Migration and Sense of Place

This investigation focuses on a student at Durham University, Miss Becky Woodhouse, and studies her sense of place in relation to her home area and the notion of home she has formulated over the course of her life to date. Miss Woodhouse has experienced a different upbringing to many of her contemporaries at university, as her father has been in the armed forces since she was at a young age. This has resulted in her moving abroad, in more than one country, and also moving around between various places in England, experiencing different home areas and different communities. Thus our group’s aims were to explore whether or not Miss Woodhouse had any fixed notion of a place of origin, what constitutes ‘home’ for her, and what factors help to construct a feeling of attachment to a place as she moves from one place to another.The questions we designed were tailored to suit Miss Woodhouse’s circumstances, and much of our thought was given to sense of attachment and the causes of it relating to our aims, and whether or not she had a notion of a single ‘home’ area, leaving our questions as open as we could to accommodate answers that would lead in either that direction or any other that her answers may lead us in.

Through intensive interviewing, we aimed to find themes which would aid us in establishing relevant links and themes in order for us to draw a conclusion. As a part of this, it is necessary also to examine to language used in relation to sense of place, and how this might add to any conclusions. The themes and findings are now explored.Links and ThemesThe first point to note regarding Miss Woodhouse’s circumstances is that of the many movements from place to place that she has made because of her father’s occupation. From the interview it was apparent that she does not think of any particular place as her ‘home’ area, the area that she has originated from or would define as where her ‘roots’ are. She has also lived in a mixture of areas in either a rural or urban setting and therefore does not identify in that respect with a type of area, even before the mention of specifics about her ‘home’ can be attempted. Therefore early on in the interview it was apparent that she has been alienated from the sense of ‘home’ that many people have.Miss Woodhouse also mentions more than once the effect that living arrangements had on her sense of community (a critical feature of a sense of place) and how the places she has lived in were organised.

In most places her living area was a cluster of houses of army personnel, and had a low diversity of people, which is quite different from the mix of professions and circumstances many of us find in our home areas. Abroad there was a tendency for the British people to cluster together, and make a social attachment to people in a similar situation. The attachments formed here were often fairly short lived as she was moved between communities as her father was moved between posts in the army. Her sense of belonging to communities varied, sometimes feeling more attached to the army as her estate was an army estate and sometimes feeling more attached to the town she was near or in.A definite theme was identified in that the time Miss Woodhouse has spent in a place was proportional to the sense of attachment that she feels towards it. When asked about her strongest attachment, she often mentioned Salisbury, which is where she has spent the longest at home since she was 8. This is because she attended boarding school from age 8 until 18, and consequently because of the length of time she has spent at boarding school, she has a strong attachment to it.The main theme of the interview, and the one which gives the strongest indication of what is important to Miss Woodhouse in terms of a sense of place, is that of the social interactions she has experienced, in particular relating to friends, family and employment.

A feature of many comments she makes (and of most of the themes discussed), it links in with the previous theme, as the greater time period was that she spent in a place, the greater was the opportunity for integration and building a sense of community and place. Thus she was very much integrated into boarding school, despite this not being her home area, but also she has had a disrupted social life due to the frequency of her moving from place to place.A key feature of her attachment to boarding school and her wider attachment to place has been the friends she has made in an area, which is important because the friends a person has in an area can help them to feel a strong attachment to place. Miss Woodhouse also referred to the notion of her home as being where her family was at the time (this often changes, of course), this can be expected because of the natural attachment one feels to their family. Another aspect of this, brought up by Miss Woodhouse herself, was the influence that work has on attachment.

Best services for writing your paper according to Trustpilot

Premium Partner
From $18.00 per page
4,8 / 5
4,80
Writers Experience
4,80
Delivery
4,90
Support
4,70
Price
Recommended Service
From $13.90 per page
4,6 / 5
4,70
Writers Experience
4,70
Delivery
4,60
Support
4,60
Price
From $20.00 per page
4,5 / 5
4,80
Writers Experience
4,50
Delivery
4,40
Support
4,10
Price
* All Partners were chosen among 50+ writing services by our Customer Satisfaction Team

As she has been employed in Salisbury and latterly Colchester (her residence since October), the interactions she has enjoyed with workmates and customers, and the sense of continuity and regularity that employment has provided has given her a sense of attachment that is unique compared to other places she has lived in.Use of Language Relating to Sense of PlaceIt can be seen that the language used in an interview can add to what is drawn from the interviewee’s response. In this interview, Miss Woodhouse uses a lot of language which denotes uncertainty in her answers, or an answer which cannot be given with any more clarity. Examples of such words used are ‘it varies’, ‘sometimes’, ‘sort of’, ‘generally’ and ‘a bit’. This language clearly relates to a lack of definition where many issues of place are concerned in her life.

Due to the lack of time spent in places she has lived in, a lot of the language used is factual, displaying a lack of metaphors and similies. This could be a consequence of having forgotten details about a place, or not getting to know it well enough to use language to describe it differently, and that she has to give a lot of facts about places because of the complexities of her living arrangements.Another word used is ‘surrounding’ (line 31), a reference to being enclosed in army accommodation. She also talks about having ‘come out of’ (line 61) the boarding school she was at from 11 to 18, the only reference to a sense of origin in the whole interview, showing how she feels about that environment in relation to others. Talking about attachments, a reference is made to a ‘primary attachment’ (lines 89-90) that involves friends being a fundamental part of establishing a sense of belonging and attachment.

A rare use of definite language comes when she talks about attachment to the school (and university) environment (line 59). The phrase ‘block of time’ (line 163) is also used to describe a rare continuity in circumstances. Another interesting theme of the language used is the consistent use of the word ‘you’ in answers (e.g. lines 23 and 24). Miss Woodhouse appears to be trying to engage the interviewer in her frame of mind, to help in understanding her thoughts and feelings. This brings into the interview a sense that she sees the interviewer’s positionality as that of an ‘insider’ (she is talking to students, and seems to feel comfortable with that), and is using their sense of position to allow them to think in the same way.

This appears necessary for an understanding of her sense of place to be reached.ConclusionIn this report, the notion of a sense of origins being the strongest influence on one’s sense of place (as is often the case) relating to one’s home area was questioned. The opposing idea was that it was not those origins that were important or relevant for Miss Woodhouse, but the social attachments she has made to a place (or places) that she has lived in, and how she was able to integrate herself socially and combine relationships with her family, friends, and in her environment at work to constitute a sense of attachment to place.

This is the main conclusion of the report, as it seems quite apparent that these three factors are important to her in relation to place.She referred to them many times in the interview, and they were the source of most certainty for her where many of her answers were uncertain or could not be fully clear. Given that her life has been very much transitory in terms of place geography where the military occupation of her father has caused her to migrate often, a sense of origins can be easily confused and lost. Strong attachments to some places have not formed, unless there were significant social reasons for feeling a strong attachment to one place, as has happened with Salisbury as a home area, and to an extent (where the word ‘home’ is concerned) to boarding school. This report has demonstrated that this is what controls Miss Woodhouse’s thoughts when she thinks of ‘home’, and underlined the importance of social geographies in relation to ‘sense of place’.