Conference/workshop Call for papers

Doing, thinking, feeling home:

The mental geography of residential environments

International Conference
Friday 14 and Saturday 15 October 2005
OTB Research Institute for Housing, Urban and Mobility Studies
Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands

Keynote speakers:

Prof. dr. Setha M. Low

(Environmental Psychology and Anthropology, The City University of New York)
Author of Behind the gates: life, security and the pursuit of happiness in fortress America (2003) and On the plaza: the politics of public space and culture (2000), (co-)editor of The anthropology of space and place: locating culture (2003), Theorizing the city: the new urban anthropology reader (1999) and Place attachment (1992).

Prof. dr. Talja Blokland

(OTB Research Institute, Delft University of Technology)
Author of Goeie buren houden zich op d'r eigen: sociale relaties in de grote stad (2005), Urban bonds: social relations in the inner city (2003) and (co-)editor of Social capital on the ground: critical perspectives on social capital (forthcoming).

Sociologists, social psychologists, anthropologists and geographers increasingly share an understanding that mental aspects of the relationship between people and their residential environment are crucial for an understanding of the ways in which places are used and appreciated. As much as it is what people do that shapes places, it is what people think and feel about their social and physical environment that can have a strong effect on how places develop. These 'mental geographies' inform the motivations and attitudes of residents, potential residents, architects, real estate owners and developers, storekeepers, passers-by and policymakers. However, concepts such as place identity, place attachment, status, image, stigma and reputation, which are often used in connection with mental geography, still are rather 'sensed' than understood. Also the link between individual mental geographies and collective representations is subject to much debate. Mental geographies take place in the minds of people, but also include collective constructs. How do they differ from person to person and from group to group? How do perceptions of residential environments relate to the presence and perceptions of others? Furthermore, how are mental geographies being materialized in the physical environment? What do these physical manifestations signify and how do they relate to everyday life in residential environments?

The growing acknowledgement of the importance and intangibility of mental geographies makes this theme a challenge to both scientists and policy makers. This conference aims to contribute to the building of theoretical concepts and the empirical understanding of mental geographies. We encourage approaches on a high level of abstraction, taking place as central concept, as well as more specific approaches taking people or material objects as main subjects. We especially look for contributions combining theory and empirical research. Possible topics might consider, but are not limited to, the areas of:

The conference has an intensive workshop character, in which we encourage active participation and the mutual inspiration for critical thinking and empirical research. We have therefore chosen a small-scale setting, in which papers are discussed with small groups of researchers and a co-referent. Both days will start off with a plenary keynote speech, followed by four thematic sessions with presentations and discussions. The aim is to include a maximum number of 70 participants. We encourage each participant to present a paper at the conference!

To submit a proposal for a 20-minute paper presentation, please send an abstract to Leeke Reinders (e-mail: Please note that abstracts should be no longer than 500 words, and sent before Monday, July 18, 2005. We will inform you as soon as possible if your proposal is accepted or if the maximum amount of participants had been reached. Once your abstract has been accepted you will be provided with a registration form and with more details on the conference. The final papers need to be submitted before Monday, September 12, 2005. We intend to publish a selection of papers in a book. The registration fee is 200 euro per person, to be paid in advance. The conference will be held in the cozy environment of the Duwo Congress Centre in Delft, a medieval town located between the cities of Rotterdam and The Hague.

Marco van der Land
Leeke Reinders

Delft University of Technology
OTB Research Institute for Housing, Urban and Mobility studies
Jaffalaan 9, 2628 BX Delft
Tel: +31 15 278 37 83
Telefax: +31 15 278 34 50