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Preface to Reprint of Place and Placelessness IT wrote Place and Placelessness at a time when the world presented to me a simpler aspect than it does now. There was a reason for this. The impacts of modernism, both architectural and intellectual, were at their height and a standardised, objective approach was generally considered to be the best one for the design of social housing, skyscrapers, research projects, and, indeed, everything. From this lofty perspective, anything historical, local, or ambiguous was either held to be in need of renewal or considered to be of secondary importance. There were, however, still a lot of unreconstructed premodern landscapes and a not inconsiderable number of academics using well-tried methods to investigate them. The consequence was that both the academic world and the world of places and landscapes were, for a few years, marked by striking oppositions. The two cultures. Science or the Arts. Modernists pitched against traditionalists. Scientific method or phenomenology. Placelessness and place. My interest in diverse places derives, | think, from a deep instinct. I have, for as long as I can remember, taken pleasure in landscapes. It probably helped to grow up on the Welsh side of the Wye Valley—a part of the world with spectacular scenery, where views from the bus on the way to school reached thirty miles to the Black Mountains, and neolithic monuments, Roman settlements, and medieval castles and churches were part of everyday life. So also were cottages that had neither plumbing nor electricity, little farms with sides of bacon hanging in the kitchen, forestry plantations that were cropped to make pit props for coal mines, and not too far away were those coal mines in the Forest of Dean and the Welsh Valleys. I played soccer next to Tintern Abbey and rugby next to the steelworks at Ebbw Vale. The landscapes I experienced, and the places to which they formed a backdrop. were worked and used as well as admired for their scenery. Perhaps as an outcome of these early experiences my appreciation of places is catholic: I have found few that haven't intrigued me, so when I am asked where my favourite places are I find it difficult to answer. I have no favourite places, no examples of best practices. The places that both informed and are illustrated in Place and Placelessness were not chosen deliberately; they were simply where I had happened to live or to visit. The immediate impetus for writing about place arose, however, neither from this deep instinct nor from my life experiences. It came from the academic recognition that, while there were many definitions of the discipline of Geography as the study of place or places, there were almost no discussions about what ‘place’ means. This omission seemed to be worth exploring. In the 1970s there were no electronic catalogues or search engines. and library research began by working through a subject catalogue of file cards. I immediately discovered that ‘place’ was not identified as a subject: it was not a category, it had no cards. This made it even more interesting. In the absence of any obvious alternative I resorted to a method that is more or less exactly the sort of approach that guarantees rejection for research grants. Preface to Reprint of Place and Placelessness First, I extracted from my general reading, which included novels, books of essays, and readings that had been assigned for courses, any mentions of place that I could find. Then I went to the Geography section of the library and looked systematically in the index of every book on the shelf for key words—place, sense of place, genius loci, roots, uprooting, and so on. The pickings were slim but useful. And I did happen upon a little book by Eric Dardel, L'Homme et la Terre, published in 1952, which is a phenomenological account of geographical experience and which provided me with the key for connecting the concept of place with my own experiences of places and with phenomenology. I already had a latent interest in phenomenology, partly because it is associated with existentialism and the novels of Camus and Sartre had been part of my general reading, and partly for the perverse academic reason that it provided philosophical criticisms of the positivistic arguments being used by those attempting to remake Geography into a science—an idea with which I disagreed. Phenomenology, I had discovered, provides a rigorous alternative to scientific method. In combination with Dardel’s arguments, this reinforced my realisation that both geography and place are, at their core, phenomena of experience that can best be explicated phenomenologically. So Place and Placelessness, and the phenomenological approaches it adopts, had mixed origins, though all of them seemed to stem from my reaction against what I considered to be the arrogance of modernism and rationalism. The rather neat binary interpretation of place and placelessness that followed from this confrontational attitude seemed appropriate at a time when clean-sweep urban renewal and other-directed commercialism were actively revising the way landscapes looked. Now, however, this interpretation appears to me to be too straightforward to provide an adequate account of place experience. Rootedness in one place, which was still common in the 1960s, has almost everywhere been substituted by a celebration of mobility. Modernism, with its ordered, futuristic, standardised, monochrome view of the world, has largely given way to postmodernism, in which uncertainty is acknowledged and diversity celebrated. The language of the former white, male, urban renewal culture is obsolete and unacceptable in the multiracial, gender-balanced, heritage-preservation cultures of the early 2Ist century. In short, the distinction between place and placelessness is much less obvious now than it was thirty years ago. ‘Changes in experience of place In the 1950s and 1960s most of the people in those Welsh villages where I was growing up had lived there all their lives. Outsiders were few and looked upon with suspicion; travel was difficult and slow—it took most of a day to get to London regardless of whether you went by car, bus, or train—so people did not travel much. In those respects life was not very different from how it must have been a century or two previously. Subsequently, however, the local population has been mostly replaced by retirees and by people Preface to Reprint of Place and Placelessness who work in Birmingham, Bristol, and London, cities that are now easily accessible by motorways. Only a few remain of the local families who have been here for generations. Little cottages have been reconstructed into houses with five bedrooms and three bathrooms (one in Catbrook is owned by Sporty Spice of the Spice Girls). The village schools and shops have closed, but shopping weekends away in Rome or Barcelona are nothing exceptional. What has happened, essentially within a single generation, is an almost complete geographical inversion—there has been a change in preference from staying put to traveling whenever possible that was coupled with the replacement of a long-established population. I am part of this inversion because I moved away, first to London, then to Toronto, and travel frequently to others cities, countries, and continents. My experience is not unusual. The combination of increased disposable income, car ownership, expressways, cheap air travel, international migrations in the hope of earning more money somewhere else, all reinforced by various forms of instant electronic communication, has wrought enormous changes in how places are experienced for almost everyone in almost every part of the world. Latin American masons build the coastal paths of the Costa Brava, vegetables from Kenya and Thailand are sold in Britain, South Asians play cricket on the Microsoft campus in Seattle, electronic products made in China are sold in Wal-Marts across North America, electronic garbage is exported from North America to China, and the Internet allows us to arrange cheap holidays in exotic destinations on the other side of the world at the last minute. From an economic perspective these changes are said to have compressed distance and flattened space. As a humanistic geographer I see this rather differently. For me it is clear that experiences of place have been enormously broadened and diversified by the compression of space. I understand this as at least partly a positive change. As far I know, my grandparents spent most of their lives within a radius of a few miles, presumably as a function of necessity rather than choice because travel was difficult. This was how most people had come to know places throughout human history, and it is a type of experience that informs widely held ideas about home, about having roots and somewhere fixed and familiar to come from and where you can return. Such focused experience has many wonderful qualities, which is probably why it is a powerful element in almost every culture. It also has problems, which I mention in Place and Placelessness in terms of the drudgery of seeing the same people and doing the same things day in and day out. I have subsequently realised that the problems go much deeper than drudgery. There is little that is wonderful about home for those who spend most days wondering how to get enough money to buy food and pay the rent, or who are victims of domestic violence. Nor is it wonderful when a deep association with place mutates into exclusionary attitudes that reveal themselves in segregation, or, at their extreme, in the violent practices of ethnic cleansing (Relph, 1997). A strong sense of place based on narrow geographical expe- rience is not all sweetness and light: it has a dark side.