Why Spirit of Place?

Many of the attempts to see a spirit in place come from a similar source:

1. The attempt to bring together
the particular and the universal. Places are particular, yet some of them seem to transcend this, at least for some people. The spirit of place points to a holistic view of place, while at the same time allowing the place to be unique.

2. The attempt to
personalize place, to make it into something we can relate to in our own terms. We make it familiar by giving it a spirit.

3. The attempt to suggest that
place might have some power over us. People speak of the "spirit of Paris" as if we could get caught up in it, lose ourselves.

4. Some versions of "spirit of place" are about
resistance, particularly to alienating modernity. The "spirit" has left some places, so the argument goes, because of human inability to attend to more than the instrumental meaning of place.

4. The attempt to give a basis for
ecstatic space. What does this mean? Ecstacy, "ex-stasis", refers to being outside of oneself. If place has a spirit, we might get caught up in it, and "leave ourselves", or at least be able to look back on the mundane.

There are spaces that are explicitly ecstatic, usually in a ritualized manner. These happen in religious ceremonies and gatherings (e.g., charismatic services).