Sunday, April 11, 2010

Thoughts on "Place"

  • Ÿ I have worked in a few different places, lived in several different places, and hung out in many different places. In all of them, I developed an emotional and psychological attachment to them. I understood at the intellectual level that I did not own these places. I knew that after leaving a particular place of business, I wouldn't be able to just stroll into the back office or break room whenever I wanted. There is an understanding at this higher level that any place that I have in such a place is only temporary. Still, at the same time, I did feel like these places were mine. There seems to always be a part of me that doesn't differentiate between home and a hang-out or home and work. It seems like if you go to any place enough then a bond is forged between you and that place. If you hang out at a bar enough, that bar is a part of you and you can always go there when you want to. Of course, this isn't true, but it certainly feels that way for a while. Then your old workplace goes out of business or the house you used to live in gets torn down to build a highway. You realize that no spot on this earth really belongs to you. Even a deed is temporary, geologically speaking.
  • I was struck by a comment in the text. On page 11, Creswell refers to one possible Western conception of Baghdad as city that we blithely think of as “a place to drop bombs.” He follows this assessment with this statement, “At other times… the lens of place leads to reactionary and exclusionary xenophobia, racism, and bigotry.” I am confused by these statements being back-to-back like this. If we view Baghdad as a place that needs to be bombed every now and then (and I think we do) then how could “the lens of place” possibly distort this even further. How can such a concept as thinking of a city populated by fellow human beings (the overwhelming majority of whom are not part of the Iraqi government or military) as one that is a default location for American bombs to be dropped be even further corrupted? Seeing that Creswell is from the UK, perhaps I should say, “Coalition bombs.” But, the fact is that there is something disturbing in the way this little aside is presented. It screams White Man’s Burden. If that wasn’t his point and he just didn’t articulate himself very well, why didn’t the publisher try to iron this out? It comes off as very cold, callous, and, yes, even racist.

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