Toward an Open Sense of Place: Phenomenology, Affinity, and the Question of Being

Soren C. Larsen, Jay T. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


This article contributes to ongoing efforts in human geography to theorize place as a basis for progressive politics by linking recent work in phenomenology with contemporary interpretations of affinity politics. The phenomenological insight is that existence is a foundational kind of placing through which the world presents itself and that a place-based ontology can be developed by exploring the features of situatedness. Affinity politics involves creating noncoercive, cooperative, and spontaneous relationships through direct action and mutual aid. The argument presented here is that an embodied awareness of place is a kind of affinity politics aimed at possibilities for self-determination through deep relationships with other human and nonhuman beings. This open sense of place is revealed in the existential attunement to wonder and compassion, a mode of being that derives from attending to the world in utter watchfulness, without thinking, while engaging the edges of lifeworld to reveal existence as a situated connectedness of flow, orientation, and exchange. The article concludes by discussing the implications of this argument for geographical praxis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)632-646
Number of pages15
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • affinity
  • ontology
  • phenomenology
  • place


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