Geography Place
Jon Anderson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 March 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 March 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0159


Place is a central concept for an increasing number of academic disciplines. Having been central to human geography for many decades, the spatial turn across the humanities and social sciences in the twenty-first century has accelerated and intensified interest in the term. The popularity of place can be understood due to the trialectic nature of the concept: “place” is at once locational, sociocultural, and temporal. Place as a locational concept refers to a straightforward point or position in space, but it is also at once a social concept, drawing attention to the cultural positioning and social relations of the people, processes, and practices involved in co-producing that location. These two components conjoin with the temporal context of place, enabling scholars to analyze how a site changes over time and how particular moments in its history should be interpreted. Drawing attention to these trialectic components implies that all beings and practices are platial in nature; in other words, they are tied through different processes and to different degrees into reciprocal relations with places. As a consequence of this recognition, the concept is now employed in arenas ranging from empiricist understandings of locations, conceptual developments in onto-epistemology, critical analysis of social relations, and reflexive praxis in methodology.

General Overviews

General overviews on the concept of place range from historical summaries (Casey 2013, Cresswell 2014), geographical manifestoes (Massey 2005, Murdoch 2006), readers on the spatial imagination (Agnew 2005; Edensor, et al. 2020; Hubbard and Kitchin 2010), and how place can be applied in subdisciplinary and methodological contexts (Anderson 2021; Anderson, et al. 2010).

  • Agnew, John. “Space: Place.” In Spaces of Geographical Thought. Edited by Paul Cloke and Ron Johnston, 81–95. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2005.

    DOI: 10.4135/9781446216293.n5

    Written by a key scholar in the history of place as a critical concept, this chapter helps the reader position “place” in relation to its dualistic counterpoint “space.” It summarizes the key intellectual and political shifts that a focus on place demands and which are taken up in other suggested readings in other sections.

  • Anderson, Jon. Understanding Cultural Geography: Places and Traces. 3d ed. London: Routledge, 2021.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780367814816

    This overview on cultural geography illustrates how place can become a key term in operationalizing a geographical analysis of the world. It demonstrates how place and power become intertwined and how cultural groups culturally order and geographically border places in line with their own values and ideas. It also usefully combines constant and changing approaches to place, framing place as “an ongoing composition of traces.” The third edition introduces the notion of place as “pass.”

  • Anderson, Jon, Peter Adey, and Paul Bevan. “Positioning Place: Polylogic Approaches to Research Methodology.” Qualitative Research 10.5 (2010): 589–604.

    DOI: 10.1177/1468794110375796

    This paper usefully overviews how place influences methodology. It suggests that while place in the sense of social positioning has had a significant influence over the practice of methodology, place as geographical location has received less attention. It argues that taking the “where of method” seriously can be achieved through adopting a “polylogic” approach to research methodology.

  • Casey, Edward. The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520276031.001.0001

    Casey offers a historical overview of how the concept of place has evolved, positioning and defining it within the commonly accepted dialectical relations “place-space.” Casey usefully draws the reader’s attention to the importance of phenomenology in not only vitalizing the concept of place but also creating the foundations for the growth of interest in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century.

  • Cresswell, Tim. Place: An Introduction. 2d ed. Malden, MA, and Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.

    An accessible entry into the ways in which place as a concept helps humans better understand their relations to the world of which they are a part. It enables readers from all disciplines to get to grips with the slipperiness and versatility of the term.

  • Edensor, Tim, Ares Kalandides, and Uma Kothari, eds. The Routledge Handbook of Place. London and New York: Routledge, 2020.

    Both historical and contemporary in nature, including anglophone but also traditionally underrepresented voices, this edited collection offers critical overviews with the range of theoretical approaches that engage with the concept of place.

  • Hubbard, Phil, and Rob Kitchin, eds. Key Thinkers on Space and Place. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2010.

    A volume that is an indispensable overview guide to key thinkers on the concept of place and the ways in which their intellectual contributions connect to wider economic, social, and political contexts. The volume includes useful information for further reading about each included “thinker.”

  • Massey, Doreen. For Space. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2005.

    Developing from the original editions of Casey 2013 and Cresswell 2014, Massey offers a manifesto for considering the world as a world of “places.” She argues that contemporary social phenomena can be best understood by sensitizing our imaginations to the importance of place in influencing our daily lives. Massey aligns the geographical, social, and temporal to demonstrate how these intertwine in producing our intrinsically spatial times.

  • Murdoch, Jon. Post-Structuralist Geography: A Guide to Relational Space. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2006.

    DOI: 10.4135/9781446221426

    A useful overview of post-structural thinkers, including not only Deleuze and Guattari but also Foucault and Latour, which helps inform the shift to place as processual and emerging.

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