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Making Place: The Cultural History of the Built Environment

Abstract

Urban theorists have offered a number of powerful and popular concepts for mapping spatial relations. These languages have delivered considerable benefits to the theorization of spatial production. But the terms are often of less utility in telling the histories of particular places. They often confuse, rather than enlighten, when it comes to understanding the constellations of representation, action, meaning, and power at play in the histories of specific features of the built environment. The concepts themselves are not at fault; rather it is the tendency to see them as concepts and concepts only that hinders. As a cultural historian, I believe that uncovering spatial histories demands a close attention to specific, contingent processes, change over time, and struggle among discourses and actors. Revealing the way that spaces become actual places requires distilling from abstractions precise accounts of particular actors and discourses related in a process of flux and struggle across time and space.

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