Most of us in southern literary studies have taken for granted the idea that southern literature is grounded in a ‘sense of place’, but questions about the meaning and significance of that sense of place have been troubling, particularly when linked in U.S. literature (as seems always to be the case) with the idea of ‘regionalism’. Is a literature ‘grounded in place’ necessarily a ‘regional’ literature? Many – including Eudora Welty – would say that it is not: ‘“Regional” is an outsider’s term’, she writes, which ‘has no meaning for the insider who is doing the writing, because as far as he knows he is simply writing about life …’ Nevertheless, for Welty, ‘Location [italics mine] is the ground conductor of all the currents of emotion and belief and moral conviction that charge out from the story in its course’.1 ‘Place’, in other words, is a matter of ‘location’, of ‘situation’, a ‘conductor’ of the currents that move and move through a literary text; and unlike ‘region’ as it has usually been understood, ‘place’ and ‘location’ are subjective, experiential, insiders’ terms. If this is so, why has the sense of place been so closely linked with regionalism in U.S. literary history? It is especially odd when one considers that the sense of place suggests something that ‘centres’ whereas regionalism evokes ideas of the periphery, so that the literatures of the periphery are often said to be ‘centred’ in that famous ‘sense of place’, whereas those literatures of the ‘centre’ are presumably unplaced. The answer probably has something to do with the fact that Americans imagine change and possibility in terms of a flight from, or liberation from, place. This has been one very powerful version of the American Dream. But change and possibility, those forces that move narrative, might be more accurately imagined as a transfiguration of – rather than as a flight or liberation from – place.
Southern Places – Past, Present, and Future
The ways in which New Place has been written about in Shakespearean biographies are changing. This article suggests that the biographical stories we tell ourselves, recycle, and develop are in part influenced by the curating of the material cultural remains associated with the subject which, in the case of New Place, is the responsibility of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. A newly fashioned New Place is emerging before us as the archaeological dig started in 2010 shares its findings in the context of a cultural organisation willing to tell a revisionist story about the site.
Rights, Networks, and Ethnographic Comparison
Harri Englund and Thomas Yarrow
The relationship between theory and place has remained a central problem for the discipline of anthropology. Focusing on debates around the concepts of human rights and networks, specifically as these traverse African and Melanesian contexts, this article highlights how novel ideas emerge through sustained comparison across different regions. Rather than understanding places as sources of theories to be applied to other contexts, we argue that anthropologists need to recognize how new concepts are generated through reflexive comparison across different regions. This analysis leads us to question a widespread propensity to understand places as the sine qua non of anthropological theory, proposing instead that place emerges retrospectively as an artifact of comparison. We conclude that while it is therefore necessary to acknowledge the analytic construction of Africa and its sub-regions, there remain compelling reasons to recognize its analytic utility.
Wellbeing, Place and Extractivism in the Amazon
Juan Pablo Sarmiento Barletti
In this article, I argue for a broadening of the conceptualisation of wellbeing in the scholarly and policy literature on the topic. I do so as, despite the calls for the inclusion of place in analyses of wellbeing, the literature on the topic still carries a dominant conception of wellbeing as a measurable index based on Euro-American practices and discourses, with their associated views of humanity and nature. I will advance the discussion on wellbeing’s intimate connection to place and place-based consciousness through an ethnographic engagement with kametsa asaiki (‘living well together’), an ethos of wellbeing pursued by indigenous Ashaninka people in the Peruvian Amazon. This is a revealing context as Peru exemplifies how extractive development initiatives tend to misrecognise or underestimate their socio-natural consequences on local pursuits of wellbeing. I argue that an understanding of the role of place and place-based consciousness in wellbeing is key to enhancing the concept’s utility in policy and practice, especially due to its centrality in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In doing so, I call for further ethnographic explorations of the link between wellbeing models and understandings of humanity and nature.
What's not neo-liberal?
I am delighted by the generous and critical engagement that Peter Little, Don Nonini, and Neil Smith have brought to my uneven and unsteady thoughts about neo-liberalism. I hope that this response maintains the tone and style of their thoughtful and thought-provoking comments. They all make examining the times and places of neoliberalism a central concern.
This article analyzes the tension between the built and intrinsic elements that constitute Santa Barbara, California, as a place, by investigating two related questions: How is Santa Barbarans’ sense of place impacted by citywide cultural preferences for a specific plant aesthetic? and How have recent drought conditions affected that plant aesthetic, and its population’s cultural relationship to nature and the environment? The analysis focuses primarily on two key informant interviews, with Madeline Ward, the city’s water conservation coordinator, and Timothy Downey, the city arborist, and is further supported by ethnographic field notes. I argue that the California drought has brought parallel changes to both the city’s physical appearance and its residents’ aesthetic preferences regarding plants. This has further prompted changes to popular conceptions of Santa Barbara as a place, stemming from residents’ desire for an aesthetic that is better in tune with the ecological conditions of the area.
The ability to control where and how any given space will be occupied is a coveted but elusive privilege for the heroines of Jane Austen's novels. Though blessed with an admirable blend of independence of mind, spirit and moral fortitude, they are women for whom the privilege of space is often either an intangible desire or an oppressive reality. In Persuasion, Austen deliberately creates a problem with space. She purposefully contradicts what is expected in public and private behaviour by presenting a heroine who is at first constricted by her place; who begins to expand the number of spaces she is able to occupy; and then, finally, begins to defy her place. This article explores how this use of physical and psychological space in Persuasion evolves and how Austen involves her heroine in the discourse of social change through both narrative description and a new accessibility of psychological landscape.
The Significance of Place for Girls and Girlhood Studies
Claudia Mitchell, and Carrie Rentschler. 2016. Girlhood and the Politics of Place. New York: Berghahn Books.
Critical Heritages of Migration and Belonging
Across Europe and beyond, much is being made of the perceived breakdown of the nation state, which was historically configured as a ‘container’ of heritage formations, adopting and perusing local traditions where possible but oppressing them where they were deemed unsuitable. Migration is seen as eroding the rigid boundaries of this configuration, potentially liberating identities and heritages in the process. This special issue aims to address the relationship between critical heritage and redefinitions of self, other, community and place within the contemporary global reality of movement and flux.
Post-socialist container markets and the city
Caroline Humphrey and Vera Skvirskaja
This article discusses a vast, new and semi-legal marketplace of shipping containers on the outskirts of Odessa, Ukraine. It is suggested that such markets, which have sprung up at several places in post-socialist space where routes intersect, have certain features in common with mediaeval trade fairs. However, today's markets have their own specificities in relation to state and legal regimes, migration, and the cities to which they are semi-attached. The article analyzes the Seventh Kilometer Market (Sed'moi) near Odessa as a particular socio-mythical space. It affords it own kind of protection and opportunities to traders, but these structures may be unstable in a changing economic climate.