My Publications about Place

A Prefatory Note on my Publications about Place and Research Approaches

Place has been a long-standing academic interest of mine. I wrote a book forty years ago, Place and Placelessness (1976, originally Pion, now published by Sage), which has been translated into several languages, and was reprinted in 2010 unchanged except for a new preface. It has been widely referenced in many different disciplines, perhaps because this was one of the first academic books devoted to the concept and experience of place.

Place and Placelessness was a revised version of my thesis in Geography, The Phenomenon of Place, that I completed at the University of Toronto in 1973.  In that I aimed to make sense of a word that was widely regarded as central to my discipline and about which almost nothing had been written about it. The card catalogs in libraries, which at the time were the closest things to search engines available, had almost no entries for place, genius loci, or sense of place, so my naive approach was to look systematically through books on the shelves in what seemed to be relevant sections of the library, follow whatever lead this turned up, and then to write an account that clarified whatever I learned about place and place experiences and was illustrated with photos and diagrams. I approached this phenomenologically because phenomenology addresses things from the perspective of how they are experienced rather than as abstract concepts, and that seems entirely appropriate for place, which is first experienced and then thought about.

I juxtaposed place and placelessness because at that time – around 1970 – international approaches of modernist planning and architecture were ascendant and it seemed to me that there was a disjuncture between ideas and experiences of place, and the placeless ways in which landscapes were then being made.

Place was a subject of peripheral academic interest, and though a handful of books about it were published in the decade after mine my own focus turned mostly to the question of why urban and other landscapes look as they do. And in the early 1990s, when there was a surge of academic and popular interest in place from many different perspectives, I became involved in university middle management, chairing a multi-disciplinary department of Social Sciences (Geography, Anthropology, Political Science, Sociology, International Development Studies). This gave me a deep appreciation for the methods and concepts used by different social sciences, but distracted me from pursuing my interests both in place and landscape.

My interest in place was revived partly by a request from Susan Hanson to write a chapter on sense of place in a book she was editing, and partly because my administrative work shifted to a position overseeing the redevelopment and expansion of the campus where I was teaching,  work that involved considerable interaction with architects, urban designers and planners. I became increasingly aware of the remarkable growth in research about place in many disciplines that had occurred since about 1990, a growth that has not abated. And this awareness eventually led to the idea of this website.

My research approach to place was and still is a simple one. It is a combination of reading what I can about place regardless of disciplinary affiliations, and looking at what is happening in landscapes. For this website I use library search engines to trawl through their collections, I surf the web in order to find whatever I can that has been written about place, and I take photos of signs and anything else that refers to place.

Books and Reports
1. Place and Placelessness, Pion, London, 1976, Paperback Edition, Methuen, 1984. Reprinted with a new introduction 2010 (translated into  Japanese, Korean, Farsi, and Chinese; included as a Classic in Human Geography in Progress in Human Geography Vol 24, No 4, 2000). Since 2015 published under a Sage imprint.
2. Rational Landscapes, Barnes and Noble, New York, 1981. Reissued by Routledge 2015
3. Modern Urban Landscapes The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1987  (translated into Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese)
4. The Toronto Guide: The City, Metro, The Region (distributed at the Association of American Geographers Conference, Toronto, 1990; revised and updated for American Planning Association Conference, Toronto, 1995; revised by the Centre for Urban and Community Studies, University of Toronto, 1997;Revised and Updated for the Canadian Association of Geographers Conference, Toronto, 2002 )
5. Toronto: Transformations in a City and its Region, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2014

Essays and Articles relating to Place

  1. “An Inquiry into the Relations between Geography and Phenomenology” Canadian Geographer, 1970
  2. “Phenomenology and Humanism in Geography” Annals, Association of American Geographers, 1977
  3. “To See with the Soul of the Eye”, Landscape, 1979 (republished in Orion Quarterly, 1984, and in the Utne Reader, 1986)
  4. “Phenomenology”, in Basic Themes in Geographical Thought, ed. Brian Holly, Croom-Helm, 1981
  5. “Seeing, Thinking and Describing Landscape”, in Environment, Perception and Behavior, eds. T. Saarinen, D.Seamon and J. Sell, University of Chicago, Department of Geography Research Series, No. 209, 1984
  6. “Geographical Experience and Being-in-the-World”, in Dwelling, Place and Environment, ed. D. Seamon and R. Mugerauer, Martinus Nijhof, The Hague, 1985.
  7. “Responsive Methods and The Geographical Imagination”, in Restructuring Human Geography, ed. A. Kobayashi and S. Mackenzie, Unwin Hyman,1986).
  8. “A Curiously Unbalanced Condition of the Powers of the Mind”, a chapter in The Behavioural Environment, Festschrift Volume for William Kirk, ed. F. Boal and D. Livingstone, Routledge, London, 1989
  9. “Yosemite as a Mythical Place” Places, Vol. 6, No. 3 1990.
  10. “The Reclamation of Place” Orion, Vol 12, No 1, 1993
  11. “Modernity and the Reclamation of Place”, in Dwelling, Seeing, Designing, ed D. Seamon and R. Mugerauer,SUNY Press, 1993
  12. “Critical Reflections on Environmental Ethics and Sense of Place” National Geographical Journal of India, Special Volume on Environmental Ethics and the Power of Place, ed R.P.B. Singh, Vol. 39, 1994
  13. “Place” in the Companion Encyclopaedia of Geography, ed I. Douglas, M. Robinson and J. Williams, Routledge 1996
  14. “Sense of Place” in Ten Geographical Ideas that Have Changed the World, ed Susan Hanson, Rutgers University Press 1997
  15. “Place and Urban Identity” Rebuilding and Design, Japan Urban Design Institute, 1997
  16. “Place and Placelessness in a new Context,” response to comments in the Classics in Geography series in Progress in Geography 2001 Vol 24, No 4, 2000
  17. “Place, in Geography” Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Science, Pergamon Press, 2001
  18. “The Critical Description of Confused Geographies” in Textures of Place : Exploring Humanist Geographies, Eds Paul Adams, Karen Till, Steven Hoelscher, , University of Minnesota Press, 2001.
  19. “Temporality and Sustainability” in Reanimating Places, Festschrift for Anne Buttimer, edited by Tom Mels, Ashgate Press 2004
  20. “Spirit of Place and Sense of Place in Virtual Realities”, Techne: Research in Technology and Philosophy 2007
  21. “What sort of urban design for what sorts of urban places”  Journal of Architecture of Infrastructure and Environment, Japanese Society of Civil Engineers, December 2007
  22. “A Pragmatic Sense of Place” in Making Sense of Place, ed Frank Vanclay et al, Australian National Museum, Canberra, April 2008.
  23. “Coping with Social and Environmental Challenges through a Pragmatic Approach to Place” in Sense of Place, Health, and Quality of Life, ed John Eyles and Allison Williams, Ashgate, 2008
  24. “Geographical Experiences and being-in-the-world: the phenomenological origins of Geography”, in Gelebtner, Erfarhrener und Erinnertner Raum, ed Hg, von J. Hasse, andR.J. Kozlanic, Jahrbuch für Lebensphilosophie, V, 2010/11.
  25. “Reflectoes sobre a emergencia, aspectos e a essencia de lugar” in Lugar, ed Eduardo Marandola, Editora Perspectiva, Sao Paulo, 2012
  26. “Place and Connection”  The Intelligence of Place ed.  Jeff Malpas, Bloomsbury Press, 2015
  27. “The Paradox of Place and the Evolution of Placelessness”  in Place and Placelessness Revisited, eds. Rob Freestone and Edgar Liu, Routledge, 2016.