Within the field of emotional mapping, and mapping more broadly, nonhuman things are often understood as mere instruments - they have utility but not agency to shape meaning-making. In this paper we experiment with a new method that aims to challenge the dualism between human and non-human things by bridging new materialism and participatory emotional mapping. We experimented with this “new materialist methodology” during a one-day workshop to explore residents’ spatio-emotional experiences in a disaster-affected favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Reflecting on this one-day workshop, we argue that materials with diverse colors, textures, shapes, densities, weights, and smells are key collaborators in emotional mapping. Materials have agency to invoke and evoke diverse emotions with past, present, and future temporalities, and which fall within and beyond the positive-negative emotion binary. Materials can facilitate conviviality and discussion amongst mapping participants, which enables participants to speak about their emotional-spatial experiences with more nuance and complexity.


emotional mapping, participatory mapping, disaster risk, new materialism, Brazil, emotions

Author Bio(s)

Gemma Sou is a Lecturer of Disaster Studies at The University of Manchester and Vice Chancellors Fellow at RMIT University. Please direct correspondence to gemma.sou@manchester.ac.uk.

Juliana Carvalho is a Ph.D. candidate in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Porto, Portugal.

Natalia Cidade is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Instituto de Planejamento Urbano e Regional at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (IPPUR/UFRJ).

Maria Eugenia Nico is a Local Community Development Coordinator at TECHO which is an architecture firm working in low-income neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires, Argentina.


This project received a seed grant from the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies of Brown University. The workshop received support from Raízes em Movimento, a local grass-roots organization that hosted the workshop in their facilities and facilitated access to community members. This funding and support are greatly acknowledged. We are also very thankful to all the favela residents who took their time to speak to us and participate in the workshop.

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