A Conference on Place

by Mark T. Mitchell on February 27, 2011 · 6 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

For those in the LA area, Pepperdine University will be hosting an intriguing conference on the idea of place. The conference is titled A Place in the World: Geography, Identity, and Civic Engagement in Modern America (March 11-12). It is being organized by FPR contributor Ted MacAllister and historian Wilfred McClay and will include an assortment of speakers ranging from theorists to practitioners. Some of the speakers include Christine Rosen, Phillip Bess, Witold Rybczynski, and Yi-Fu Tuan. I will be delivering a paper on cosmopolitanism and place.

Here is a brief description of the conference:

For most of human history, “place” was something simple and obvious, central to one’s identity. That is no longer true today. But have we grasped the full implications of that change, and its consequences for our lives? “A Place in the World” is a unique conference to be held in a unique place, Los Angeles.

I hope to see some of you there.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Seth February 28, 2011 at 1:40 am

Will there be a publication coming out of this conference, for those of us who can’t make it?

avatar Mark T. Mitchell February 28, 2011 at 6:13 am

Yes. There will be an edited volume.

avatar Sam M February 28, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Interesting that in this telling, LA “counts” as a place. If it does, and I think it does, this would seem to counter the idea that what used to hold regarding a sense of place “is no longer true today.”

LA is full of immigrants and other people who have pulled up stakes. It is the poster child for sprawl and all it entails. And yet… it is a place. A place that inspires allegiances, cultural touchstones, etc.

avatar Mark T. Mitchell February 28, 2011 at 1:01 pm

I wonder if it would be more accurate to say that LA consists of many places.

avatar Stewart K. Lundy March 1, 2011 at 10:45 am

Can a city consist of many places and be a place? Everyone is always “placed” and “takes place”… but is there a difference between place and where one takes place?

avatar Sam M March 1, 2011 at 11:49 am

“I wonder if it would be more accurate to say that LA consists of many places.”

I think it would be accurate, But this this would seem to be an even more powerful counter to the argument that we have lost a sense of place.

LA is a pretty new invention, at least in it’s current iteration. Over the past several decades it has seen a major influx of people who have, for lack of a better term, “abandoned” their former places in Oklahoma, Illinois, Vermont, Guadalajara, Beijing, etc. Once these people arrived, they were confronted with sprawl, smog, highways, commercial culture, strip malls and all the other things localists decry as soul-crushing developments (and developers) of the placeless age.

And yet… it’s a place. Or more accuratley, a series of places. One can be from various NEIGHBORHOODS or sections of LA and have a real attachment to it. They have different dialects, different food cultures, different ways of interacting with the natural world.

Given it’s newness, given the level of rootlessness and sprawl and highways and smog and blah blah blah… if LA can be a place despite all those things, can’t anyplace be a place? And if anyplace can be a place, what’s all this handwringing about the loss of place?

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