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SIEF2011 10th Congress: Lisbon, Portugal.
17-21 April 2011

(P310)

Shaping place, sensing place

Location Block 2, Piso 1, Room 82
Date and Start Time 19 Apr, 2011 at 16:30

Convenors

Michelle Stefano (Maryland State Arts Council) email
Stephanie Hawke (Newcastle University) email
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Short Abstract

Who makes 'sense of place' and how does this happen? What is the role of culture, history and heritage, both tangible and intangible, within this process of 'place sensing'?

Long Abstract

This panel examines the roles people play in constructing 'sense of place'. Papers will draw on international examples and a diversity of literature and theory from human geography, environmental psychology, sociology, and leisure, cultural and heritage studies. Key topics will explore how sense of place is constructed and, more particularly, how culture or heritage contributes. Recognising that intrinsic to sense of place are the notions of belonging, pride and identity, amongst others, papers can ask: are such notions always negotiated in terms of history, heritage or more general temporality? Whilst the physical environment of place might provide an aide memoire for the continuity of personal belonging, how do people draw on contemporary intangible elements of place distinctiveness, such as dialect or music, to place them in the past and in the present?

At the core of the activity of place sensing are the connections people create with respect to certain localities, natural and built landscapes, and communities. It can also be suggested that these 'places' are given significance through shared memories, expressions of identity and particular cultural practices, entities that evolve in response to larger societal forces. Through a holistic view, it can, thus, be suggested that senses of place are embedded in a whole range of interconnected relationships between people and the physical, economic, social, cultural, political, and environmental contexts within which they interact.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

From a deeper perspective: the neurobiology of sensing and making place

Authors: Michelle Stefano (Maryland State Arts Council)  email
George Stefano (State University of New York)  email
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Short Abstract

What emotional processes are involved when 'sensing' and 'making' place? This paper aims to explore the neurobiology involved in the attachment to place (as a component of sensing and making places) using examples of cultural expression from the North East of England.

Long Abstract

It can be considered that cultural, social, political, environmental and psychological contexts and cues, as examples, contribute to our understandings of - and relationships with - 'place'. To be used as an introduction to the panel, this paper seeks to examine how, from a neurobiological perspective, we attach to place, as well as make it. This discussion will be grounded by an investigation of the senses of place that are expressed through participation in three folk traditions from the North East of England. From participant observation and in-depth interviewing with dancers and musicians, it has been found that sentiments such as senses of belonging, place and pride, which are related to the North East region, constitute the significance of their living traditions. In this light, it can be argued that these cultural practices are transmitted from one generation to the next not only because of their unique dance steps and musical melodies, but as a result of the strong emotional attachments, meanings and values that are also expressed.

As stated, the paper will then explore the neurobiological processes of sensing and making place by focusing on the limbic system of the brain - the region that is most responsible for emotional expression, attachment and motivation. Viewing place sensing and shaping from a more biological perspective can add to understandings of how people make places, as well as why. Most importantly, this exploration aims to highlight the individual experiences of sensing and making place, a notion that can sometimes be neglected within ethnological studies.

Places and emotions in the Italian cultural tradition

Author: Claudia Gori  email
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Short Abstract

My paper describes the complex connections between places, emotions and heritages. It takes into account two different Italian couples of the nineteenth century, connecting the places where they lived with the personal documents they left.

Long Abstract

My paper will analyze how different places and heritages were connected to Italian cultural tradition, in the long Nineteenth Century. It will focus on two couples, from the upper classes, who lived two different moments of the Italian nation- building process, at the beginning and at the end of the century. The couple of Gianna Maffei and Ercole Trotti Mosti shared an aristocratic background and lived its engagement in the huge Romantic garden of the Maffei family, in Valeggio (Verona). The sense of that place was connected with the spreading of Romanticism in northern Italy, which was a cultural, social and political phenomenon, but also with the ancient heritage of the family. The places where the couple lived (Valeggio and Ferrara) were described in many personal documents, where emerges the link between places and emotions.

At the end of the nineteenth century a Jewish couple, Angiolo Orvieto and Laura Cantoni, chose the dimension of the villa in the countryside of Florence to set its marriage. Both literate, Angiolo and Laura described in their love letters and their personal diaries their emotional places: the countryside, the home, the dimension of the villa. This choice of an aristocratic way of life was, in this case, connected to literature, which became the way to express the sense of life. This fact reflected the complex relationship with the Jewish cultural tradition and the many significances of the integration of the Jews in the Italian social and political life.

"Everything that makes the town happens during the festival": the construction of the meaning of place through festival practices

Author: Petra Kelemen (University of Zagreb, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences)  email
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Short Abstract

The paper observes the process of the construction of a sense of place in the frame of a festival. The aim is to illuminate the role of the festival as a marker of place distinctiveness and as a significant element in the construction of a sense of place.

Long Abstract

An interest in a sense of place, constructed through an active relationship with physical space, has directed scholars' attention to performance and the production of place meaning. The intention of this paper is to observe these processes in a particular cultural practice: a festival. On the example of Špancirfest, a street festival organized in the Croatian town of Varaždin, the author focuses on ways in which festival practices shape visitors' relations towards the urban space and conceptualize the meaning of place.

The analysis includes, on the one hand, the significance attached to the festival in the town cultural politics, in which it functions as the holder of desirable attributes that position the town on the regional and the broader, global map. The emphasis on tradition, i. e. traditional crafts and baroque culture, which represented the festival core in its beginnings, has weakened over the years. At the same time, the festival becomes more associated with openness and multiculturalism, functioning as the image that community wants to send. The second part examines how people use the town space and how they attach meaning both to the festival and to the town. The central motives are the issues of belonging and identity construction, both the ones observed during the festival and those conceptualized in interviews conducted during the research. Therefore, the aim of the paper is to illuminate the role of the festival as a marker of place distinctiveness and as a significant element in the construction of a sense of place.

Blackfoot Crossing: memorialising and interpreting a conflicting and multifaceted sense of place

Author: Bryony Onciul (Newcastle University)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper will analyse the complexities of interpreting and presenting multifaceted and conflicting senses of place in a Canadian river valley landscape shaped by indigenous habitation, colonial rule, and the memories and emotions of the Siksika Blackfoot community.

Long Abstract

Blackfoot Crossing on the Siksika Blackfoot Reserve in Alberta, Canada, is a place filled with the sense of past and present. For the local community it holds a strong sense of place linked to its historical, spiritual, ecological and cultural importance. But it is also a site of conflicting emotions and difficult memories.

Originally a river crossing, the valley has been a place of great significance in the Blackfoot territory for thousands of years. It is a site of sacred ceremonies, celebrations, material resources, burial sites, camp sites, archaeological remains, and home to the Siksika community. In 1877 it was the location for the signing of Treaty 7 which marked a new and difficult era of colonialism for the Blackfoot peoples and complicated the sense of place.

The area is now memorialised and interpreted through Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park (BCHP), developed by the community for the community and tourists. BCHP both preserves and revitalises tangible and intangible heritage at the site and has returned performance to the landscape through dance, traditional crafts, singing and storytelling. The interpretive centre identifies and cultivates notions of belonging, identity and community pride, which is a vital process in a community burdened by the hardships of poverty and discrimination.

BCHP celebrates, interrogates, reinvigorates and ultimately helps to construct this complex sense of place. This paper will analyse the complexities of interpreting and presenting multifaceted and conflicting senses of place in a landscape shaped by indigenous habitation, colonial rule and the memories and emotions of the community.

Newcomers engaging with heritage: making a sense of place

Author: Stephanie Hawke (Newcastle University)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper analyses in-depth ethnographic interviews with in-migrants to the northern uplands of England. It examines engagement with heritage as a leisure activity that develops identity capital and social capital for migrants, supporting the components of identity that create a sense of place

Long Abstract

In the rural northern uplands of England, the dearth of employment combines with rising property prices to drive the young away. In contrast, the region's wilderness charm attracts wealthier urbanites that can better afford the prices local property commands. In particular the rural lifestyle appeals to older migrants who choose to retire to the region. In the North Pennines region such migrants are engaging with the area's cultural heritage through leisure and volunteer activity. Through analysis of in-depth, ethnographic interviews conducted with some 28 residents, this paper explores the nature of engagement with heritage as leisure. Drawing on debates within the social sciences in the UK, it is possible to view in-migrants as 'elective belongers' making a choice in where to live and 'belong' (Savage et al., 2005). Engaging with heritage through local history societies and conservation projects, for example, allows in-migrants to develop a 'satisfactory account' of their choice in where to belong. Moreover, for retired migrants, their commitment can be viewed in terms of Stebbin's 'serious leisure' (2007) or as Orr's 'career volunteers' (2006). The interviews show clear evidence that social capital is developed, their leisure activities helping migrants to 'fit in' but moreover, they are also investing in what Côté has described as 'identity capital' (1996). This analysis draws parallels with views emerging from environmental psychology that sense of place manifests in the way supports facets of identity such as 'continuity', 'self esteem', 'self efficacy' and 'distinctiveness' (Twigger-Ross and Uzzell, 1996).

Reclaiming sense of place: placemaking as a radical practice

Author: Elaine Speight (Birkbeck, University of London)  email
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Short Abstract

In what ways can art practice respond to the co-option of 'sense of place' as a 'unique selling point', by developing 'strategies of placemaking', which engender a 'global sense of place' by acknowledging and attributing value to the multiple identities and practices of specific places?

Long Abstract

'Sense of place' is not a straightforward concept. Like 'place' itself, its meanings are contested and co-opted to serve specific ideologies and agendas. This paper explores some of the debates surrounding sense of place within the wider context of 'placemaking', specifically in relation to the role of art and culture.

Described by urbanist Jane Jacobs as the accumulation of idiosyncracies that give a place its "flavour'" (1957), sense of place often refers to notions of "identity, memory" and "tradition" (Landry, 2004). However, as geographer David Harvey notes, the historical, visual and social specificities embodied by a sense of place often become detached from their original significance and repackaged as "unique selling points", as places are forced to differentiate themselves in increasingly competitive and antagonistic ways (1990). Within this context, placemaking is widely understood as a strategy for fabricating a sense of place within particular locations, often employing artists to 'add value' through the contribution of physical aesthetics and social engagement.

Drawing on geographer Doreeen Massey's concept of a "global sense of place" (1994), in which place is concieved as a process of social relations rather than a site of fixed identity, I posit an alternative model of placemaking as an empowering or radical activity. Furthermore, I examine how art practices, particularly those described as 'socially engaged' might employ what anthropologies Akhil Gupta and James Furgurson describe as "strategies of placemaking" (1997), to engender a 'sense of place' that acknowledges and attributes value to the multiple identities and practices of place.

The role of the artist in sensing places: models of reflection and participation in the United Kingdom (1978 - present)

Author: Gabriel Gee (One Piece at a Time)  email
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Short Abstract

This papers aims to outline a typology of artistic modes of sensing place in the United Kingdom at the end of the 20th century, examining how artists have reflected on the patterns of permanence and change, and contributed through aesthetic input to the renegotiation of places

Long Abstract

In the 1970s, the economy in the United Kingdom was severely undermined by the petrol crisis and ongoing stagflation. Furthermore, it had also been witnessing the progressive decline of its industrial economy, when the election of Margaret Thatcher at the head of the government in 1979 announced the arrival of liberal reforms. During the 1980s, the traditional industrial sector was largely dismantled. A shift towards a service based economy became a necessity for cities which had once been at the forefront of industrial production. Within this reconfiguration, cultural actors were given an enhanced role to play. Cities could strategically invest in artistic production in order to change their images and to attract inward investment. However, institutional bodies have not been the sole promoters of a reflection on the 'sense of place'. Artists also developed independently an engagement with their changing environments, providing an alternative take on 'the pride of place'. This papers aims to outline a typology of artistic modes of sensing place in the UK at the end of the 20th century, examining how artists have reflected on the patterns of permanence and change, and contributed through aesthetic input to the renegotiation of places. We will consider a range of examples, such as the work of Locus +, the Ultimate Holding Company, East Street Arts, the Orchard Gallery in Derry, specific artists such as Richard Wilson and Antony Gormley, as well as events such as the Biennale in Liverpool and the fourth plinth programme in Trafalgar square.

"It's not necessary, but it's nice": locally produced radio and musical theatre among expatriates in the Algarve

Author: Maria Inês David (CRIA/FCSH-UNL)  email
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Short Abstract

With the theme of connectivity in mind, this paper explores the construction of a sense of place and belonging among British “expatriates” residing in the Algarve through practices of expressive culture anchored in the work of sound, such as locally produced radio and musical theatre.

Long Abstract

With improved transport and communications infrastructures, connections between the UK and Portugal have intensified since the 1960s, yielding suggestions that the Algarve became Britain's "new province" (Wuerpel 1974 cited in King 2000: 65). Indeed, while spatial boundaries blur with cross-border movement, other distinctive features seem to emerge as cornerstones among strategies of appropriation of place. Bridging the British islands and the Algarve, radio communication and musical theatre productions articulate residents' relationship with the places they identify with. Resorting to English language and entertainment genres (i.e. old time musical, pantomime, barbershop quartet) they express continuity and ease a voluntary switch of scenery and lifestyle that, as both expressive practices signal, entails mutual shaping between place and incomers.

Amidst comforting "golden oldies", informative "community" events' or exchange rates' updates, messages and shows sent from abroad connect a local station with reconfigured geographies of production and consumption. Meanwhile, on-air/line broadcasts impact on place by fueling tourism and "expatriate" oriented markets through the advertisement that sustains them.

Similarly engaging place and cultural identity, the British bring cultural heritage to bear on their place of residence by combining imported traditions within musical theatre with common practices of mobilization for social action in the UK. Regular performances contribute to the transformation of place through support of "charities" for Algarve's development.

Based on ethnographic ongoing research, this paper explores how expressive practices often associated with leisure and background soundscape, that are sustained through individual and collective efforts, contribute to the construction of senses of place and belonging.

Making sense of everyday space from a wheelchair

Author: María Elisa Hernández Anzola (Universidad Simón Bolívar)  email
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Short Abstract

Interpreted narratives of people who use wheelchairs reveal ways of negotiating and renewing commonsense, from the strategies they display to redefine and symbolically organize spaces that are not always accessible to them.

Long Abstract

Within a research on how people who use wheelchairs deal with everyday space, participants were invited to take photographs of places that they considered meaningful, and then bring them to collective discussions. We organized the conversations about the recorded images as narratives to be interpreted. While expressing a literal perspective of the world (from sitting bodies), these narratives reveal ways of negotiating and renewing commonsense, from the strategies that people in wheelchairs display to redefine and symbolically organize spaces that are not always accessible to them.

The role of urban neighbourhoods ('bairros') in the 21st century urban context

Authors: Filipa Ramalhete (Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa)  email
Maria Assunção Gato (Dinamia-CET /ISCTE-IUL)  email
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Short Abstract

Is the concept of neighbourhood still essential in the 21st century urban context? Which aspects are crucial for the residents to consider their urban area as a neighbourhood? Is the point of view from the ‘old residents’ different from the ‘new gentrification’ ones? Is the concept itself part of emerging residential patterns?

Long Abstract

An urban neighbourhood is an architectural reality, with an historical and urban component, but it is also a space defined by social practices and cultural representations. The classification of a neighbourhood as such implies the recognition by the inhabitants of some level of heterogeneity within the more or less apparent urban homogeneity.

The concept of neighbourhood assumes different levels of representation: historical, social, architectural and functional. In this context, a key issue is the analysis of how these representations interfere with the choices of old and new residents on their houses' location and typology.

The paper presents the first results from the study 'Lisbon neighbourhoods ('bairros') 2012', held by CEACT/UAL. The research focused on the reasons why, in a city with a complex urban shape, some areas are considered, by their inhabitants, as 'bairros', and some aren't, establishes a typological proposal for the existing 'bairros' and analyses the role of these neighbourhoods in present residential choices.

Shapes and senses that intertwined Caracas from everyday stories

Author: Zahiry Martínez (Universidad Simón Bolívar)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper shows the affective forms that configure the city of Caracas, from the way its residents make sense of their everyday life. Thus, we have approached to these aesthetics shaping from diversity of texts: stories, objects and spaces, that embody shapes and senses of our city.

Long Abstract

On this paper we discuss the affective forms that shape the city of Caracas, from its own citizen. Hence, from a Social Psychology interesting on how people make sense on their social relations in their everyday life, we have tried to understand from the hermeneutic perspective, those aesthetics configurations that emerge on the daily stories, which are intertwined and lived in Caracas. This study goes hand in hand with authors such as Gadamer (1977), Garagalza (1990) and Ricoeur (2000), whose theoretical and methodological approach has allowed us understanding and interpreting several texts that appeared during the research. Stories, objects, places, spaces and images have emerged from the conversation with people of different ages, diverse social groups, interests and life experiences, as well as pictures, tales and other texts that we collect all over the city, in order to interweave along to them the shapes and sense of Caracas as a meaningful place.

Enduring places, enduring memories

Authors: Peter Davis (Newcastle University)  email
James Joicey (Ford & Etal Estates)  email
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Short Abstract

This article explores the creation of England's first named ecomuseum at Flodden in Northumberland, site of the last medieval battle in England. Exploring and reconciling the views of local people - and how Flodden should be remembered - lie at the heart of the ecomuseum project.

Long Abstract

This article explores the creation of England's first named ecomuseum at Flodden in north Northumberland.The site witnessed the last medieval battle in England, which took place on the 9th September 1513 during the reign of Henry VIII. For the Scots the battle was a disaster, with many of the most important members of Scottish society killed in the conflict. The Scottish dead included twelve earls, fifteen lords, many clan chiefs, an archbishop and above all, King James himself.

Five hundred years later memories of the battle are still strong; place names, associated sites and intangible heritages bear witness in the landscape. The Flodden project organisers have sought to involve local communities in their discussions about how best to recognise the 500 year history of the site in 2013. The various associated places - dispersed throughout a wild and extensive landscape - has required widespread consultation with a variety of stakeholders. From these consultations it is evident that the ecomuseum must encompass a wide variety of sites and reflect a wide range of opinions and associations that people hold about Flodden. It appears that such sites have the power to both sustain, awaken and re-create memories of place.

'This deathless field': sense of place at battlefields

Author: Justin Sikora (Newcastle University)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper examines how sense of place is formed at battlefields through on-site interpretation. This research can aid in understanding how visitors identify themselves in the physical context of a non-built heritage site, and how this is shaped by on-site interpretative strategies.

Long Abstract

This paper examines how sense of place is formed at battlefields through on-site interpretation, drawing upon results of a pilot study at Culloden Battlefield in Scotland. Due to a lack of built heritage, battlefields can be inconspicuous if not memorialised and interpreted; relying on the authority, potential bias and historical accuracy of the authorities in charge. The ways in which information about the conflict is presented greatly influences the historicity and self-reflexivity of visitors' engagement with 'hallowed ground'. In light of this, battlefields are often contentious places where national and collective identity can be exulted or lamented. To better conceptualise how visitors construct ideas about the conflict, interviews were conducted with 27 tourists at Culloden over a four-day period in July 2010. Results from this pilot study suggest that prior understanding of the battle is frequently incongruent to historical fact, complicating how people negotiate their national and individual identity. Interviewees often referred to the 'atmospheric' sense of the ground, fulfilling their vision of what Scotland is 'supposed' to be like. The initial conclusions suggest that it is not only important to visit Culloden in order to form an idea of the events that transpired there, but also to place oneself within the context of the space. This performativity is heightened by third-person interpreters engaging the visitors with workshops designed to inform about the events around the battle, and to challenge preconceived ideas. This engagement appears essential at encouraging an introspective and self-critical understanding of what the battlefield means today.

ss Great Britain and oral history: telling the homecoming story

Author: Rhian Tritton (ss Great Britain Trust, Bristol)  email
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Short Abstract

ss Great Britain, built by Brunel in Bristol in 1843, is now a museum and visitor attraction.In 1970 she was salvaged from the Falkland Islands and towed back to Bristol.In 2010 an oral history project recorded the memories of the salvage team and some of the Bristolians who saw her return.

Long Abstract

The oral history project interviewed key members of the salvage team as well as local residents. For many, seeing ss Great Britain's return was one of their strongest memories. For the salvage team (now all elderly) this brave operation confirmed their role as technical experts, while for Bristolians it occasioned a sense of local pride and belonging. Many commented that the ship is "part of Bristol". Others who were not in Bristol remembered where they were. Many respondents recorded particularly the moment the ship passed under the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the first time Brunel's two great masterpieces had collided. This underlines the iconic nature of the ship, and the emotive power of her homecoming. It is argued that from her launch the ship has been woven into Bristol's DNA, and that the oral history project enabled the exploration of the ship's role as a place-making icon and symbol of what it means to be Bristolian.

The photograph as event: uncertainty and impermanence in a Canadian national park

Author: Trudi L Smith (York University, Toronto Canada)  email
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Short Abstract

National parks are key sites of identity and place making in Canada. In this paper I argue that despite attention to the stability and persistence of photographs of Canadian national parks, shifting visualities and fleeting moments structure archives and experience in parks.

Long Abstract

National parks are key sites of identity and place making in Canada. Photography plays a key role in the production of national parks, and both photography and national parks play a key role in the understanding of nature in Canada. Photography tends to support a myth of wilderness: the idea that national parks are stable, unchanging spaces, outside of the effects of human activity.

While recent scholarship argues there is a stability of photographic views in protected areas and other vacation destinations that make place, I found that shifting visualities and fleeting moments are present in both archives and experience in national parks in Canada. Drawing out one image from over four-hundred archival photographs of Waterton Lakes National Park I analyzed, I argue that key to understanding the social meaning of photography is to investigate the instability of photographic views. How does a relationship with place - imagined as fixed - actually change over time and how is this reflected in photographic history and present acts?

I build upon recent trends in visual anthropology that argue for an embodied understanding of the visual domain. My method is to investigate photographs by attempting to re-enact them: not only as images of something, or as objects we can hold, but also as acts grounded in place. I consider the photograph as event. To attempt to re-enact a photograph provides space to consider the non-discursive realities that exist beyond, or below, or through, this form of representation.

What is this place? Site analysis of Belfast City Hall

Author: Katharine Keenan (Teachers College, Columbia University)  email
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Short Abstract

How is Belfast City Hall, site of protests, riots, festivals, markets, marriages, and more, perceived by the people of Belfast? This paper will explore understandings of place and belonging in Belfast, through the specific and multifaceted site of City Hall.

Long Abstract

This paper focuses on Belfast City Hall as the locus of important place- and identity-making activity in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The site will be addressed through architecture and monuments, materiality, and as an aide-mémoire for those who have witnessed important events there. Drawing on theories of social space and landscape, this paper explores the meanings and implications of the building at the physical center of Belfast, and asks the questions "How is Belfast City Hall, site of protests, explosions, festivals, markets, marriages, and more, perceived by the people of Belfast?" and "What role does that play in their understandings of place and belonging?"

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.