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Re-imagining a Sense of Place

Given the significance a ‘sense of place’ has on a community’s demographic (gender, age, class, religion, ethnicity, etc), individually, and as a whole, it is important to develop a more nuanced awareness as to how everyday places are instrumental in establishing a sense of belonging (or exclusion). Recognising how they play a role in defining a locus of post-conflict identity.

By acknowledging the post-conflict world, as a world of places, we can begin to see attachments and synergies between people and place

Place, memory and meaning create a ‘sense of place’ that permeates everyday aspects of individuals’ life experience and these, “senses of place pervade everyday life and experience” which is a way of indicating that places are infused with meaning and feeling. This is also an indication, as to, just how disturbing a post conflict environment will be, not only on an individual level but also, from their community’s perspective too. Massey explains that, “a sense of place is more than just one person’s feelings about a particular place; such feelings are not only individual but also social” (Rose, Massey 1995).

UNIFORMNOVEMBER asks if the everyday memories of violence contribute to the distortion and reimagining of an individual’s and a community’s homegrown sense of place. Hamber suggests that “[a] world is created where nowhere is seen as safe and where the line between death and extreme suffering on the one hand and ordinary living on the other is obliterated” (Hamber 2015,3). A condition of place, memory and meaning that is incredibly important to consider when attempting to build peace from the physical and psychological debris of war.

Despite the growing sophistication of the ways in which the peacebuilding establishment addresses reconciliation and the mode of post conflict remembrance, many peacebuilding efforts fail and return to violence within the first five years of their implementation.

UNIFORM NOVEMBER argues that the theoretical and practical reconciliatory present suffers from a lack of awareness and engagement, especially with regards to post-conflict communities and the relationship with their built environment, their sense of place and the memories of a violent past that many of the buildings represent, often in the form of ordinary places and spaces which for many resonate with traumatic memory.

These memories create an everyday sense of place, an awareness that evolves within the communities once the fighting ends and is relatively undetected or evaluated as a source from which to strengthen the implementation of a more sustainable peacebuilding process.

Further work is required to address the lack of people exploring post-conflict everyday sense of place whist developing an appropriate mode of remembrance that does justice to an environment of entangled post-conflict emotions where the mundane routines of life, are punctuated by the remainders and reminders of violence.

There are many existing studies in the broader literature, which have examined the significance of place[1], “Edwar Said, Stuart Hall, Benedict Anderson and Raymond Williams and many more, have stressed the importance of space and place as a framing device in the creation of cultural imaginaries” (Hubbard and Kitchin, 2010). Despite the literature, peacebuilding agencies seem to have overlooked the importance of place and its social significance at an everyday aspect of interaction.

Casey encapsulates the primary importance of place and posits, “place is as requisite as the air we breathe, the ground on which we stand, the bodies we have. We are surrounded by places. We walk over and through them. We live in places, relate to others in them, die in them. Nothing we do is unplaced” (Casey 2013,9). It is easy to image then, just how a combination of places and their meaning, can permeate the lives of humans and their communities, evoking a sense of place

[1] There are many scholars that have written about place, Casey makes a useful summary (pages 285-330 in his book, The Fate of Place 2013) from which to refer to further orientation on the broader subject. Place: In the course of history (Braudel, Foucault); In the natural world (Berry, Snyder); In the political realm (Nancy, Lefebvre); In gender and sexual difference (Irigarary) In the production of poetic imagination (Bachelard, Otto); In the sociology of the polis and the city (Benjamin, Arendt, Walter); In nomadism (Deleuze and Guattari); In architecture (Derrida, Eisenman, Tschumi) and In religion (Irigaray, Nancy).

Image: Unknown Photographer


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