24 January 2013

Mobility, Placelessness, and Continuation

Reading through Tim Cresswell's book "Place: A Short Introduction" (2004, Blackwell), I am finding more support for the idea that place is a fundamental filter through which most people process the world around them.

Early in the book, Cresswell states that an important theme of the book is that "place is not just a thing in the world but... a way of seeing, knowing and understanding the world."  Continuing, he says the book "is as much about place as a way of knowing as it is about place as a thing in the world. It is as much about epistemology as it is about ontology."

In discussing concerns with "placelessness" that emerged largely through Tuan and Relph in the early work of humanistic geography in the 1970s, Cresswell writes:

Clearly, if place is the very bedrock of our humanity, as some have claimed, then it cannot have vanished because it is a necessary part of the human condition. (p.49)

This is put forth after a short meditation on Thrift (1994) on place and mobility, to which Cresswell suggests:

Thrift sees mobility as a mark of all of life in an increasingly speeded up world. The study of the modern world is a study of velocities and vectors. Rather than comparing mobility to place, mobilities are placed in relation to each other. Place in this world seems increasingly redundant. (p. 48)

All this springs out of a chapter tracing back work on place up through post-modernity where, it often seems, that we have lost a sense of place... that all strip-malls and shopping centers look the same, chain restaurants have replaced unique regional diners, and the hyper-linked connections of a modern mobile world continue to wipe a virtual eraser across a wide swath of the blackboard of culture.

In some respects this is no doubt true. But there is also an enhanced regionalism that seems to be budding. Farmer's markets and local music and arts scenes come to mind for me.

At the end of this chapter, Cresswell introduces Lippard, writing in 1997:

Even in the age of a 'restless, multitraditional people' she argues, and 'even as the power of place is diminished and often lost, it continues -- as an absence -- to define culture and identity. It also continues -- as a presence -- to change the way we live.' 

# # #

Thrift, N. (1994). Inhuman Geographies: Landscapes of Speed, Light and Power in Cloke, P. Ed. Writing the Rural: Five Cultural Geographies. Paul Chapman, London, 191-250.

Lippard, L. (1997). The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicultural Society. The New York Press, New York.

16 January 2013

David Dye in Memphis

Another great installment of World Cafe's "Sense of Place" series. This time: Memphis, a city of rich cultural and musical traditions. Stax Records, BBQ, Beale Street, Sun Records, the Mississippi River. Whoa.

And Graceland! 

I enjoyed Dye's "sense of place" Dublin tour in early 2011, accompanied by musician Glenn Hansard. This 'tour' of Memphis is just as fun.

I'm feeling thankful for new media and our ability to "visit" so many wonderful places in the world. There's still no substitute for actually traveling, for getting oneself out of the daily humdrum, but it isn't always possible. So, here, you can get a dose of The King, some real-deal juke joints, some sights (if not scents) of lip-smacking BBQ... the list goes on!

Don't let me stop you.

Root's Roots

Robert Root's recent entry, Having a Sense of Place, posted on The Loft Literary Center's blog works over some nice thoughts on place as related to creative nonfiction writing. 

Relating his experiences as a writer in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Colorado -- and spending time in and actively engaging with those locales he's called home has influenced his developing "sense of place."