Room for Manoeuvre: (Cultural) Encounters and Concepts of Place
This thematic issue of Comparativ examines the relationship between place and cultural encounters in conceptual as well as empirical respect. The introduction delineates the discussions revolving around the concepts of place, space, and encounter. It proposes a reappraisal of the concept of place, which had almost been pushed off the agenda by the spatial turn and globalisation debates. The authors of the introduction and of the other thematic contributions argue for a perspective on place which connects spatial configurations and practices of encounter, understanding places as products of social, material, and conceptual relations. In doing so, they take up theoretical reflections about the relationality of place or space as put forward by Tim Ingold (in social anthropology), Doreen Massey (in geography) or Karl Schlögel (in history). All of their approaches emphasize that places are formed in relational processes, often spanning across time and space. In this sense, places are not mere stages or contexts for events of encounter but are being constituted by them. From such a perspective, the room for manoeuvre, which opens up through interaction, becomes apparent: Neither identities nor (hi-) stories are inalterably bound to pre-existing places, but they are just as dynamic as the relations forming particular sites. The great diversity of (cultural) encounters only emerges jointly with the respective places of interaction. Such lines of thought also allow for new approaches to past and current forms of global connections and mobility. In this sense the contributions united in this interdisciplinary thematic issue examine case (or: place) studies from the 17th century up to the present. Grounded in historiographical, literary- and religious-studies scholarship, they undertake to further refine the process-oriented perspective presented in the introduction.