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  A portion of geographic space. Space is organized into places often thought of as bounded settings in which social relations and Identity are constituted (cf. territory; territoriality). Such places may be officially recognized geographical entities or more informally organized sites of intersecting social relations, meanings and collective memory. The concept of place, the uniqueness of particular places and place-based identities are hotly contested concepts in the contemporary context of increasing globalization and the perceived threat of growing placelessness.

Place, sense of place, and placelessness were some of the key concepts used in humanistic geography during the 1970s to distinguish its approach from positivist geography, whose principal focus was space (see positivism). Place was seen as more subjectively defined, existential and particular, while space was thought to be a universal, more abstract phenomenon, subject to scientific law. The humanistic concept of place, largely drawn from phenomenology (e.g. Relph, 1976; Tuan, 1977), was concerned with individuals\' attachments to particular places and the symbolic or metonymic quality of popular concepts of place which link events, attitudes, and places to create a fused whole. It was concerned with meaning and contrasted the experienced richness of the idea of place with the detached sterility of the concept of space. Humanistic approaches to place continued into the 1980s in the work of such authors as Black, Kunze and Pickles (1989). Entrikin (1991) mediated between positivist and phenomenological notions of place by arguing that \'(t)o seek to understand place in a manner that captures its sense of totality and contextuality is to occupy a position that is between the objective pole of scientific theorising and the subjective pole of empathetic understanding\'. He is opposed to the tendency to reduce geometric space to existential place and vice versa.

During the 1980s interest in the concept of place began to grow outside humanistic geography. Economic geographers such as Massey and Allen (1984) sought to theorize place as manifesting specificity within the context of general processes (see locality; production of space). Historical geographers such as Pred (1984), drawing on the structuration theory of sociologist Anthony Giddens, saw place as an integral part of the structuration process: both constitutive of, and constituted by, social relations. Agnew (1987) and Johnston (1991) have argued that place should be one of the cornerstones of political geography. Agnew (1987) identifies three major elements of place as \'locale, the settings in which social relations are constituted (these can be informal institutional); location, the geographical area encompassing the settings for social interaction as defined by social and economic processes operating at a wider scale; and sense of place, the local structure of feeling\'. Like Entrikin\'s, his definition of place also mediates between the objective and subjective.

More recently arguments have been made for the importance of studying place and place specificity in the face of increasing globalization, time-space compression and convergence, and the geographically uneven effects of these processes. Nostalgia for stable, homogeneous place-based communities, new nationalisms, and other place-based identity politics (the most extreme cases resulting in apartheid or even ethnic cleansing) are all seen by geographers as evidence of the importance of a critical perspective on place.

Harvey (1989) argues that a concern with place and place specificity is apt to lead to aestheticization in the form of nostalgic myths of community and reactionary politics. Feminist geographers such as Rose (1993) also worry that romantic notions of place, particularly homeplaces, as stable and secure may ignore unequal constructions of gender. In fact, she argues, the social organization of homeplaces is highly patriarchal and oppressive for many (see gender and geography; patriarchy).

Massey (1997a) acknowledges these various dangers, but sees the possibility of a normative concept of place that avoids the implications of boundedness, homogeneity and exclusion. She argues that studying places does not always mean fetishizing them. On the contrary, studying large-scale processes as they vary between places reveals much that is otherwise undetectable. Massey says that a focus on place variation is an excellent basis for understanding diversity and difference and the inequality generated by effects of various types of large-scale restructuring. Massey (1997a, 1997b) points out that a concern with the specificity or uniqueness of places in no way precludes theorization and that recognizing place specificity does not imply ignoring processes operating at a global scale. In fact, adequate theorization of such wider processes would recognize uneven effects caused by the peculiarities of specific places and their unique histories within larger regions.

Concern with adding richness of place-specific detail to economic geography resonates with calls for attention to difference and fragmentation associated with postmodernism. However, Massey is at pains to point out that there is a major difference between saying that \'place matters\' in the contemporary era of postmodernity and her transhistorical claim that \'place matters\' and always has. Nevertheless an argument can be made that the intensity of attachment to place varies among people and with changing historical conditions (e.g. increasing globalization or westernization). Massey\'s progressive concept of place recognizes the open and porous boundaries of places as well as the myriad interlinkages and interdependencies among places. It also acknowledges that the lives of some types of people are highly interconnected into a global network (e.g. the internet) while others lead severely circumscribed lives. The progressive concept of place is normative as well as descriptive. It assumes social and cultural heterogeneity within places rather than assimilation to a national or local norm. Any given place is materially and imaginatively constructed by many different types of people. The dynamic tension created by the co-presence of all these people results in each lending different dimensions to those places. Other normative definitions of place that emphasize heterogeneity and fluidity of boundaries can also be found in Penrose (1993) and Young (1990).

Cresswell (1996) offers a critical view of place that sees the organization of places as ideological in the sense that it constrains practices in the interests of maintaining established hierarchies. \'A place for everything and everything in its place\' is a deeply engrained sentiment in many cultures. Spatial divisions constrain as much as enable action. The commonsense organization of space into places lends a degree of stability to a society allowing people to know what behaviours to expect in which places. Such structures are relatively stable, but changing and contested, never rigid. Cresswell suggests that critical human geography focus its attention on the resistance to, and transgression of, this mapping of cultural norms onto space. When actions, events and people are deemed to be \'out of place\' by dominant groups in society, they are transgressive (in the spatial as well as the social sense of the term). (Skelton and Valentine (1998) also show how the spatial behaviour of youth can be transgressive and enabling in their struggles to redefine the often oppressive spatial order of society.)

Like Entrikin and Agnew, Cresswell seeks to show the interaction between the subjective and objective or material, between ideas and practices, and between cultural and economic geography through the concept of place which itself is both material and abstract. And like Massey, he has a normative concept of place that challenges common-sense beliefs about the classification of people, practices and objects according to their \'natural\' location within a system of places. He states that \'the materiality of place gives it the aura of “nature”. The nature of place can thus be offered as a justification of what is good, just and appropriate.\'

Anderson (1991), Davis (1990), Sibley (1995) and Jackson and Penrose (1993) present a variety of studies of the racialization of place, exclusion and spatial oppression (cf. social exclusion). Jackson and Penrose (1993) argue that \'place contextualises the construction of “race” and nation generating geographically specific ideologies of racism and nationalism\'. The apparent \'naturalness\' of race blends with the apparent \'naturalness\' of rootedness in place, resulting in a powerful basis for identity politics. Such racialization of place can also lead to complacency about place-based structures of inequality. Social and cultural geographers have exposed the spurious basis for the legitimacy of race and racial segregation by deconstructing its naturalized links to place. Jackson and Penrose take this analysis further, showing how the \'strategic essentialism\' of place-based identity politics can lead to an unintentional endorsement of racist ideology (1993, p. 205). (JSD)

References Agnew, J. 1987: Place and politics: the geographical mediation of state and society. Boston: Allen and Unwin. Anderson, K. 1991: Vancouver\'s Chinatown: racial discourses in Canada, 1875-1980. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press. Black, D.W., Kunze, D. and Pickles, J. 1989: Commonplaces: essays on the nature of place. New York: University Press of America. Cresswell, T. 1996: In place/out of place: geography, ideology and transgression. London: University of Minnesota Press. Davis, M. 1990: City of quartz. London: Verso. Entrikin, J.N. 1991: The betweenness of place: towards a geography of modernity. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins. Harvey, D. 1989: The condition of postmodernity. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Jackson, P. and Penrose, J., eds, 1993: Constructions of race, place and nation. London, UCL Press. Johnston, R.J. 1991: A question of place: exploring the practice of human geography. Oxford: Blackwell. Massey, D. 1997a: A global sense of place. In T. Barnes and D. Gregory, eds, Reading human geography: the poetics and politics of inquiry. London: Arnold, 315-23. Massey, D. 1997b: The political place of locality studies. In L. McDowell, ed., Undoing place? A geographical reader. London: Arnold. Massey, D. and Allen, J., eds, 1984: Geography matters! A reader. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Penrose, J. 1993: Reification in the name of change. In P. Jackson and J. Penrose, eds, Constructions of race, place and nation. London: UCL Press, 27-49. Pred, A. 1984: Place as historically contingent process: structuration and the time geography of becoming places. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 74: 279-97. Relph, E. 1976: Place and placelessness. London: Pion. Rose, G. 1993: Feminism and geography: the limits of geographical knowledge. Cambridge: Polity. Sibley, D. 1995: Geographies of exclusion: society and difference in the west. London: Routledge. Skelton, T. and Valentine, G., eds, 1998: Coolplaces: geographies of youth cultures. London: Routledge. Tuan, Y.-F. 1977: Space and place: the perspective of experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota. Young, I.M. 1990: Justice and the politics of difference. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Suggested Reading Cresswell (1996). Entrikin (1991). Johnson (1991); Massey (1997a). Relph (1976).



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