"Give place, let the prisoner by; give place." -- the first English use of the word, according to the Oxford English Dictionnary
In the Physics, esp. book IV, Aristotle proposes a theory of place ( topos) that rejects Plato's theory of space. The topos is a place of belonging. It is distinct from the body, which is defined by length, width, and depth. Yet there is a definite relationship of community or conflict between the nature of bodies and the nature of places: every physical element seeks "its" place, the place that belongs and corresponds to it, and it flees from any other opposed to it. For Aristotle "the motions of simple bodies (fire, earth, and so forth) show not only that place is something but that place has some kind of functional significance (potentia also force)" (cf. posture) although this power is not definable (like the forces of attraction and repulsion in modern physics)
Ernst Cassirer calls the Aristotelian doctrine one of "substantial forms", opposed presumable to "symbolic forms" (Individual and Cosmos, p. 176) According to Michel Foucault, the hierarchical system of places in the Middle Ages, which he calls the space of localization was dissolved by Galileo's assertion of an infinite open space. (see scientific space) According to Foucault, this de-sanctified space of extension has been replaced in this century by a space of arrangement, that is, a space of relationships formally described as series, trees, and networks. (see Hypertext)
Is it true that much of our sense of place is somatic, directly related to the experience of our bodies? (see proprioceptive.) For neurological patients suffering from the dissociation of "counterfeit limb" or anosognosia, the very "place" of the paralyzed limb seems to have been lost. see place / identity
For Gillian Rose, in Feminism and Geography, "Place is represented as Woman." "Feminist work suggests that place can become feminized through reference to the fantasized maternal Woman." and humanistic geography is characterized in terms of a relationship with the (m) Other.
The anthropology of place:
All cosmogonic narrative need to account an "in the first place..." (see sacred / profane )
(see also order and the importance of place.) Dirt is that which has no place.
Pierre Nora describes "places of memory" where what we see is essentially how we have changed, the image of what we are no longer.
Marc Augé uses the term "anthropological place" for the concrete and symbolic construction of space which localizes a culture in time and space. This concept of place includes the possibility of the journeys made in it, the discourses uttered in it, and the languages characterizing it. (p.81) For Augé, this place is common to both the ethnologist and the indigenous inhabitants. It informs both the indigenous fantasies of a society anchored since time immemorial and the ethnologist's illusion of a society so transparent to itself that it is fully expressed in the most trivial of its usages, an any one of its institutions, and in the total personality of each of its members.
In his chapter on "Spatial Stories," Michel de Certeau links narratives to movement and to spatial practice. For de Certeau, "space is a practiced place." (The Practice of Everyday Life, p. 117) His analysis of space echoes the work of Emile Benveniste on enunciation and the students of "speech acts" who focussed on "how to do things with words." In this case, however, the labor of stories transforms places into spaces, or spaces into places. (de Certeau seems to reverse the usage of the terms: one might expect him to describe place as practiced space.)
De Certeau describes the "tour" as an everyday narration of movement and opposes it to the " map," a scientific representation that erases the itineraries that produced it, and whose history shows this process of disengagement. For de Certeau, who is interested in the tactics of poaching and consumption, everyday stories are guides to spatial practices.
(see strategy / tactics)
Frederic Jameson explores a similar terrain when he calls for a postmodern aesthetic of "cognitive mapping." For Jameson, the kind of "tour" that De Certeau describes as "precartographic," diagrams organized around the still subject-centered or existential journey of the traveler. (see pp 51-52) For Jameson, cognitive mapping becomes more complex when it requires the coordination of existential data with unlived, abstract conceptions of the geographic totality.
The thesis developed by Manuel Castells is that the two contemporary processes of post- fordist capitalist restructuring and informationalism are making possible the emergence of a space of flows which dominates the historically constructed space of places, as the logic of dominant organizations detaches itself from the social constraints of cultural identities and local societies through the powerful medium of informational technologies. (The Informational City, intro. p. 6) (see globalization) (see also smooth / striated )
The space of flows is "a new form of spatial organization of power." (Globalization, Flows, and Identity p. 200) It is "the space of organizations in the informational economy...the fundamental spatial dimension of large-scale information-processing complexes." (Informational City, p.169-170)
For Joseph Schumpeter "The process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism." (Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, p. 83) Castells traces this feature of capitalism in the logic of restructuring. He describes it as a process by which modes of production transform their organizational means to achieve their unchanged structural principles of performance. Restructuring is based on the avoidance of historically established mechanisms of social, economic, and political control. Since most of these mechanisms depend on territorially-based institutions of society, escaping from the social logic embedded in any particular locale becomes the means of achieving freedom in a space of flows connected only to other, like-minded, power-holders.
As he puts it, "people live in places, power rules through flows." (conclusion, p. 349) Echoing the arguments of Barber's Jihad vs McWorld, Castells believes that "The globalization of power flows and the tribalization of local communities are part of the same fundamental process."