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Space, Place, Emergence


The idea for this special issue emerged during a conversation at a meeting of the Western States Folklore Society. Space and place had taken such a central position in general social theory, we wondered, was there anything left to say about it? Could folklorists contribute to that conversation? Were folklorists even interested in place anymore, or had they moved on to other place-less topics? To judge from over thirty-five responses to our call for papers on the broad subject of "unbounding place," including a number from outside the US, the topic is alive and well. We sincerely regret having to decline many interesting proposals in the interest of space (no pun intended), but are impressed that the subject remains of active interest to our colleagues in folklore and related fields. In the end, we accepted these six papers. Our goal is modest: to present an array of papers on the subject, each of which contributes something to the overall idea of space and place as being more than simply location. From this range, we extracted a few tropes or themes that focus on space and place in an unbounded world. We hope that others might find them a useful starting point for conversation. Anyone interested in space and place soon discovers a vast body of scholarship so broad in scope it easily becomes unmoored. If we have learned anything, it is that spaces and places essentially are conflicted: they are sites of struggle, not the least among academics over proper theoretical and methodological models for studying such subjects. For example, so many websites, and websites of websites are devoted to the study of space and place that one could spend days merely looking at online materials before cracking a single book.^ The subject interests much of the humanities and social sciencesfolklore as well as such disciplines as history, creative non-fiction, literary studies, American Studies, anthropology, architecture, geography, philosophy, and sociology. The fact that the words space and place are useful metaphors (Smith and Katz 1993) compounds the problem. We can talk of actual locations, but spatial metaphors expand these basic concepts in apparently unlimited
Weslem Folklore 66:3 & 4 (Summer & Fall 2007) :217-232. Copyright 2007, Western States Folklore Society



as well as useful ways, making them seem applicable to everything and tempting us to mistake metaphor for reality. Literature reviews are impossible, therefore; the following provides only a sketch of some basic issues as they pertain to the history of folklore studies. In folklore, our academic home, studies of space and place are grounded in regional studies that were the focus of the early- and midtwentieth century. These regional studies typically focused on defining particular geographic regions, on collecting within already-looselydened-or-subjectively-felt regions, or on relationships between culture and landscape, perspectives that were critiqued at the same time they were developed (e.g., Halpert 1947), a fact not always acknowledged (see also Green 1978; Nicolaisen 1976). Well-known earlyfiguresinclude such notables as Benjamin Botkin, Vance Randolph, and Richard Dorson. Many were influenced by, or trained in, classical scholarship in humanist and cultural geography, as revealed particularly in the early work of Henry Glassie ([1968] 1971),Joan Miller (1968) and others. Useful overviews of this scholarship can be found in Allen 1990 and Ryden 1993; see also Hufford 2002 for new takes on regionalism. Later approaches emphasized regional consciousness as collective identity (Jones 1976; Dorson 1964; Clements 1979; Stewart, Siporin, Sullivan and Jones 2000, Lightfoot 1983, Hufford 1986) as well as experiential and locallyconstructed meanings of place drawn from the early work of Yi-Fu Tuan (1974, 1977), loosely organized under labels such as place-attachment studies, topophilia, phenomenological approaches, and "sense of place" studies^ (Glassie 1982; Allen and Schlereth 1990; Ryden 1993; Feld and Basso 1996; Altman and Low 1992, Sanders 1993, Lopez 2000, Hiss 1990, Wilson 2000). Although it is difficult to characterize any array of scholarship, one common denominator underlying many of these approaches is an attempt to articulate what characteristics make regions unique, efforts based on paradigmatic assumptions that what defines a region lies in internal homogeneity and "difference from" other regions. In her overview of regional scholarship, for example, Allen (1990) mentions "distinctiveness" as an enduring, essential quality. With the rise of interest in theories of post/modernity and globalization, space and place have come to the forefront of social theory as part of what Soja (1989) identifies as the "spatial turn" in the social sciences rooted in the 1960s but that developed particularly since the 1980s. Many ideas about space and place come from geography and architecture, as well as anthropology. Cresswell (2004) gives an excellent overview of the "genealogy of place" in geography (see also Hubbard,

Space, Place, Emergence


Kitchin and Valentine 2004, Soja 1989), while Low and LawrenceZiga propose an anthropology of space and place (2003). Drawing heavily on Lefebvre's early notion that space is produced (1976, 1991), on Foucault's discussions of space, particularly as used for disciplinary purposes ([1977] 1995, 1980, 1986), and on de Certeau's idea of spatial tactics (1984), folklorists and scholars in other disciplines have critiqued space and place as heretofore theoretically transparent, taken-for-granted categories that demand investigation. Space was reconceptualized from a commonsense modelnatural, neutral, a static container for meaning, the "stage" upon which history actsto an essential element in the construction of social life and intricately implicated in the (re) production of power and ideology (see Gabbert 2007 for a more extensive review). Some argue that space is primarily a hidden tool in the restructuring of capital (Harvey 1990, 2006); others suggest that additional factors such as race and gender are implicated in constructions of spatiality (McDowell 1999, Massey 1994); in folklore, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett in particular has focused on struggles for power in contested spaces, particularly as manifested in imagery and representation (2003), and on diaspora, problemetizing normative presumptions of singular attachments and pointing out disturbing ideologies underlying the uses of terms such as homelessness, placelessness, and roodessness (1994). The ways in which tourism and consumption practices transform places into commodities (Urry 1994), for example by placing the lifeworld on display as heritage (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 1998), and negotiations between tourists and locals over constructions of place, authenticity, and local identity also have proven fruitful (Bendix 1989, Fife 2004). These and other critical approaches to place have led scholars to rethink as severely problematic the traditional ethnographic project of mapping various cultures onto discrete territories, each of which contains a particular, inscribed culture that can be investigated by an ethnographer "from outside," and which description of "difference from" is the primary goal. The result of dislodging culture from territory has been the dismantling of an extensive discursive and metaphysical framework in which placesand the people who live thereare essentialized and romanticized, bound to static botanical metaphors such as "roots and soils" and "naturalness" (Malkki 1992). These are words that have been juxtaposed with (and hence related to) terms that have plagued folklore studies from the beginning, such as "natives," "authenticity," "other," "tradition," and a host of binary oppositions that construct modernity (Bauman 2003).^



A primary result of this intellectual work has been a recognition of the relationality of both space and place and a focus on the production of difference constructed through institutions, language, and practices; an emphasis on interstitial places, borderlands, deterritorializations, hybrids, diasporas, and global flows; and a recognition of the politics of culture (Shuman and Briggs 1993; Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 1998). "Cultural identity," Radway summarizes, "can no longer be conceptualized as a naturalized essence or property that thoroughly saturates an individual because of his or her socialization within a particular locale.... This .. . does not, therefore, diminish the importance of place or geography in the effort to understand societies and cultures. Rather, it demands a reconceptualization of both as socially produced through relations of dependence and mutual implication, through relationships established socially and hierarchically between the near and far, the local and the distant" (1999:14). Difference is not something merely "found" by the ethnographerand hence, "natural"but rather is itself produced by broader cultural processes, the result of global interconnections and differential power geometries to produce particular configurations of different places. Our own perspective is that space and place studies have finally caught up with the notion of folklore in general. If one disciplinary narrative is that the 60s and 70s reconceptualized folklore from "mere text"a thing-like objectto situated social interaction (Georges 1969, Abrahams 1968, Bauman 1975, Ben-Amos 1971, Hymes 1968; but see Ben-Amos 1993), we have now entered that phase in the study of space and place that has been reconceptualized from text to process, from static entity to performance and event (see, for example, Gabbert 2005) although those terms are only now coming to be commonly applied. Space and place have become productively considered as active process and practices with social consequences. We still hold that space and place, like other folklore forms, have properties that can be entextualized and re-entextualized in the production of meaning, but as entextualization itself is a social process involving situated sets of roles and relationships (cf. Duranti and Goodwin [1992] 1994), space and place are constantly in flux must be considered, like other forms of folklore, as kinds of practices and as emergent. REMANTLING LOCAL CULTURES? Folklorists tend to be more interested in place than space, and since about 1990, due to the theoretical shifts outlined above, place-based

Space, Place, Emergence


Studies have endured severe criticism as being regressive, reactionary, and nostalgic. As the imagined premodern site of authenticity, "place" is perceived as a refuge from the pace and problems of modern life, threatened by mobility and change. In the wake of perceived social change, Halttunen (2006) sees a reactionary "rising chorus of modernday Jeremiahs" lamenting the loss of place, proclaiming its death. Recent criticisms are undoubtedly valid and have gained intellectual purchase on new ideas. But it also is true that such critiques have been somewhat overzealous and contributed to the reification of place at several levels. One problem is slippage. At the material level are physical places as realized by those who create and use them. At one remove, we have scholarly approaches to and analysis of places, as well as official, folk, and popular conceptions. In turn, critiques of these various perspectives demonstrate linkages between methodology, epistemology, and a politics of culture, whether progressive, regressive, or somewhere between. One problem is that at this third level, the critique of some approaches to or conceptions of place has been superimposed onto place itself, such that real places are sometimes thought to have been "actually" bound (rather than constructed that way by scholars, politicians, and others), which then are contrasted with an allegedly more modern mobile world.* This is an instance of "discourses upon discourses," which contributes yet again to the premodern/modern problem. However vague and ill-defined, senses of place persist, and in the wake of global change, thinking about place and locality have become more prominent. As scholars of culture we believe that most of us are interested in place at some level; why else travel? Appadurai (1996) has even suggested that much of the anthropological recordthat is, the recording of house building, path organization, garden making, as well as rites of passagehave really been studies of the production of locality and/or of local subjects, which he says are "inherently fragile" and need to be maintained. Thoughtful scholars ask how we can think about place in an open, relational and non-regressive way (Lippard 1997, Massey 1994, Halttunen 2006). Some, such as Philip Deloria (2006), even embrace their inner Jeremiah (albeit fiippantly), pointing out that laments for place often are grounded in real experiences of loss that should not be so easily dismissed; similarly, Cashman (2006) notes that nostalgia can be a critical tool and not merely reactionary. These points suggest that we need to be clear about whose sense of loss we are talking about and that discussions of place need to remain grounded in ethnographic work.



Scholars are cautioned not to take space and place for granted but instead investigate their means of construction. The inhabitants of the sites examined hereurban North Central Philadelphia, a "mud-on-theboots" logging town recendy turned elite resort, German East Africa, women's spaces, the Internet and its globe-trotting realizationdo not take place for granted, but rather are engaged in actively and intensively producing them for specific purposes. Our authors are not concerned with simply identifying the uniquely local, nor do they engage in philosophically-grounded discussions of epistemology. They are concerned with how particular places come to be constructed, who gets to do the constructing, and in what kinds of contexts. Most of our authors examine sites in which strangers meet and things are exchanged, whether tangibly as in colonial exploration (Pesek), tourist encounters (Gabbert), grassroots urban revitalization (Miller), or in more fleeting abstractions such as virtual interaction and imaginative consumption (McNeill, Kenny). Nearly all embrace tropes of travel, real or imagined, voluntary or induced, and movement between actual locations (Donlon). If issues of space and place arise in such areas, perhaps it is more productive to consider these locations (and by implication, the more general category of place) as sites of active engagement and transformation, rather than as characterized by marginal or incipient modernity. Whether the authors state it explicidy or not, these are all zones of contact and change: that is, of emergence. Weand our authorsdo not regard space and place as determined exclusively by responses to global forces and pressures, but as primarily and significantly constituted by social relations on several scales and multiple levels. We take the nature of these social networks, their human nodes and relational linkages, to be instrumental in understanding how undifferendated space may be transformed into idendfiable and encoded place. This is so even though, like all living social networks, they are shifting, transitory, ever changing. The papers in this volume direct our attention to the muldfarious processes of transformation and emergence. The sites examined here are ones in which social relations are repeatedly challenged, for example by the twin forces of capitalism and colonialism in its many guises. In such sites, place is not taken for granted but becomes not only a site but a salient category of struggle. Understood from this perspective, far from being a refuge, the production and reproducdon of place requires strangers, travel, movement, and contestadon. Struggle and conflict have long been part of place-based studies in folklore (e.g., Montell 1986); the difference is

Space, Place, Emergence


that rather than being a container for those struggles, place is a largerthan-local salient category that is itself fought over. Place and change, then, are not contradictory either as terms or realities; rather, place is grounded in change. This is why place is often important to people who move around and is exactly why people are all over the map, as it were, in terms of their response to place and in their framing of it. In this sense, our authors continue a vein of scholarship that contributes to an ethnographic understanding of culture as a site of power struggles (Gupta and Ferguson 1997) and is why several authors frame place as a site of resistance to hegemonic forces. Lest we lapse into revolutionary romanticism, we should assert that place can also be a site of domination (Wilson 2000). Place is important when it becomes a site of struggle; another way of differentiating it from space, therefore, is that it has become overdy politicized.^ In all ideological struggle, wboever controls the rhetoric controls the discourse. By extension, whoever controls the production of meaning within a place controls the place itself, whether such meaning is realized verbally, iconographically, symbolically, onomastically, or through combined semiotic resources such as those embodied in ceremony and ritual. The history of the German boma in East Africa, as Michael Pesek documents in his paper, is exemplary of symbolic and ceremonial efforts to control and their ultimate failure. The continued struggle for the production of meaning underlies the "covering" issue of Turkish women described byjocelyn Donlon. In addition to tropes of strangers, movement, struggle, and transformation, an underlying theme of the imaginary runs through many of the papers. Some places are real, some are imagined, and some real places are overlaid by tbe imaginarya phenomenon so ubiquitous that it may be universal. In some cases, the imagined are more elaborated in a sense, "realer"than the experienced "real," even when ideationally located within or imposed upon the real, as in German East Africa. Several of the papers that follow illustrate how the imaginative construction of place can and sometimes does replace the actual.^ This suggests linkages between the exercise of power and the exercise of the imagination, and suggests that the movement toward power begins witb the recognition of solidarity, proceeds through the imagination of power, and is realized through the manipulation of space, a clinal dynamic recognized and described by the social semioticians Robert Hodge and Guntber Kress (1988), Paul Thibault (1991), and Theo van Leeuwen (Kress and van Leeuwen 1996, van Leeuwen 2005). While it is usual to think of such processes as unfolding in places defined by coordinates in



the physical world, the human body can itself be a site both of struggle and ofthe movement along the cline of solidarity and power, asjocelyn Donlon's and Erin Kenny's papers attest (see also Sonesson 1992, Young 1993, Jordan-Smith 2000, 2001, Horton 2001, Horton and Jordan-Smith 2004). The reverse process occurs as well; real and imagined places fade into cultural memory, evoking a sense of loss and "nostalgia for paradise," to use Eliade's poignant term (Eliade 1961, 1977),

Michael Pesek's article "The Boma and the Peripatetic Ruler" speaks directly to issues of power, exploring relationships between transformations of space and colonialism in East Africa. Taking a performative approach to the history of German expansion, Pesek focuses on situated moments of interaction in the colonialist encounter illustrating that, at least for German East Africa, the colonial territory was not a coherent entity but rather one imagined first by an individual (the explorer Carl Peters), then by the state, and only sporadically and incompletely accomplished in practice. Pesek opens with an account of how Peters invented African leaders and territories in order to enact treaties in which these things could be signed over for protection from a colonial government that did not yet exist. Peters' endeavors were, Pesek writes drolly, "exchange[s] of very vague things." Pesek's overall argument is that the German colonial project lacked sustained spatial presence, so the military spectacle took on the heightened meaning of ritual performance. Since such performances were symbolic and so could be interpreted and manipulated in different ways, the project was doomed to remain ineffectual. Lisa Gabbert also examines relations between real and symbolic reconfigurations of space in "Situating the Local by Inventing the Global," Asking why the residents of McCall, Idaho continue to produce a winter carnival that is fraught with confiict and about which residents are highly ambivalent, she argues that the key context for this festival is the contemporary and conflicted moment of accelerated modernization that has occurred due to economic restructuring and the globalization of capital. In a town recently overrun by resort developers, she argues that the transformation of space at the community level is reinterpreted in the transformation of symbolic space at the festive one. Focusing on the main Mardi Gras parade and the construction of snow sculptures, she illustrates how each event invents various kinds of global Otherness in order to strategically situate the local both as a point of contrast and

Space, Place, Emergmce


to rekey it as an essential figure within a global ecumene. In doing so she illustrates not only how and why the local becomes more significant in moments of accelerated modernization, but also that what is construed as global is as much an invention at the local level as the other way around. In classic folklore form, Lynne McNeill identifies and classifies a heretofore unacknowledged custom in her article, "Portable Places: Serial Collaboration and the Creation of a New Sense of Place." Serial Collaborative entails a number of people interacting with a particular object serially and often is facilitated through the Internet. Objects are either passed from person to person, such as BookCrossing, or they are stationary and people travel to them, such as Geocaching. Highlighting the premises of movement and travel that underlie this custom, McNeill argues that collaboradvely created objects (Serially Collaborative Creations, or SCCs) are the loci of interactions among strangers, and so become a kind of "place" that retains traces of a history of social relationships and locations. In a society characterized by mobility, virtual social interaction is simply not enough, McNeill writes, so "concepts such as 'place' and 'home' must simply become things we can take with us when we travel." As such, they allow for an experience of place that is mobile, not tied to a particular location. At the same time, place is here objectified and made concrete, and hence McNeill breathes new life into traditional ideas of place drawn from foundational scholars like Yi-Fu Tuan. Erin Kenny's article, "Bellydancing in the Town Square: Leaking Peace through Tribal Style Identity," focuses on consumption practices of female participants in an American Tribal Style (ATS) dance troupe as a means of alternative identity construction. Kenny illustrates how participants in Missouri break out of the gendered confines of their Midwestern location by drawing on global stereotypes, intentionally adopting an exotic and stylistically idealized "middle eastern" style of clothing and dance in performance. In doing so, participants transform conventional notions of beauty and the body, as well as engage in social activism to create temporary spaces in which alternative identities are privileged. The result, as Kenny points out, is "a longing for inclusive tolerance of global diversity and acceptance as well as a complex, but distinctly western, set of consumption practices that paradoxically poses challenges to the logic of place-based economies." Kenny illustrates that while the economy is an important means by which relations are created, it is also a means of creativity and transformation.



Jocelyn Donlon's article "Islamic Head Covering among Turkish Women in the US: Creating International Spaces of Difference" highlights interrelationships between gender, religion, and national citizenship by exploring the issues faced in Turkey and the US by five Muslim women who have chosen to scarve for religious purposes. Donlon argues that as visible signs of religious identity, headcoverings are seen as a threat to the modern nation-state in Turkey while they are taken as a sign of undifferentiated "foreignness" in the US. A democratic, secular nation, Turkey has banned the wearing of headscarves in public places and denies women who chose to cover access to education. In doing so, Turkey constructs itself as both democratic and modern through exclusionary practices based on the appearance of the bodies of women. In the US, only particular religious identities are construed as national ones and so while the Turkish women Donlon interviews have found greater freedom of religious dress they remain excluded from the nation because to be American is to be uncovered. In both cases, the national body excludes those unwilling or unable to uke an invisible subject position in the public sphere, a role that historically has been held by ethnic minorides and women. Rosina Miller extends a long tradition of regional folklore studies by drawing upon recent cridcal regionalist scholarship in her article "Sharing Prosperity: Cridcal Regionalism and Place-Based Social Change." A critical regionalist stance is agent-oriented, seeking to actively counter hegemonic forces by drawing on them to define place from the inside through place-making strategies. In this sense, place is an active practice and performance. Engaging in what she identifies as an ethnography of spatial pracdce (see Appadurai 1996), Miller focuses on a community development process in urban North Central Philadelphia called "Shared Prosperity" to illustrate that community organizers not only recognize the label of "inner city" as a trope that serves hegemonic purposes, but they also strategically draw on regionalizing pracdce/discourse to accomplish its aims and hence are already doing in pracdce what scholars are sdll developing in theory. In this way, she writes, "celebradng attachments to place and culture can be a strategy of resistance and not always reacdonary, but a site of struggle and an opportunity for resistance to hegemonic forces."

Is it possible to incorporate into a single framework the tropes of movement and travel, strangers, struggle, embodiment, and the

Space, Place, Emergence


imagination that have emerged in these papers concerning the construction of place? One framework appears to be the practice of ethnography itself and the ever-changing, emergent nature of relations between the ethnographer and the people with whom she works. Most ethnographers no longer maintain an attitude of distance and objectivitya proper "space," if you willbetween themselves and their objects of research. The ethnographic process entails, through ever-changing and emergent sets of roles and social relationships, engagement with communities in some way, and hence a movement from unfamiliar space to an entanglement with place routed through and created by movement, strangers, embodied practice, and the imagination. The sense of community (which might perhaps be better called a "sense of communality") claimed by a place's inhabitants and increasingly experienced by ethnographers, is perhaps the principal significant result of the transformation of space into place. But this sense depends on more than simply the relationships realized at a given (i.e., historical) moment. It depends in large part also on imagined possibilities, topoi, remembered, desired, and perhaps sometimes feared, but that are not immediately realized and yet that become manifest over time, indicating the importance of attending to diachronic dimensions. These possibilities have not only a dialogical, "developmental," non-planned quality, but also intentionality, in the sense of specifying a "space" that is open both to further action and to yet further specification and interpretation, that is, it is a space with a "horizon" to it. (Shotter 1993:70) This "horizon" (using a term introduced in this context by Heidegger) represents not only a boundary separating a place from its neighbor and the local from the global, but also the limits of the known worldwhich for some may hold terror, for others irresistible fascination, be for some a haven in a dangerous larger world, for others confinement within a hegemony or a self-styled prison. If community is a network of fiuid, ever-changing relationships, then place might be regarded as what is traced by the actual working out of different relationships whose trajectories define place within space. Perhaps it is understanding these traces that ethnography is all about.
NOTES 1. is an excellent place to begin web research on space and place. 2. Although scholars tend to cite Tuan's early books because of their influence.



his more recent work is interesting as well. See, for example, Tuan 1991 which covers symbolic placemaking practices through the examination of language; 1980 for thoughts on place and artifacts; 1996 for his thoughts on the dialectics of cosmopolitanism and homeworlds, which is very similar to concepts of the local and the global. 3. For good introductions to these issues as they developed in the mid '80s, see Appadurai 1986; Hannerz 1986; and the special issue of Cultural Anthropology 3/1 (1988), especially Appadurai, Fernandez, and Rosaldo. 4. Archaeologists, for example, have been drawing on their own work to counter reified notions of how places were used and lived in by people in the past (Cobb 2005). 5. Space is inherently political, existing as political capital at the very least. The identification of an area as "empty space" is a political act. 6. Or emerges as "real" without a prior model, as in Baudrillard's notion of the simulacrum (1994). The "3D online digital world" known as Second Life, developed by Linden Labs ( is an example of a highly elaborated imaginary place whose boundaries overlap with the real world. Its "inhabitants" (i.e., participating members) number over ten million as of this writing, with 40,000 logged on at any one time (at the time of publication). The library under development in Second Life contains cyber copies of actual texts, as well as scanned images of title pages, illustrations, and covers, suggesting that the map under construction of this digitally imagined world has become the territory. WORKS CITED Abrahams, Roger D. 1968. Introductory Remarks to a Rhetorical Theory of
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