geography: space, place and gender

Click to access massey.pdf

a text that i return to again and again is Doreen Massey’s ‘a global sense of place’ in ‘space, place and gender‘ (1994). This text was written in 1994 by the geographer Doreen Massey. it sets out Massey’s arguments for how to define place and develop a sense of place in a postmodern time of ‘time-space compression’ or the ‘annihilation of space by time’ (Marx in Massey, 1994. p.1). in a time of increased mobility between people and places across the globe, what does a sense of place mean?

Massey argues that to understand and define place we must embrace ‘a global sense of place’: recognising both the local and its connections to the wider world rather than reverting to an idealised or homogenised  sense of place based on regionalism or nationalism. Massey sets out how we can define a sense of place relevant to today’s time-space compression: a sense of place is a process rather than a static sense or definition, a sense of place does not require the marking borders which only serves to set out inside/outside or them/us, a sense of place is full of conflicting identities rather than a requiring a single identity, a sense of place must acknowledging the local uniqueness of a place and also its ties through time and place with other places.

what interests me most about this text is what Massey has to say about movement in today’s era of ‘time-space compression’ and increased mobility between people and places. Massey asks ‘who is it that experiences it, and how? do we all benefit and suffer from it in the same way?’ (p.1).

ethnocentricity: Massey asks who is ‘insecure’ about a sense of place? she argues that a western colonizer’s view might view the high street kebab shops as an ‘invasion’ of cultural imports causing a sense of dislocation but this is exactly what colonisers have been doing for centuries. moreover, these signs of another culture may be a comfort to others away from ‘home’.

capitalism: Massey also looks to the causes of increased mobility between people and places, arguing that capitalism and commerce are the driving force of people and goods across the globe, linking places to places and determining our understanding of space and place.

race and gender: Massey describes race and gender as equally important factors in how we experience space and place: ‘the degree to which we can move between countries or walk about the streets at night‘ is not just influenced by capitalism but by a complex mix of colonialism, ex-colonialism, racism, changing gender relations and relative wealth’ (Brikett, in Massey, 1994, p.2). Massey cites Brikett who discusses women adventures and travellers of the 18th and 19th century who says that today ‘it is far, far more demanding for a woman to wander now than ever before’.

differentiating: Massey argues that time-space compression or mobility of movement across the globe needs differentiating. what is really at play is power relations in mobility and the degree of control one has in determining how mobile one is or must be, being either empowered or imprisoned by it. degree of mobility and reflects and reinforces power, not that one group move more than others but that some groups have more power or control of movement over others.

why i chose this text: Massey questions and picks apart blanket statements – about insecurities about a sense of place and about increased mobility today – is there, if so by whom and why? she raises the question of perspective and ethnocentricity. she accounts for the multifaceted and complex over the simplistic. she comes to mind every time i’m out, especially at night and i think i shouldn’t go there alone….. i have a passport that could bring me anywhere but i can’t go down that street!







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