Chora.no has been the virtual home for the research project "People and water in Tinn and Rjukan" at University of Bergen from 2006-2009. The project is ended. Chora.no is being reconstructed, and will in the future continue to contribute to dialogue between people and ways of thinking about good places and how we may plan for good places. Thanks for visiting chora.no! Please come back later.

Contact: post(at)chora.no
Web design: Per Berntsen
Last update:
9. October 2009

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What is Chora?

© Inger Birkeland, 2009 - 2012

Place is about the interplay between humans, society, and nature

Chora is a Greek word, and means place. Place is, just like nature and culture, a concept with many meanings, and there are several ways to understand place. Maybe it is time to begin to learn anew what place is, and what place means in our lives.

There is a general tendency today to understand the world’s cultural and biological diversity as threatened. Place is a part of this diversity. Our human condition is rooted in the surroundings, that is, nature, place, and body. These are the material conditions for life. Many people experience placeless-ness and loss of place, which means a lack of rooted-ness in the surroundings.

Placeless-ness is not only a modern phenomenon, while modern placeless-ness is, however, characterized by a crisis in the understanding of human surroundings. Placeless-ness is an attitude and a part of modern culture expressed through public planning, habitation, and settlement. It is ways of acting and thinking that we are socialized into over time. Placeless-ness is created, for example, through decisions about how environments are designed and built. It is created when the needs and interests of those who inhabit places are not paid attention to. It is created when nature as an agent with as much right of care as humans is neglected. Nature has been given lower priority. Nature is reduced to a means in order to realize particular human goals in society. Place has been reduced to a setting or frame, a sort of theater or scene, for the actions of human societies. Placeless-ness refers in this way to a form of homeless-ness within a larger context which we can call the more-than-human world. Do we feel at home in our surroundings and in living nature?

To create good places, there is naturally a need for better planning, better design, and more sustainable cultures of production and consumption. There is, however, need for something more. It is necessary to learn to sense place anew, to form a new sense of place. Why is sense of place important? Because place has psychological and existential meaning. Place is basically a lived phenomenon, rooted in perception and experience of the world as a place-world. If one does not know where one is, one does not know who one is.

Recognizing that life should be rooted in place, a sense of place as an important political tool will emerge. Thus, a turn towards place represents one of several phenomena that together form what may be termed a new green wave, a recognition that the conditions of life connected to nature, body and place, is finding new relevance. This interest for a renewed and revitalized understanding of place and the characteristics and particularities of place, is happening within and outside of the sciences, in rural areas and in cities, among all parts of the population, many places around the world. Place is in this new understanding described as an open and dynamic phenomenon, as a community and an interplay between humans, society and nature. In this way, sense of place may also be a central source for belonging and recognition of diversity and difference many places, at home and other places, everywhere, and where place identity also may become global to encompass the whole earth.