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Defining Society Through Space and Place

What do you see when you walk through New York City’s Union Square? Do you notice the cars, buildings, stores, or sidewalks? Or do you focus on what the passersby look like and what they’re doing?

On a more visceral level, how do you feel? How does the physical space you inhabit interact with your social identity?

For Professor Setha Low (The Graduate Center, CUNY), asking these questions is the first step to rectifying harmful public policy and urban planning decisions. “The everyday environment we inhabit was built by someone and can be taken away,” she notes. “Space communicates back to us a sense of belonging and security, but also represents differences in politics and power.”

Low’s book, Spatializing Culture: The Ethnography of Space and Place (Routledge, 2016), situates ideas of space and place in contexts of globalization, real estate development, violence, social inequity, and territorial conflict. Examining changes in space can yield insight into how our lives are affected by structural forces like prejudice and capitalism.

Spatializing Culture provides both a vocabulary and a launch pad for concerned citizens dealing with changing building ownership, new signage, or developers seeking to rebrand. “This book helps people identify and clarify what’s going on in their communities,” Low says. “Sometimes we don’t know things are happening until it’s too late.”

Beyond SUM

Book Cover: 'Spatializing Culture: The Ethnography of Space and Place' by Setha Low
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Spatializing Culture: The Ethnography of Space and Place
Routledge, 2016

Work By
Setha Low (Professor, Anthropology/Earth and Environmental Sciences) | Profile

Colleges and Schools
The Graduate Center

Bonus Content
We Are What We Build (The Graduate Center)

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