NB – if you have any thoughts or responses to my ramblings here or at any point in posts to come, please let me know / send articles my way / feel free to email me for more…
In spite of aching arms following a difficult trek up from town to my flat with this beast, it is now happily perched on my windowsill (blocking a fairly significant amount of light) filling with thoughts, ideas and words in an array of colours, all with the ridiculously pleasing function of being able to be rubbed out, moved around and played with.
(Ideally I would have an interactive wall onto which I could scribble huge mind-maps which I could then save onto the hard drive and bring up whenever I needed to look at it – as I must admit wiping it off having taken photographs and printed it out is still pretty terrifying.)
My reading so far has resulted in a mind-map which has the words
all scrawled in large letters, with lines connecting them into some kind of network of dialogue between each theme. I find the process of standing to think massively helpful, and it becomes particularly electric after a caffetiere of strong, black coffee. Thoughts and ideas and connections buzz around my freshly wired brain, as I grab different coloured pens and, in between chewing the ends and pacing around my flat (ideas flow better with movement I find), I connect people to themes, and themes to other themes. But, I’m getting distracted. Clearly the whiteboard has been a little too exciting. Here are where my thoughts are so far, having handed in my first literature review last week (yessss):
So most recently I have been thinking about place and place-making through everyday participation in relation to how people construct identities and the role heritage has to play in this. The Performing Places symposium in London (http://www.performingplaces.org) really ignited a spark of interest in me in thinking about how we perform place on a daily basis through everyday participation and practice, and whether the difference between formal and/or facilitated participation and non-formal and/or unfacilitated participation has any impact on how people understand, embody, and live in their localities, and how through a playful disruption of the everyday we might bear more thought to the reasons for and implications behind this in terms of identity building and in considering our relationship with those around us. (If you’re interested, you can read a review I wrote about the symposium here. For my literature review I didn’t focus that much on the differences between formal and informal (or facilitated and unfacilitated) but it is something I would like to read more about.
Perhaps if we were to consider how place is performed and consequently understood by those in our neighbourhood but with whom we perhaps have little real contact with, we may develop a greater sense of how we ourselves perform place, and what this means for our relationship with where we live, and the process of becoming. Keith Hetherington talks about how identity is although in part chosen, is predominantly performed through everyday habitual routines.
Another idea which came up in my reading was that rather than thinking of humans and the environment as separate to one another, we should consider the idea that they are engaged in an entangled relationship, in which memory, materiality; human and environment act upon and within each other in a process of place attachment, identity building. In other words, place and people when coming together in everyday participation create a dynamic lived synergy (coming-togetherness) which results in an animated space (more on this in my next post about the brilliant Doreen Massey). I want to think more about this, but I think there is definitely something in this idea that the physical environment and our interactions with it has an effect on how much we feel attached to a place. Main and Sandoval talk about this in their research in a park in Los Angeles, where they are talking to people who live in the area (it has a large Mexican and Central American immigrant community) about their attachment to and participation in the park, in which many people talk about how the natural landscape in the park reminds them of their homes and the places they lived before moving to Los Angeles. On a personal level, I have certainly felt this in places I have visited – I’ve felt echoes either in the architecture or the landscape with cities I’ve lived in, which has undoubtedly led me to feel more or less connected to or at least familiar with, a place. Something to think about as I carry on reading.
They also talk about creating hybrid practices as traditional practices are shaped and shape new ones, which is visibly happening as more generations of migrants are born in the UK, constructing identities informed by both the traditional practices of their parents (or increasingly grandparents) and the new practices of their peers. This is an important process to consider when thinking about how this might influence everyday participation across generations.
Hybridity is the key. Perhaps… it’s certainly something I find very interesting.
I am thinking now about possible methodological experiments… if we can bring to the fore more strongly the role of the imagination perhaps in place-making and identity or community-building when considering urban redevelopment or issues of funding for community projects, maybe we can begin to break down the dualisms of subject – object, nature – culture, internal – external which a post-structuralist, interpretivist approach encourages us to do (more coming on this as I begin my assignment for my Research Philosophy module I have been taking this term). It would certainly encourage collaboration with participants, as the imagination is not easily observable, but it would require perhaps a greater amount of trust in the collaborative relationship – although this isn’t necessarily an obstacle. Another thing to consider further…!
In my literature review, I also thought about ideas of what we understand ‘place’ to be, and have since started reading Doreen Massey’s For Space, a post about which will come soon… but what was really interesting, not just in ideas of place and space, but in ideas of heritage and identity too, was this idea of the importance of PROCESS that kept cropping up.
Identities as being in process, places as being in process, heritage as involved in a process in which the past and the present are dynamically linked through their interaction with one another, in rituals, visiting heritage sites, or sharing stories about memories. The process of making place as people move around the world, within place, animating it in their relationship with it…
The process of research itself. More musings to come on this…
My new best friend…
I’m still very much in the stages of trying to pull together my thoughts (which has probably come across in this post…) but I am expecting things to become clearer as I continue exploring, reading, thinking, writing, talking…
Doreen Massey (2005) – ‘For Space’
Kelly Main and Gerardo Francisco Sandoval (1014)- ‘Placemaking in a translocal receiving community; the relevance of place to identity and agency’
Kevin Hetherington (1998) ‘Expressions of Identity: Space, Performance, Politics’
Performing Place Symposium – http://www.performingplaces.org