Philosophy in Geography

Volume 20 of the series Theory and Decision Library pp 387-427

Space and Place: Humanistic Perspective

  • Yi-Fu TuanAffiliated withUniversity of Minnesota

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Space and place together define the nature of geography. Spatial analysis or the explanation of spatial organisation is at the forefront of geographical research. Geographers appear to be confident of both the meaning of space and the methods suited to its analysis. The interpretation of spatial elements requires an abstract and objective frame of thought, quantifiable data, and ideally the language of mathematics. Place, like space, lies at the core of geographical discipline. Indeed an Ad Hoc Committee of American geographers (1965, 7) asserted that “the modern science of geography derives its substance from man’s sense of place”. In the geographical literature, place has been given several meanings (Lukermann, 1964; May, 1970). As location, place is one unit among other units to which it is linked by a circulation net; the analysis of location is subsumed under the geographer’s concept and analysis of space. Place, however, has more substance than the word location suggests: it is a unique entity, a ‘special ensemble’ (Lukermann, 1964, p. 70); it has a history and meaning. Place incarnates the experiences and aspirations of a people. Place is not only a fact to be explained in the broader frame of space, but it is also a reality to be clarified and understood from the perspectives of the people who have given it meaning.