The research community within the IPM is constantly challenging how we think about place and what place means. I am concerned about people (and even their non-human companions!) in places. I have long struggled, as many academics have, with the idea of place-making and the queasy notion of wading into communities and suggesting that these places can be ‘better’. My own PhD research examined communities how they shape their own identities through drawing or resisting place-imaging projects. By spending time with community groups and undertaking participant observation at official and unofficial Liverpool Capital of Culture events (both during and after 2008) I was able to understand how local people performed identities which related to their sense of belonging to their neighbourhoods and the wider city. It considered the balance between creative improvisation and the constraints of social and cultural norms in forming identities.
A bizarre piece of news caught my attention recently: A Kosovarian family was allegedly denied citizenship in Switzerland, not for failing to comply with the formal requirements, but for not adapting to the local norms. The transgressions (according to the article) were that the family wore tracksuits instead of jeans and that they did not greet people in passing. If this is true, it sheds a strange light on the very concept of community, which thus appears inward-looking, conservative and exclusive.
Indeed, I find it increasingly difficult to think of the concept in other terms and I believe we should be careful if we want to use it in any meaningful way. Community, the way I understand it, is first of all a group of people who share something – an idea, a common feature or a place. Place in particular is generally entangled in a strong imagery of belonging (communities are groups of people linked to each other through their belonging to a place), though we can clearly think of non place-based communities (internationalism was founded on exactly this idea). I see several problems related to the above.
Day 4, the final day of our 3rd Corfu Symposium on Managing & Marketing Places saw a very eclectic mix of research, but all on the topics of Place, Image and Identity. Dr Julia Fallon presented research into how to gather and use the stories of the many users of Britain’ canal networks; Dr Heather Skinner, Chair of the Symposium, presented the findings of her research into business tourists’ perceptions of conference destinations; Professor Eli Avraham informed delegates of the ways special events can be used to alter destination images. After lunch, Dr Amos S. Ron talked to delegates about the way travel itineraries, a rather underexplored source of travel writing, can provide insights into the way destinations are perceived by various organising groups; Dr Guenther Botschen, who had spent the previous afternoon in Arillas, presented delegates with the theoretical underpinnings of a really practical brand-driven identity exercise that can aid both the design and the development of places. Our final paper was presented by Professor Cathy Parker, on the topics of fridge magnets, a rather ubiquitous souvenir, and what a semiotic analysis of these can tell us about the way place images are chosen, promoted and consumed. Continue reading “Place, Image and Identity – from UK canals to fridge magnets”→