Exploring place through a family history : the Glovers of Sale

2017-01-05T03:41:46Z (GMT) by Glover, Carol
This study explores the significance of place and sense of place as sociological concepts. It does this by testing the usefulness of Thomas Gieryn’s (2000) framework for defining and understanding place as a fact that underscores all social life. Place is defined as having the ‘three necessary and sufficient’ features of location, materiality and meaning, and its sociological significance is investigated in terms of how places are made and what places do. A review of the literature identified a paucity of large-scale empirical sociological studies that have an intentional focus on place and sense of place. The purpose of this study was to help fill that gap by using a structurational perspective, to examine how individuals and society make places, and how places simultaneously impact upon them. It brings these processes into focus by examining relationships with places over time, through an autoethnographic family history. Places and people’s relationships with places are mediated by society; the impact of modernity and globalization are testament to this. However, this process is no less than the sum of individual lives that travel through time and space and inhabit particular localities. A family history provided the opportunity to examine not only macro processes that impact upon place, but also the phenomenological experience of place and the significant meanings attached to particular places. Following Gieryn’s (2000) typology the study identifies the power of top-down forces in place making, the influence of professional place makers and the perceptions and attributions of ordinary people. It also demonstrates the other part of the dialectic: how places themselves have a social impact, particularly in regard to their important relationship to memory and identity. These themes are investigated through a history of my own family, the Glovers. The case study explores the role of this family in the processes of place making, firstly, in Ireland where they were part of the plantation of Ulster. The focus is then upon the transformation in the family’s sense of place resulting from their migration to Australia in 1860. The colonization of Gippsland is discussed, including the impact upon the indigenous people, the Gunai/Kurnai, and the Glovers’ role in this process of place making when they selected land at Clydebank, near Sale. Finally, having discussed the processes by which the family later became well established in the town of Sale, the thesis reflects upon the links between memory, heritage and sense of place. The purpose of the study therefore is to exemplify how a family history can highlight the usually taken for granted concepts of place and sense of place as significant social facts. It provides empirical evidential support to Gieryn’s (2000 argument for their incorporation into mainstream sociology as important analytical concepts.