By: Alexander C. Diener and Joshua Hagen
What is the main purpose of your study?
Attachments are intrinsic to the human condition and place attachments shape everyday
routines (e.g. routes to work, shopping, social interactions), major life choices (e.g. places of residence, education, vacations), and identities (e.g. civic, national, religious). This study takes a big picture look at the complexity and richness of place attachment as researched across multiple disciplines while also outlining how geographers can make a more pronounced contribution. While geographers implicitly engage place attachment as a theme, even if by other names, their work is currently marginalized in the burgeoning field of “place attachment research.” This is surprising as there are vast possibilities for synergy with cognate disciplinary approaches which would greatly from geography’s multi-dimensional consideration of place as integral to understanding place attachment. This article, therefore, provides a framework for approaching of place attachment as that calls for consideration of its materiality, performance, and narration. Rather than being static or deterministic, this model points to people’s varied capacities to make and remake place attachments, and in doing so reasserts the power of place in place attachment.
What are the practical, day to day, implications of your study?
Humans are geographical beings with an innate propensity to organize space and in the
process make places. In the process of spatial organization and differentiation, people develop emotional attachments to specific places, as well as specific people, objects, and
practices associated with those places. The notion of home is arguably the most fundamental way in which humans make places and place attachments, and by extension
organize daily life as individuals, families, communities, and societies. But home is only one type of place to which people are attached. Narratives of attachment to place take many forms and emphasize multiple themes, ranging from love, security, and belonging, to departure, loss, and exile, and longing, nostalgia, and homecoming. Attachments occur across multiple scales from personal dwellings to community, region, and homeland, thus attesting to the power of place as a totem of identity, belonging, and attachment.
How does your study relate to other work on the subject?
This study of placemaking and place attachment provides a snapshot of the diverse
methodological and theoretical perspectives currently animating place attachment research among geographers, spanning a variety of topical, regional, and historical contexts. That variety highlights the growing interest among geographers in emphasizing the spatiality of place attachment, a perspective frequently overlooked or taken for granted in place attachment scholarship which has largely been dominated by the fields of psychology and sociology since the 1990s. Additionally, this study aims to reinvigorate place attachment research across geography and its numerous subfields and help shift the discipline from primarily consuming theoretical and methodological developed in other disciplines, to being able to contribute its own distinct place-based theories, methods, and applications.
What are two or three interesting findings that come from your study?
- Geographers approach place attachment consistently in their research but usually implicitly rather than explicitly. This leaves their work, too often, marginal to the burgeoning field of “place attachment research.”
- Place attachment is a product of assemblage in which the materiality, links to performance, and to narration to create a psychological bond with a profound influence on the human condition.
- The multi-dimensionality of place is underappreciated in current place attachment research and geographers are uniquely positioned methodologically and epistemologically to advance understanding on the topic.
What might be some of the theoretical implications of this study?
This study aims to reinvigorate place attachment research across geography and its
numerous subfields and help shift the discipline from primarily consuming theoretical and methodological developed in other disciplines, to being able to contribute its own distinct place-based theories, methods, and applications. The framework for approaching place attachment provided in this article speaks to vast synergies with other disciplines, as well as avenues of future theorization on the topic of place attachment and placemaking within geography.
How does your research help us think about Geography?
This paper makes clear that geographers helped pioneer place attachment research. It also speaks to a departure from the topic in explicit use of the term. But geography has never abandoned place attachment as a topic and approaches it implicitly through a variety of themes, terms, and topics. Given the emergence of a robust and active field of place attachment research, we call for more explicit engagement with the theme by geographers so as to emphasize the multi-dimensionality of place and combat reductionism as manifest in other disciplinary approaches.