Research on Space & Place: What Should I Read First?

This site contains thousands of entries. Where should someone new to the field begin? Well, of course, everyone will have their favourite writers. And, it really depends on what your purpose is in researching place — a fine article in one field may not be of much use to another field. Then again, it might – keep an open mind.

But I thought I’d list some places to start. This is not a list of the most important works in the field (as if I would dare to construct such a list), nor are they the best introductions to place in specific disciplines, but rather the best places for someone who knows little or nothing about the history and uses of the concept of place to find an overview or orientation. Click on the person’s name (in most cases) to go to more of his or her work. Or, go back to the main page and look for the “Quick Links to People” menu, which lists significant writers.

Another good place to look for introductory material is at the end of Tim Cresswell’s Place: A Short Introduction, listed below. He provides an annotated list of central books, papers, journals, etc.

1. Tim Cresswell
Tim Cresswell is a geographer who has written some excellent introductory material on place (as well as very good advanced material). As an introduction, one could hardly do better than:

Cresswell, Tim. Place: A Short Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004.

2. Edward Casey
Casey, Edward. Getting Back Into Place: Toward a Renewed Understanding of the Place-World. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1993.

Casey, Edward. The Fate Of Place: A Philosophical History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Casey has done some of the most extensive work on place. Getting Back Into Place is a phenomenological reflection on the concept of place, while The Fate of Place is, as the title suggests, a history of the concept in philosophy. The first is probably more accessible to someone who doesn’t have a philosophical background. Or, you could try this briefer introduction:

Casey, Edward. “How to Get From Space to Place in a Fairly Short Stretch of Time: Phenomenological Prolegomena.” Feld, Steven and Keith H. Basso. Senses of Place. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press, 1996.

3. Michael R. Curry
Curry has done much fine work on geography, technology and place (much of it available on the web as PDF files). One essay has a particularly useful overview:

Curry, Michael R. “Discursive Displacement and the Seminal Ambiguity of Space and Place.” Lievrouw, Leah & Sonia Livingstone, eds. The Handbook of New Media: Social Shaping and Consequences of ICT. London: Sage Publications, 2002: 502-517.

4. Yi-Fu Tuan
Everyone looks back on Tuan’s work as seminal. Anything by him is worth reading; I’ll suggest one readily available work, that has just been re-issued:

Tuan, Yi-Fu. Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977, 2001.

5. David Seamon
Seamon has been very prolific over the years, and has both written and edited work on place across many disciplines (see Dwelling, Seeing, and Designing, and Dwelling, Place and Environment, for starters). He also edits Environmental and Architectural Phenomenology Newsletter. The following work is an excellent overview of writing on place:

Seamon, David. “Phenomenology, Place, Environment, and Architecture: A Review of the Literature”

6. David Harvey
Harvey’s work is well known in geography. The following article gets a lot of attention, for good reason. It has a nice overview of the concept, and it also contains one of the few (although not the only) conceptual critiques of the use of place, in this case a Marxian-inspired critique of Heidegger.

Harvey, David. “From Space to Place and Back Again: Reflections on the Condition of Postmodernity” in Bird, Jon, Barry Curtis, Tim Putnam, George Robertson & Lisa Tickner, eds. Mapping the Futures. London: Routledge, 1993: 3-29.

Also in Justice, Nature, and the Geography of Difference. Cambridge, Mass: Blackwell, 1996.

7. Edward Relph
This book is out of print, but it is an early and important reflection on place.

Relph, Edward. Place and Placelessness. London: Pion, 1976.

8. Lucy Lippard
This well-known and iconoclastic art critic has written some very fine work on the (re)presentations of place. The best is:

Lippard, Lucy. The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society. New York: The New Press, 1997.

9. Jennifer Cross
Someone whose work in general I don’t know, but the following paper is very good on the notion of the “sense of place”

Cross, Jennifer. “What is Sense of Place?”

10. Irwin Altman & Setha Low
A classic on place attachment.

Altman, Irwin & Setha M. Low, eds. Place Attachment. New York: Plenum Press, 1992.

And, there’s another fine work, by Setha Low and Denise Lawrence, which gives a fine overview of the idea of place in cultural anthropology (at least, to 1990):

Lawrence, Denise L. and Setha M. Low. “The Built Environment and Spatial Form.” Annual Review of Anthropology 19 (1990) 453-505.

11. Phil Hubbard, Rob. Kitchin and Gill Valentine
Hubbard, P., Kitchin, R.M. and Valentine, G., eds. Key Contemporary Thinkers on Space and Place. London: Sage, 2004.

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