American Philosopher, President of the American Philosophical Association, Chairman of the Philosophy Department at Stony Brook University
Place as we experience it is not altogether natural. If it were, it could not play the animating, decisive role it plays in our collective lives. Place, already cultural as experienced, insinuates itself into a collectivity, altering as well as constituting that collectivity. Place become social because it is already cultural. It is also, and for the same reason, historical. It is by the mediation of culture that places gain historical depth.
Public memory is radically bivalent in its temporality, for it is both attached to a past (typically, an originating or traumatic event of some sort) and attempts to secure a future of further remembering of that same event. Public monuments embody this Janusian trait: their characteristic massiveness and solidity almost literally enforce this futurity, while inscriptions and certain easily identifiable features (such as those of the giant seated Abraham Lincoln of the Lincoln Memorial) pull them toward the past they honor. The perduringness of the construction itself acts to cement the strong bond between past and future. This is not to say that public memory requires the density of stone to mark and re-mark it. At another extreme, a eulogy is certainly a form of public remembering — it is pronounced before others and is meant to direct their attention to the character and accomplishments of the departed — yet it is built entirely from words: sounds that carry sense.
Places not only are they happen. (And it is because they happen that they lend themselves so well to narration, whether as history or story)
There is no knowing or sensing a place except by being in that place and to be in a place is not, then, subsequent to perception– as Kant dogmatically assumed– but is an ingredient in perception itself. Such knowledge, genuinely local knowledge, is itself experiential
Local knowledge is at one with lived experience if indeed it is true that this knowledge is of the localities in which the knowing subject lives. To live is to live locally, and to know is first of all to know the places one is in.