Skip to page content
USDA Forest Service

Research & Development Treesearch

Treesearch Home
About Treesearch
Contact Us
Research & Development
Forest Products Lab
International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Pacific Northwest
Pacific Southwest
Rocky Mountain
Southern Research Station
Help - We Participate  Government Made Easy

Global Forest Information Service

US Forest Service
P.O. Box 96090
Washington, D.C.

(202) 205-8333

You are here: Home / Search / Publication Information
Bookmark and Share

Publication Information

View PDF (747 KB)

Title: Making sense of 'place': Reflections on pluralism and positionality in place research

Author: Williams, Daniel R.;

Date: 2014

Source: Landscape and Urban Planning. 131: 74-82.

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Drawing on critical pluralism and positionality, this essay offers a four-part framework for making sense of the manifold ways place has been studied and applied to landscape planning and management. The first element highlights how diverse intellectual origins behind place research have inhibited a transdisciplinary understanding of place as an object of study in environmental planning and management. The second focuses on ontological pluralism as found in attempts to make sense of place meanings by (a) fleshing out four layers of place meaning that vary in terms of tangibility, commonality, and emotionality and (b) critiquing four methodological approaches to identifying place meanings. The third looks at making sense of place-making as a way to highlight ontological and epistemic pluralism in studies of the material and social-discursive practices that create, govern, and transform places. In particular it draws attention to the way place meanings, knowledge, and practices are always situated or positioned. The fourth highlights axiological or normative pluralism as reflected in various prescriptive notions of place-making as the outcome of deliberate efforts of people to try to shape, contest, and/or otherwise govern the landscape. These include place as bios, ethnos, and demos as normative ideals for prescribing what constitutes a good place and underscores the challenge of adjudicating across different conceptions of sensible places. This paper concludes by reiterating the ways that place research and practice can benefit from both a critical pluralist perspective and a heightened awareness of the diverse positionalities occupied by observers of and actors in the landscape.

Keywords: place-making, place meaning, critical pluralism, planning practice, landscape governance, cosmopolitan place

Publication Notes:

  • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Williams, Daniel R. 2014. Making sense of 'place': Reflections on pluralism and positionality in place research. Landscape and Urban Planning. 131: 74-82.


 [ Get Acrobat ]  Get the latest version of the Adobe Acrobat reader or Acrobat Reader for Windows with Search and Accessibility

USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.