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Making Sense of Place

Making Sense of Place: Multidisciplinary Perspectives

Ian Convery
Gerard Corsane
Peter Davis
Volume: 7
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 350
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  • Book Info
    Making Sense of Place
    Book Description:

    The term "sense of place" is an important multidisciplinary concept, used to understand the complex processes through which individuals and groups define themselves and their relationship to their natural and cultural environments, and which over the last twenty years or so has been increasingly defined, theorized and used across diverse disciplines in different ways. Sense of place mediates our relationship with the world and with each other; it provides a profoundly important foundation for individual and community identity. It can be an intimate, deeply personal experience yet also something which we share with others. It is at once recognizable but never constant; rather it is embodied in the flux between familiarity and difference. Research in this area requires culturally and geographically nuanced analyses, approaches that are sensitive to difference and specificity, event and locale. The essays collected here, drawn from a variety of disciplines (including but not limited to sociology, history, geography, outdoor education, museum and heritage studies, health, and English literature), offer an international perspective on the relationship between people and place, via five interlinked sections (Histories, Landscapes and Identities; Rural Sense of Place; Urban Sense of Place; Cultural Landscapes; Conservation, Biodiversity and Tourism). Ian Convery is Reader in Conservation and Forestry, National School of Forestry, University of Cumbria; Gerard Corsane is Senior Lecturer in Heritage, Museum and Galley Studies, International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, Newcastle University; Peter Davis is Professor of Museology, International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, Newcastle University.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-860-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Ian Convery, Gerard Corsane and Peter Davis
  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Doreen Massey
  6. Introduction: Making Sense of Place
    (pp. 1-8)
    Ian Convery, Gerard Corsane and Peter Davis

    This book draws together studies of ‘sense of place’, a concept defined, theorised and used across different disciplines in different ways. As Cosgrove (2004) notes, over the past two decades the social sciences have witnessed a shift towards more culturally and geographically nuanced work, taking approaches sensitive to the difference and specificity of events and locale. Put simply, understanding where events occur contributes a great deal to understanding how and why they occur.

    Escobar (2001) questions: how do people encounter places, perceive them, and endow them with significance? We aim to offer a deeper understanding of ‘where events occur’; in...

  7. Histories, Landscapes and Identities

    • 1 Land, Territory and Identity
      (pp. 11-22)
      David Storey

      Identity is a complex, multi-faceted and many layered phenomenon which refers to our understandings of both self and others. While it might be tempting to regard identities as fixed social categories it would seem more realistic to view them as multiple, fluid, unstable and relational (see Keith and Pile 1993; McDowell 1999). An individual may have a number of identities linked to gender, ethnicity, and so on and these identities will rest partly upon what a person is not, as well as on what they are (or on what they or others perceive them to be or not to be)....

    • 2 Viewing the Emergence of Scenery from the English Lake District
      (pp. 23-32)
      Mark Haywood

      Much has been written about how undifferentiated space, or ‘wilderness’, can over time coalesce into the specificity of ‘place’ through the deposition of cultural sediment. The process usually entails some form of sedentariness whose origins may range from simple cessation of wandering to full-blown colonial settlement.¹ By contrast, the present account seeks to describe how a sense of place may also be engendered through dynamic means, particularly the action of walking.

      Over the past two and a half centuries, a mountainous corner of North West England has changed from literary figure Daniel Defoe’s 1726 dismissal of it as a ‘most...

    • 3 Cumbrians and their ‘ancient kingdom’: Landscape, Literature and Regional Identity
      (pp. 33-42)
      Penny Bradshaw

      In recent accounts of the way in which a sense of place is developed and constituted there is an acknowledgement of the underlying connections between human inhabitants and the physical external signifiers of place. Such connections are reinforced, processed and developed through a variety of mechanisms, and one crucial forum in which this processing occurs is literature. Attention to the ways in which regional identity is constructed within literary texts offers us important insights into how the complex connections between a particular place and its inhabitants are negotiated, and how through this a regional identity comes to be developed. Cumbrian...

    • 4 Gypsies, Travellers and Place: A Co-ethnography
      (pp. 43-54)
      Ian Convery and Vincent O’Brien

      First recorded in Scotland in 1505 and in England in 1514 as ‘Egyptians’ (Bancroft 2005), Gypsies and Travellers have lived in Britain for at least 500 years, yet are the most socially excluded community in the UK, suffering from among the worst health, lowest life expectancy and lowest educational achievement of any ethnic community (Van Cleemput et al 2007; Lloyd and McCluskey 2008; Parry et al 2007; Powell 2008; Goward et al 2006; James 2007; see also Clark and Greenfields 2006; Cemlyn et al 2009). In particular, the pervasive notion that settled lifestyles are the norm and that nomadic¹ lifestyles...

  8. Rural Sense of Place

    • 5 Rural People and the Land
      (pp. 57-66)
      Michael Woods, Jesse Heley, Carol Richards and Suzie Watkin

      There is a long and fundamental connection between rural place and the land. Whereas land is simply the foundation for the construction of towns and cities, whose urban culture and economy thrive on human ingenuity and industry that may have little direct attachment to the physical ground over which it occurs, historical discourses of rurality place the land at the heart of the rural economy and society. Rural people, such discourses hold, live on the land, work the land, tend the land and know the land. The land formed not only the base of the rural economy (as ‘a physical,...

    • 6 Hill Farming Identities and Connections to Place
      (pp. 67-78)
      Lois Mansfield

      Sense of place can be described as the distinctiveness of a place for people, whether they are the local population or transients (see earlier chapters in this book). Typical aspects of the concept include: natural and man-made features; heritage, culture and traditions; and produce and industries developed as a result of that place. The idea of geographical place has received extensive attention by geographers (see the review by Castree 2004) where structures, processes and networks are perceived as important. In other disciplines the psychological lived experience of place is also significant (Hay 1998). By combining both these approaches, sense of...

    • 7 Place, Culture and Everyday Life in Kyrgyz Villages
      (pp. 79-92)
      Vincent O’Brien, Kenesh Djusipov and Tamara Kudaibergenova

      In this chapter we draw upon our experiences of using participatory video and photography in a collaborative ethnography of village life in the Naryn and Issy Kul regions of Kyrgyzstan. We describe some of the key features of Tengrianism, a pre-Islamic belief system that informed everyday life amongst the nomadic Kyrgyz. Using examples from fieldwork during Visible Voice projects since 2006, we describe how the underlying philosophical principles, beliefs, customs and traditions of their nomadic ancestors continue to exert an influence on everyday life in rural Kyrgyzstan. We describe the physical structure and orientation of the traditional Yurt dwelling, which...

    • 8 Local Renewables for Local Places? Attitudes to Renewable Energy and the Role of Communities in Place-based Renewable Energy Development
      (pp. 93-106)
      Jennifer Rogers, Ian Convery, Eunice Simmons and Andrew Weatherall

      This chapter discusses the concept of community-based renewable energy (RE) development in relation to themes of place and place-based community. We start from the assumption that there is a need for more RE, and look at how this might be achieved in the UK, focusing on rural places.¹ Increasing RE capacity addresses the twin goals of mitigating climate change and increasing energy security (HM Government 2009). Since RE targets are unlikely to be met under current trends (UKERC 2009), new approaches to increasing capacity are required. Historically, energy policy has favoured large-scale RE development, especially wind power, by large private...

    • 9 Health, People and Forests
      (pp. 107-116)
      Amanda Bingley

      Forests are healthy places to visit, live near, learn and work in. This is the message that has emerged with remarkable strength over the past three decades since the now classic studies by environmental psychologists Ulrich (1984), Kaplan and Kaplan (1989) and Hartig et al (1991), who demonstrated the restorative value of spending time in ‘natural’ places, including forest and woodland. Walking or cycling in the forests and taking part in organised woodland recreation and play are found to have tangible benefits for mental and physical health and well-being (O’Brien 2005; Tabbush and O’Brien 2002). Forest environments support nutrition, shelter,...

  9. Urban Sense of Place

    • 10 Achieving Memorable Places … ‘Urban Sense of Place’ for Successful Urban Planning and Renewal?
      (pp. 119-132)
      Michael Clark

      This chapter seeks a critical appreciation of the idea of ‘sense of place’ with particular reference to plans, management and other forms of intervention that seek to create or enhance places in ways that meet development and other goals. It is difficult to discover why some schemes and places perform well while others fail. Successful places may just be carriers for, or associated with, people who are successful in other ways, and whose purchasing power and status out-compete those of other people. But there are examples of ‘elite’ places that fail and, perhaps more rarely, of good-quality residential and social...

    • 11 The Place of Art in the Public Art Gallery: A Visual Sense of Place
      (pp. 133-144)
      Rhiannon Mason, Chris Whitehead and Helen Graham

      It has become almost commonplace to see heritage and sense of place as closely linked. For built heritage and museums which deal with natural history, social history, archaeology, or ethnography, it seems self-evident that ‘place’ should be of central importance as a frame of reference for collections, interpretation and visitors (Davis and Huang 2010). This assumption is, however, rarely extended in the same way to art galleries and their collections. Here place is more likely to be invoked when differentiating between the national, regional and local nature of institutions, their funding, and, all too often, their perceived status. Otherwise, geographical...

    • 12 Survival Sex Work: Vulnerable, Violent and Hidden Lifescapes in the North East of England
      (pp. 145-158)
      Christopher Hartworth, Joanne Hartworth and Ian Convery

      This chapter looks at survival sex work and is based on research in the North East¹ of England (along with findings from a peer-led project, Voices Heard, 2007). Survival sex is the practice of exchanging sex not only for money but also for a range of essential resources such as accommodation, drugs, food, laundry and tobacco. From our research (Hartworth 2009), we would estimate that over a thousand people are involved in survival sex work within the study area, either full-time or occasionally, both male and female (although predominantly the latter). Here we explore the lifescapes where people exist, why...

    • 13 Gardens, Parks and Sense of Place
      (pp. 159-168)
      Ian Thompson

      Gardens are instances of an uncommon collaboration between nature and culture, between living materials and the human imagination. For the most part they are site-specific, in that they are made in a particular place, with a particular topography, a particular climate and particular soils which limit the range of plants which may grow there; and, although human ingenuity has frequently prompted the owners and designers of gardens to push hard against these constraints (Louis XIV being an extreme example of this inclination), successful gardens are often a concentration of place. Public parks, whose design lineage can be traced to the...

    • 14 Gardens: Places for Nature and Human–Nature Interaction
      (pp. 169-176)
      Paul Cammack and Ian Convery

      The 20 million or so private domestic gardens in Britain are important sites of both leisure activity and conservation interest. They occupy more than ten times the area of protected nature reserves (Loram et al 2005; Bhatti and Church 2000; 2001) and they are important sites for several species of conservation concern, such as the song thrush (Turdus philomelos) and house sparrow (Passer domesticus) (Gaston et al 2005; Bland et al 2004). Moreover, birdwatching is an important leisure pursuit in Britain: around 10 per cent of the population engage in birdwatching on an occasional or regular basis and approximately 50...

    • 15 The Image Mill: A Sense of Place for a Museum of Images
      (pp. 177-188)
      Philippe Dubé

      Quebec City is marked by a rich past and this multi-layered history is open to many interpretations. It goes without saying that this city, known as the Vieille Capitale for its status as the first capital of Canada, does not easily fall prey to those who attempt to ultimately box it into a highly restrictive identity framework. For centuries this city has inspired adventurers, tourists, walkers, poets, artists and commentators of all kinds. Quebec has also capitalised on its past to set itself apart from other attractive North American cities. The Image Mill, a project designed by Robert Lepage and...

  10. Cultural Landscapes

    • 16 Making Sense of Place and Landscape Planning at the Landscape Scale
      (pp. 191-206)
      Maggie Roe

      Landscape planning deals with the consideration of future landscapes and the action whereby landscapes can be enhanced, restored or created. Discussion of sense of place related to landscape has tended to centre on how to conserve or preserve existing sense of place, sometimes built up over many years, in highly valued landscapes. There has been little discussion about how we might create landscapes with a sense of place that is highly valued from landscapes that are presently degraded or ordinary. There are a number of interesting theoretical aspects to this which are worth examining here. One is whether there is...

    • 17 Cultural Landscape and Sense of Place: Community and Tourism Representations of the Barossa
      (pp. 207-218)
      Lyn Leader-Elliott

      Cultural landscapes and sense of place have many elements in common, and both are drawn on when tourism destinations are constructed and marketed. This is especially the case when place representations give weight to intangible cultural elements that have meaning for local communities. These elements include spiritual connections to country, philosophies of colonisation, music making and activities surrounding eating and drinking.

      South Australia’s Barossa region is one of the state’s main tourism destinations, known typically for its wine, food and German descendant community culture. Government consultation and collaboration with regional communities from the late 1980s generated an agreed basis for...

    • 18 Territorial Cults as a Paradigm of Place in Tibet
      (pp. 219-234)
      John Studley

      Historically, territorial cults were common in the three regions of Tibet (chol khar gsum) and epitomised association with a particular locality and formed an important part of religious life and Tibetan identity. They have, however, acquired new significance in contemporary Tibet and ‘play a role in affirming identity’ (Karmay 1998, 447). They are one of the main ways in which place comes to have a direct bearing on the identity of individuals and communities. This appears to be equally true of a single place or as a common reference for all Tibetan people (Buffetrille and Diemberger 2002).

      Territorial cults are...

    • 19 Heritage and Sense of Place: Amplifying Local Voice and Co-constructing Meaning
      (pp. 235-246)
      Stephanie K Hawke

      This chapter is premised on the understanding that multiple meanings can be constructed around heritage phenomena. If it is accepted that individuals and groups make sense of heritage subjectively, in ways that are affected by their social and political contexts, then all kinds of places, objects and experiences can be drawn upon in the heritage discourse. These ideas are explored within this chapter through the concept of ‘sense of place’. The first section traces developments that have begun to dissolve the boundaries around notions of what ‘heritage’ means and it does so with reference to the ‘cultural turn’, to popular...

  11. Conservation, Biodiversity and Tourism

    • 20 Sense of Place in Sustainable Tourism: A Case Study in the Rainforest and Savannahs of Guyana
      (pp. 249-260)
      Gerard Corsane and D Jared Bowers

      ‘Sense of place’ is a human construct, which we develop as individuals and/or as groups as we relate to particular physical spaces or sites that we live in or move through. We develop our own notions of sense of place as we process our relationship with environmental factors associated with these spaces or sites, often drawing on our past experiences. Through the associations that we link to these factors, we invest meanings in these spaces or sites (Kyle et al 2004; Relph 1976; Scannell and Gifford 2010). It should also be considered that these environmental factors are not solely physical...

    • 21 Placing the Maasai
      (pp. 261-270)
      Mark Toogood

      Contemporary geographical approaches to place include those which understand locations as ‘imbued with meaning that are the sites of everyday practice’ (Cresswell 2009, 176). Anthropologists (notably Khazanov and Wink 2001; Spencer 1998; 2003a and 2003b; Talle 1999; Waller 1999; Waller and Spear 1993) interested in the Maa-speaking people of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania have paid close attention to meaning in Maasai practice and to the micro-dynamics of Maasai identity, relationships, beliefs and socio-economy. Such work, often ethnographic in nature, focuses in on sub-tribal levels¹ and is ineluctably concerned with the everydayness of place in Maasai culture. In contrast to...

    • 22 Nature Tourism: Do Bears Create a Sense of Place?
      (pp. 271-278)
      Owen T Nevin, Peter Swain and Ian Convery

      Extreme sports, adventure and ecotourism are bringing increasing numbers of people into remote backcountry areas worldwide. The number of people visiting wilderness areas is set to increase further and nature tourism is the fastest growing sector in the $3.5 trillion global annual tourism market (Mehmetoglu 2006). What impacts will this have on the social perceptions, economic and conservation values of these areas and the species which are found there? Reflecting on over a decade’s research on the impacts of the bear-viewing ecotourism industry in British Columbia (BC), Canada, this chapter considers place and ‘place making’ via a case study of...

    • 23 What’s Up? Climate Change and our Relationship with the Hills
      (pp. 279-290)
      Rachel M Dunk, Mary-Ann Smyth and Lisa J Gibson

      This chapter examines how people value the upland landscape, and in particular peatlands, in the context of climate change. UK uplands represent an important carbon store, and upland land use has a direct impact on the carbon- and climate-regulating services provided. Trees and plants draw down atmospheric CO₂ which is ultimately stored in soils, while the felling of trees, peat extraction, the draining of bogs and ploughing all result in the release of CO₂ or other greenhouse gases.

      The carbon sequestered by upland vegetation has an inherent value (in helping to regulate climate) and an economic value: it is potentially...

    • 24 Nature Conservation, Rural Development and Ecotourism in Central Mozambique: Which Space do Local Communities Get?
      (pp. 291-302)
      Stefaan Dondeyne, Randi Kaarhus and Gaia Allison

      Central Mozambique is endowed with rich natural resources and harbours a great diversity of unique plant and animal species. It forms the southern end of the great African rift valley, which runs north–south through East Africa from Mozambique up to the Red Sea. Gorongosa National Park and the Chimanimani Transfrontier Conservation Area are the two major conservation areas in this setting (Fig 24.1). Centred on the rift valley, Gorongosa National Park (about 4000km²) consists mainly of plains with savannahs, swamps and woodlands. The Chimanimani Transfrontier Conservation Area (2500km²) is a rugged terrain of mountains along the border with Zimbabwe....

    • 25 Rainforests, Place and Palm Oil in Sabah, Borneo
      (pp. 303-312)
      Ellie Lindsay, Andrew Ramsey, Ian Convery and Eunice Simmons

      The conservation of tropical ecosystems is complex and contested, not least in terms of cultural and political perspectives between developed and developing nations (Bawa and Seidler 1998; Colchester 2000; Brosius and Hitchner 2010). In Sabah, on the island of Borneo, East Malaysia, much of the forest has recently been converted to oil palm plantations. The plantations cover vast areas and leave relatively little space for native flora and fauna. While efforts are underway to enhance biodiversity within the plantations, there is no clear consensus as to how this might best be achieved and this has led in part to divisions...

  12. Afterword: Untying the Rope
    (pp. 313-320)
    Josie Baxter

    This short story examines the implicit and invisible nature of the sense of place that belongs only to a rooted ‘native’. There is a dawning awareness, expressed in recent books and articles, that not only is a ‘way of life’ disappearing, and there may be reasons to believe that is a good thing, but that the people who lived that life are disappearing too. With them vanishes a way of knowing, an intimacy with their surroundings, that comes only from long daily immersion in a place and a need, often economic, to read one’s surroundings in all their aspects.


  13. List of Contributors
    (pp. 321-328)
  14. Index
    (pp. 329-334)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 335-335)