Places don't have closed horizons

click on images for full-size:

The main square in Zamosc, Poland, built in an Italian style by a nobleman, and once a relatively closed horizon, now filled with tourism, nationalism, and media connections

Traditional Japanese entry way -- but to a house in Ellsworth, Maine

Places are not just singular objects; they have their own grammars and horizons of possibilities; they provide meaning for items revealed within them. But places are not just meaning givers; they too take on meaning within wider webs of action and wider social grammars.

Too much theorizing treats places as if they were unlocated locators, giving meaning to what lies within them but themselves closed and final horizons of meaning.

Such discussions of place often make reference to anthropological descriptions of primitive tribes whose social rules and grammars structure their world as if they were natural facts. These natives do not perceive either the horizon or its closure, but only the items classified and located within it.


Whether there ever were such tribes could be argued, but we moderns are not like that. Our locales, locations, social grammars, and places are revealed to us as in contrast with others actual and possible: the horizon is open. This liberates us from a confinement we imagine in our ancestors or in ourselves as children, but it also enforces a homelessness -- if, that is, we define what it means to be at home according to that closed model.