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A philosophy of place

Related: Gaston Bachelard (poetics of space) - architecture - aura - city - home - list of places - room - scene - setting - time - world

84 King Street, Soho, NYC, building that housed the Paradise Garage

Place and genre-theory

Marquis de Sade
Consider the works of the Marquis de Sade, whose books are sold in mainstream bookstores and adult bookstores, and housed in university libraries. De Sade's works, which the intellectual elite views as masterful analyses of the mechanisms of power and economics,(14) are also--at least if we are to take their presence in adult bookstores and magazines seriously--still regarded as sexually arousing, as masturbatory aids. Furthermore, as Jane Gallop's powerful admission that she masturbated while reading de Sade demonstrates, one set of cultural uses--one kind of audience pleasure--doesn't necessarily preclude the other.(15) It is possible for someone to be simultaneously intellectually challenged and physically titillated; and it is possible for someone to simultaneously enjoy both the intellectual and the physical stimulation. --Sleaze Mania, Euro-trash, and High Art, Film Quarterly, Winter, 1999 by Joan Hawkins http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1070/is_2_53/ai_59210751/pg_1 [Mar 2005]

see also: Joan Hawkins - genre theory

The Energy in Music

DJN: Who do you listen to now for pleasure?

RC: [laughs] To tell you the truth I listen all day long to the techno station in France. I live in Paris now and we have this station called Radio FG. And I don't even know the names of the groups. They just play non-stop and the melody is like `BOOM BOOM BOOM'. You know how every 5 years an energy goes to a different place in music? It doesn't mean that rock `n' roll isn't happening or it's not continually going on but there's a different focus. Sometimes it's in avant garde music, sometimes it's in jazz, sometimes it's in rock. Right now it's in all of these incredible varieties of techno music and all the sub-sections like jungle and new electronica. [...]

Sense of Place

In search of a philosophy of space and place.

Sense of Place is a characteristic that some geographic places have and some do not. It is often defined as those characteristics that make a place special or unique, as well as those that foster a sense of authentic human attachment and belonging.

Geographic place

To understand sense of place, we first need to define the geographic concept of place. To do that, we need to understand geographic space. Geographic space is the space that biological life move through that encircles our planet. It is differentiated from 'outer space' and 'inner space' (inside our minds). One definition of place, proposed by geographer Yi-Fu Tuan, is that a place comes into existence when humans give meaning to a part of the larger, undifferentiated geographic space. Anytime we identify or give a name to a location, we separated it from the undefined space that surrounds it. Some places, however, have been given stronger meanings, names or definitions by society than others. These are the places that are said to have a strong "Sense of Place."

Geographers and place

Cultural geographers, anthropologists, sociologists and urban planners study why certain places hold special meaning to particular people or peoples. Places that have a strong 'sense of place' have a strong identity and character that is deeply felt by both its inhabitants, and often for visitors. Sense of place is a social phenomenon that exists independent of any one individual's perceptions or experiences. Such a feeling may be derived from the natural environment, but is more often made up of a mix of natural and cultural features in the landscape, which includes the people who occupy the landscape. The sense of place may be strongly enhanced by the place being written about by poets and novelists, or portrayed in art or music.


Places that lack a 'sense of place' are sometimes referred to as 'placeless' or 'inauthentic.' Placeless landscapes are those that have no special relationship to the places in which they are located -- they could be anywhere. Roadside strip shopping malls, gas/petrol stations and convenience stores, fast food chains, and chain department stores are often cited as examples of placeless landscape elements. Even some historic sites or districts that have been heavily commercialized (commodified) for tourism and new housing estates are sometimes defined as having lost their sense of place. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sense_of_place [May 2006]

See also: escapism - Peter Sloterdijk - places - space - Gaston Bachelard

Spirit of place

In search of a philosophy of space and place.

Spirit of place refers to the unique, distinctive and cherished aspects of a place; often those celebrated by artists and writers, but also those cherished in folk tales, festivals and celebrations. It is thus as much in the invisible weave of culture (stories, art, memories, beliefs, histories, etc) as it is the tangible physical aspects of a place (monuments, boundaries, rivers, woods, architectural style, rural crafts styles, pathways, views, etc) or its interpersonal aspects (the presence of relatives, friends and kindred spirits, etc).

Often the term is applied to a rural or a relatively unspoiled or regenerated place - whereas the very similar term sense of place would tend to be more domestic, urbanist, or suburban in tone. For instance, one could sensibly apply 'sense of place' to an urban high street; noting the architecture, the width of the roads and pavements, the plantings, the style of the shop-fronts, the street furniture, etc. - but one could not really talk about the 'spirit of place' of such an essentially urban and commercial environment. It must be noted, however, that an urban area that looks faceless or neglected to an adult may have deep meaning in children's street culture.

The Roman term for spirit of place was Genius loci, by which it is sometimes still referred. This has often been historically envisaged as a guardian animal or a small supernatural being (puck, fairy, elf, etc) or a ghost. These beliefs have been discarded in the modern world; but a new layer of less-embodied superstition on the subject has arisen around ley lines, feng shui and suchlike.

The western cultural movements of Romanticism and Neo-romanticism are often deeply concerned with creating cultural forms that 're-enchant the land', in order to establish or re-establish a spirit of place.

Modern earth art (sometimes called environment art) artists such as Andy Goldsworthy have explored the contribution of natural/ephemeral sculpture to spirit of place.

Many indigenous and tribal cultures around the world are deeply concerned with spirit of place in their landscape. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirit_of_place [May 2006]

See also: escapism - Peter Sloterdijk - places - space - Gaston Bachelard

The Fate of Place : A Philosophical History (1998) - Edward Casey

In search of a philosophy of space and place.

The Fate of Place : A Philosophical History (1998) - Edward Casey [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Book Description
In this imaginative and comprehensive study, Edward Casey, one of the most incisive interpreters of the Continental philosophical tradition, offers a philosophical history of the evolving conceptualizations of place and space in Western thought. Not merely a presentation of the ideas of other philosophers, The Fate of Place is acutely sensitive to silences, absences, and missed opportunities in the complex history of philosophical approaches to space and place. A central theme is the increasing neglect of place in favor of space from the seventh century A.D. onward, amounting to the virtual exclusion of place by the end of the eighteenth century. Casey begins with mythological and religious creation stories and the theories of Plato and Aristotle and then explores the heritage of Neoplatonic, medieval, and Renaissance speculations about space. He presents an impressive history of the birth of modern spatial conceptions in the writings of Newton, Descartes, Leibniz, and Kant and delineates the evolution of twentieth-century phenomenological approaches in the work of Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Bachelard, and Heidegger. In the book's final section, Casey explores the postmodern theories of Foucault, Derrida, Tschumi, Deleuze and Guattari, and Irigaray. --from the publisher

And from Peter Sloterdijk's website:

"Spheres are the spaces where people actually live. I would like to show that human beings have, till today, been misunderstood, because the space where they exist has always been taken for granted, without ever being made conscious and explicit.

And this lieu or space I call a sphere in order to indicate that we are never in fact naked in totality, in a physical or biological environment of some kind, but that we are ourselves space-creating beings, and that we cannot exist otherwise than in these self-animated spaces."

See also: Peter Sloterdijk - places - space - Gaston Bachelard

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