This past week, we focused on notions of place, a big topic of interest for me, considering my concentration in place-based education. After all, to understand place-based education first we must understand place — what’s important, where it is, and how it’s changed over time. We struggled with the ideas of nature/culture, local/global, and stasis/change, the same themes we focused on during the Mt. Fuji Overseas program. Just like counting beyond 2 (an idea that will be discussed in the next post), it’s difficult to know where to begin when thinking about place since there are so many ideas wrapped up within it. Just like place itself, thinking about place is a node within a complex network of intersections.
Doreen Massey (1991) discussed the idea of “a global sense of the local, a global sense of place” which has been merged into the new word “glocal.” She argues that the only way to understand a place’s character, we must “[link] that place to places beyond.” This idea has resonated with me more and more as I’ve traveled and experienced different places. Both the local quirks as well as overarching connections define a place and make it important to a certain person. At the same time though, these connections are inherently very personal, which seems to make place very hard to define since each person has a different experience of it. In terms of place-based education, this varying sense of place can be problematic since in order to teach students about place to root their understanding, we need to somehow decide what is important to know.
In his article “Differential geographies: place, indigenous rights and ‘local’ resources”, Noel Castree discusses indigenous claims on land. It brings together ideas about cultural strategic essentialism from last week, as well as the importance of place. He brings in a quote from Castells in terms of indigenous identity:
As Castells (1997:7) puts it, ‘‘It is easy to agree on the fact that . . . all identities are constructed. The real issue is how, from what, by whom and for what.’’ The idea of articulation draws analytical attention to how coherence is rendered (however temporarily) and to how the people assuming a given identity are interpellated into political projects.
This idea of “how, from what, by whom, and for what” refers to the idea that indigeneity didn’t exist — or need to exist — until their territory was taken over, and now these groups that share common experiences of conquest are emerging with a shared motive to reclaim some of their territory. Indigenous peoples, Castree argues, are “a prime example of translocal solidarity,” because there are so many groups around the world who share this common experience yet they are each rooted in a particular, very local, place or territory (Castree 2004). This is an interesting notion for me to consider in terms of my concentration’s scope, since it argues that indigeneity is glocal.
I noticed this idea on a smaller scale while in New Zealand last fall. When I visited Koukourārata Marae, I was shown this new site in which that iwi (tribe)’s whakapapa (geneology) was displayed. Both whakapapa (which sometimes even extends to include other Polynesian cousins across the pacific) as well as connections to the specific land that we were on were equally as important to comprising a sense of place. These geneological connections transcend space, creating a translocal connection to other places while still honoring the important ties to the specific plot of land that these people have.
Indigenous groups have an interesting connection to place, especially in the movement to reclaim land and resources that were taken away from them. It brings into question ethics, values, land usage, tradition, as well as global issues of resource utilization. Studying indigenous ways of knowing could be an interesting way to explore the multidimentionalities of place.