What can theorists tell us about this thing identity that the
Several disciplines struggle with describing this intersection of identity and place. In addition to the planning literature, anthropology and geography also wrestle with the terms, with varying levels of emphasis on one or the other side. Anthropology tends to prioritize issues of community identity using the term “culture,” whereas geography emphasizes place. Sociologists and anthropologists both use the term “symbolic communities” in describing the way residents interact with and in place. Throwing sociology into the mix adds an emphasis on the effect on residents of the interaction between residents and a place.
Planners split their loyalty on this one, being interested in both the effects on the residents but also on the place. Community organizing literature prioritizes the residents, while urban design literature focuses on improvements to physical locations. More than the other disciplines, planning attempts to support and engender residents’ agency to effect change, usually by focusing on physical improvements to a place. While community organizing is an important and necessary prerequisite for community development, physical improvements can be a powerful motivating and reflective tool to make visible the organizing efforts of communities. Results are often more visible, immediate, and direct when focusing on specific changes to a place identified and prioritized by residents.
Cultural studies adds a strand of discussion of identity politics that helps to understand how various groups within a neighborhood interact – both in terms of how each individual is a member of multiple groups with multiplex identities and how these identities interact in space. Cultural theorists also add an awareness and explicitness about the differential of power and access that reflects the uneven playing field for different groups. Some have more resources than others and different power factors that improve their ability to assert their identity in space and plan to have spaces that reflect their identity.
While all of these disciplines touch on the elements needed to examine the
The term identity as used by
In looking at these separate but necessarily overlapping emphases, several theoretical discourses can be useful. We will use the discussion of “symbolic community” in both anthropology and sociology to look at the sign/symbol element of identity and the social science term “spatial practice” to look at the place emphasis. We will then look to cultural studies’ discussion of “identity politics” to give us a hint as to how multiple cultural groups interact in these spaces and vie for the power to infuse them with representations of culture and use them to support their own cultural activities.
Identity as Symbol
Sociology provides a body of work that looks at how various communities understand the places they live, which one would hope could be reversed and applied in a prescriptive way to form communities where none currently exist. This discussion of “symbolic communities” involves both names and boundaries, which speaks to the first of our emphases of identity.
Sociologist Albert Hunter wrote an important book in the 1970s that explored how residents identify their communities. Specifically, he studied
In each of the communities, he interviewed 10 residents and asked them to name “their part” of
While Burgess set out three identifying spheres that played out and sometimes overlapped in a community – one economic, one cultural, and one political, Hunter found that communities could be described with just two dimensions: one socio-cultural and one spatial. For the first dimension, he used the presence or absence of name as his indicator of identity, and for the second, he used residents’ descriptions of boundaries (Hunter 4).
Subsequent research by a professor from
Taken together, in addition to cementing
DISCUSSION OF BOUNDARY
OKAY, BUT DOES IT WORK IN REVERSE?
(Discussion of relevance to 4th and Montano case)
If we put boundaries into place with gateways or other physical design measures, does that mean they work to create place? Create community where none exists? Or is fractured?And if not, or if it's too problematic or too disparate from goals that are really more about place than identity, what if we start with a focus on PLACE?
Identity as Place
The seminal theorists in this discussion are French social scientists interested in space, culture, and how the two interact. Foucault, de Certeau, Lefebvre, and Bourdieu lay the theoretical groundwork to look at how communities interact in space to form culture, reflect culture, fight for power, and make meaning. In Lefebvre’s terms, “spatial practices” are the individual and cultural way residents use spaces. In a very real sense, spaces are only as real as the interactions that happen in them. A sidewalk isn’t really a sidewalk if no one can or does walk on it. A parking lot is working as something other than a parking lot if community festivals take place there – festivals that simultaneously build community in an active way and also reflect community that already exists. The two emphases of identity noted above match Lefebvre’s distinction between “representations of space” and “spaces of representation.” Representations of space would be gateways or names for an area that signify the community they reference. Spaces of representation are the places that allow for dialogue about community and the interaction that constitutes it.
A huge body of work comes from this theoretical foundation, including the work of geographers, Edward Soja primary among them. In planning, one thread of theoretic discourse centers on the term “spatial practice,” including Helen Liggitt and David Perry.
While these theorists do talk about power, and therefore it should be possible to apply their discussion to real-world situations, in which various cultural groups within a community have various levels of power in terms of political access, economic resources, cultural resources, traditions of community interaction and discussion, education, and racial stratification, how that actually plays out on the ground and in the design process for physical spaces is more difficult to discern. To explore how various cultural groups exert and contest power and representation in community spaces we will need to look to cultural studies’ discussion of identity politics, although again, this discussion tends to be analytical and not prescriptive. We will hope that the analysis can be applied in the
YES, BUT WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
One of the primary issues in evaluating their process and action plan is who’s been represented so far, and who will be represented in the future? How can you assure you’ll speak to the people who have access to that history/culture you want to “celebrate”?
How can you plan to represent a culture in a place moving forward?
§ Identity politics readings—space for identity can be made. Space is cultural. But the hole in the reading is don’t talk about what it looks like on the ground. Need a combo of anthropology/geography for that.
§ For physical aspect, we do have designers like New Urbanists that do certain things well. But universalist in their “humanism” that leaves out identity politics. Gendered, cultural spaces don’t factor in. Everyone will like it! Pedestrian friendly, but for whose feet? Tends to be agist and classist. Youthful yuppies, yes. Poor minority folks? not so much.
§ Successful/legitimate will be– cultural practices, community centers and meeting spaces, art spaces for LOCAL artists)
What are the dangers of trying to represent culture in physical space? (i.e. how will you know you’re doing it wrong?)
§ Valuing exterior more than interior (what these people will like)
§ Cultural appropriation (would involvement mitigate this?)
How will you know when you did it/doing it right?
§ Involvement. Know who there is to BE involved and then decide on an appropriate/acceptable measure
§ Spaces for cultural practices – know what people want and that there is space to accommodate. Don’t forget the NEW/ONGOING cultural development of this place as a community
§ Imagability. People from outside can recognize it. Distinguished from surrounding. Distinctive in the way you want it to be.
§ Community Use. Place works well for community. People like it. Use it. Walk on the streets. Know more of their neighbors. Have community events.
§ Lively Economy. Place works well to support level and types of business you want.
How do you do it?
§ Community Design Process – explain
What are some things that might come up?
§ Common things done?