Going into the reading, I had no idea about the ambiguity surrounding such a simple word as place. After finishing, I can see why the class was unable to come up with a satisfyingly comprehensive definition for place, which I believe was the point of the exercise. Staeheli’s first concept of place, place as a physical location or site, is the most common and useful conceptualization of place. The other conceptualizations may be handy from the political geography standpoint, but for the common human, place is just a word for a particular area.
The second conceptualization, place as a cultural or social location, is the idea I had about place during the discussion. A phrase comes to mind: a place for everything, and everything in its place. This combines the previous physical conceptualization in the first half, along with adding the cultural concept in the second. Everything has a place (physical) for it to go, and a place where it belongs according to norms. Staeheli presents place as a sort of synonym for social station, that people have physical places that it is not their place to be in. This definition made me think of the phrase “know your place”, an admonishment that one had overstepped social boundaries.
The third conceptualization, place as context, describes place as an amalgamation of events, objects, and actions. This seems to be the most useful concept for political scientists, as Staeheli says the these are the factors most likely to affect political behaviors like voting. Geographers argue that these effects only have meaning in the context of places and that these places facilitates the the interaction between people, groups, and political structures. This seems to me to be the best definition for place to use in our class since it lies between the concrete and abstract definitions.
The next conceptualization adds the dimension of time to place. How a place was in the past is a factor in the feel of a place now, but are not the only or most important factor. This definition of place appeals to me on some sort of primal level. Being in the same place as people before me, laying down my influence on top of that left by people long past feels like the truest definition of a place to me.
The fourth concept holds that a place is always in development, rather than the outcome of several processes. The important difference in this framework is the focus on the interaction between different levels of interaction from the large scale down to the individual. This allows places to be defined in the context of other places, and how they affect each other.
Place is a hard concept to pin down, especially when people can’t agree on a meaning