process of acknowledgment that its fixed, colonial boundaries do not and never have accounted for its vital sources of water, food, people, and myths. 

This is a transparent attempt at this complex unbinding. Speaking nearby might work to interrogate feelings of ownership over this city, especially grief and grievance in the face of its constant evolution, rooted in misplaced notions of authenticity and blame.

Norman Klein’s The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory has of course been an essential, or perhaps unavoidable, text, from which the line “More a Cosmology Than a Cartography” has been lifted and slightly altered. A thirst for all that might better inform an emphatic understanding of this place is his guide as well as mine. 

Mapping Indigenous LA: Placemaking Through Digital Storytelling

Danny Jauregui’s Disguised Ruins

Takachizu’s Community Archive of Little Tokyo, Los Angeles

Kenneth Mejia’s Data Visualizations of Los Angeles

Sesshu Foster, City Terrace Field Manual

Smoke Screen: The Sellout

Karen Tei Yamashita, Tropic of Orange

Sam Nakahira’s Comic about the Ozawa Boarding House

Making a Neighborhood

“The Terrestrial and the Celestial: A Conversation with Mercedes Dorame”

“Valley View: An Armenian Diasporic Account in Lieu of a Glendale Biennial Review”

The Aqueduct Between Us

“Glimpses of a Homegrown Revolutionary”

1 Chen, Nancy N. “‘Speaking Nearby’: A Conversation with Trinh T. Minh-Ha.” Visual Anthropology Review, vol. 8, no. 1, 1992, pp. 81–92.