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date: 20 November 2017

Curriculum and Place

Summary and Keywords

Place matters. The conceptualizations and analyses of place defined in geographical and metaphorical terms play a significant role in understanding curriculum and are an exciting, important and ever-increasing discourse in the field of curriculum studies. As the discourses have developed, an increasing amount of scholarship has emerged that centers on place and its significance autobiographically, psychoanalytically, culturally, racially, and politically, not only in the field of curriculum but in education and society in general. There is also attention paid to the notion that understanding our place (situatedness) is as important as our positionality. There is a historical discussion on the manner in which studies of curriculum and place have focused on the southern United States; however, as the area has developed, the focus has expanded to place considered not only in terms of the southern United States, but other areas of the country and internationally. The discussion begins with notions of why place matters in curriculum studies and in our general understandings of place as well. A second major emphasis elaborates on the work done in curriculum and place developmentally and historically, highlighting major studies that exist in the area. A discussion of the future of what is called place studies in curriculum is the final area including highlights of the newest scholarship alongside a discussion of the movement toward the parameters of place globally. Beyond the parameters of this article, but significant in the study of place, are the treatments of place in literature, film, and television series; a small discussion of these areas is included.

Keywords: place, criticality, rural, American south, curriculum studies, international place, racial identity


Knowing where one started allows one to understand where he or she is. This relationship between place and feeling is central to curriculum theory’s study of place. Place is that which brings the particularistic into focus; a sense of place sharpens our understanding of the individual and the physic and social forces that direct him or her. Without place, our appreciation of such particularistic forces tends to be fuzzy and depersonalized. Indeed, place particularizes and conveys embedded social forces.

— (Kincheloe & Pinar, 1991, p. 4)

Many folks feel no sense of place. What they know, what they have is a sense of crisis, impending doom.

— (hooks, 2008, p. 1)

After writing and editing three books (Reynolds, 2013, 2014, 2017) on conceptualizations of Southern place, rural place, and the significance that place has played in numerous curriculum, educational, and political issues, it is appropriate to indicate the importance of “the frame of place” (Creswell, 2014, p. 2) socially, politically, and economically. Current issues have been framed around place, such as the Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement, (Creswell, 2014, p. 2), and the 2016 Presidential election in the United States to name a significant few. In the 2016 victory of Donald Trump, notions of place played a significant role. Trump won the Eastern and Midwestern rust belt, the Southern states, the “fly-over states,” and the upper northwestern states. All of these states and their populations focused for campaign rallies and advertising based on notions of place and the constituencies of those places, whether urban or rural. Although stereotypically defined by issues of class, race, gender, and sexual preference, the targeting of these populations depended on the notion of place and the cartographies, frames, and stereotypes of those places. It worked. This is an important reason to analyze notions of place and the portraits that a evolved of particular places. Our notions of place have a direct impact on our everyday lives. A criticality of the study of place continues to develop, so that autobiographical accounts of place do not remain as simply interesting stories of growing up in particular locations but emerge as critical autobiographies, which contextualize and politicize place.

Simply put—place matters. Ironically, in this historical moment when “space has become no particular place—cyberspace” (Chun, 2006; Pinar, 2012, p. 22), place takes on a heightened significance, a type of geographic imaginary (Shapiro, 2007, p. 293), and has become a violent cartography for stereotyping based on class, race, gender, and LGBTQ issues (Reynolds, 2017). The notion of violent cartographies, as explained by Michael Shapiro (1997, 2007), demonstrates the manner in which place becomes ever more significant in discussions of politics, identity, education, and curriculum. As Shapiro explains:

[The] bases of violent cartographies are the “historically developed, socially embedded interpretations of identity and space” that constitute the frames within which enmities give rise to war-as-policy (Shapiro, 1997, p. ix). Violent cartographies are thus constituted as inter-articulations of geographic imaginaries and antagonisms, based on models of identity-difference. Since the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), a point at which the horizontal, geopolitical world of nation-states emerged as a more salient geographic imaginary than the theologically oriented vertical world (which was imaginatively structured as a separation between divine and secular space), maps of enmity have been framed by differences in geopolitical location, and (with notable exceptions) state leaders have supplanted religious authorities. Moreover (also with notable exceptions), geopolitical location has since been a more significant identity marker than spiritual commitment.

(Shapiro, 2007, pp. 293–294)

Place exceeds just as curriculum studies focus The study of place takes into account many curriculum orientations and texts (Morris, 2015a, 2015b; Pinar, Reynolds, Slattery, & Taubman, 2006). Of course, positionality remains crucial in determining our understandings, but situatedness (place) is also a crucial factor in our understandings of self and enables our ability to develop agency. Not only are our identities and their formation significant, but also where we come from has a tremendous impact on our conceptualizations of the world, our worldview and, indeed, our identities.

But place does still matter. Whether we like it or not, we are corporal beings, grounded in the particular, in the finite conditions of our embodiment, our creatureliness. So is everything else, even if we sometimes forget the facts of the matter, or get caught up in the power of our own digital illusions .|.|. In losing “place” entirely, and succumbing to the idea that a website can be a place and that digital relationships can substitute for friends and family, we risk forgetting this reality of our embodiment, risk losing the basis for healthy and resilient individual identity, and risk forfeiting the needed preconditions for the cultivation of human virtues.

(McClay & McAllister, 2014, pp. ix–xx)

As simple as it may seem, the place of an individual’s origins significantly influences the understanding they have of themselves and their world. Of course, place is inextricably intertwined with class, race, gender, and sexual preference.

This article discusses the scholarly work done on the conceptualizations of place. It has two basic objectives. First, various notions of place and the scholarship on place are discussed. Second, the connections between studies of place and the curriculum studies field are explicated. In the current scholarship in curriculum and education, in general, there is a plethora of work done on issues of identity, privilege, and positionality, but many of these studies only briefly treat the crucial component of place. One of the major points of this article is that the study of place, our situatedness, and our geography is significantly important and, in many cases, is not included in much of the scholarship that has been produced. There has been significant scholarship focusing on place; however, given the space of this article, the focus centers on place and curriculum studies. The questions surrounding place and curriculum studies have received attention in scholarship from the early 1990s to the present. These studies of place have focused on the importance of place in autobiography, race, ecojustice, indigenous cultures, gender, and the global South (Casemore, 2007; Chambers, 2008; Kincheloe & Pinar, 1991; Martusewicz, Edmundson, & Lupinacci, 2014; Pinar, 2001, 2004, 2010; Reynos & Webber, 2009; Whitlock, 2007).

Place Research in Curriculum Studies

The concept of place emerged in curriculum and political theory in the book, Curriculum as Social Psychoanalysis: Essays on the Significance of Place (1991). Joe L. Kincheloe and William F. Pinar introduced the notion of place as an organizing idea for political, autobiographical, racial, and gender issues in curriculum, illustrating the concept through issues of the American South. They suggested that a curriculum theory of place is rooted in a Habermasian notion of social psychoanalysis and a related literary conception of “place” (See Pinar et al., 2006, pp. 289–290). Their focus in the text was on the South, and the focus on that region would continue to dominate studies of the curriculum of place well into the 21st century. The studies of place have not exclusively focused on the South, however; areas of study have expanded as the scholarship has expanded. The texts centering on place and the South have also discussed racial identity. Another focus of the Kincheloe and Pinar text (1991) was the central role literature has played in our conceptualizations and understandings of place. Kincheloe’s chapter entitled “Willie Morris and the Southern Curriculum” (Kincheloe & Pinar, 1991, pp. 123–155) demonstrates the connections among “historiography, ethnography, phenomenology, gender studies, autobiography, and literary criticism” (p. 123) in Southern Studies. Of course, the intertwining of the political is also present. Kincheloe uses Willie Morris’ literary works as an example of a type of “eulogy” for the Southern ghosts. Morris was one of the authors struggling with the influences of place on identity, history, class, race, and gender. The line of literature about place is complex and includes numerous authors. William Faulkner is most likely the author associated with ideas, myths, and the ghost of Southern place. He is of course a regional writer. There are a host of writers focused on Southern place; Alice Walker, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Carson McCullers, Pat Conroy, Dorothy Allison, William Penn Warren, Maya Angelou, Margaret Walker, Randall Kenan, and James Baldwin.1 This is certainly not a complete list, and there are other regions in the United States and internationally that various writers deal with; but these writers focused much of their work on the South, and these works are indicative of the type of literary orientation in which studies of place can dwell. All of these writers take issue with the image of the place close in people’s minds of the South, that image and myth created by Margaret Mitchell in her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Gone with the Wind, originally published in 1936 and still in publication. The academy award winning film by the same name, released in 1940, reinforced the image. This film, perhaps even more than the book, cemented the plantation image with romantic Confederate soldiers like Ashley Wilkes and rogues like Rhett Butler alongside sweet charming women like Melanie Hamilton, a femme fatale in Scarlett O’Hara, and an obedient slave, Mammy. These powerful celluloid images haunt us today. Kincheloe and Pinar (1991) discussed one of the major issues concerning place in curriculum scholarship early. That issue is the manner in which place becomes a way to stereotype literary characters, political orientations, portrayals in film and other media. From the mid-20th century through the 21st century, this stereotyping of place has grown exponentially through various forms of media. Television sitcoms, reality television programs, and films have contributed to our notions of specific places, whether it be the coal mining towns of Kentucky, the alligator swamps of Florida, the last frontier of Alaska, men and women of the Jersey Shore, the housewives of various cities, the teens of Laguna Beach, the moonshiners of Appalachia, the Honey Boo Boos of the South, or the eating of strange food in exotic global places.2 Twenty-first century media, particularly streaming media, has provided never-ending, 24-hour, 7 days a week unlimited access to clichéd visions of place.

It appears that as curriculum studies scholarship and scholarship in general concerning education has progressed, it has attempted to deal with that universalizing analysis of place. The development of the notions of place and space need to be continually researched and discussed so as not to solidify an overarching definition (stereotype) of them. Discussions of place should not attempt a paradoxically territorialized particular. Territorializing would attempt to define “stable, coded patterns that make up the internal and external organization of the environment of living things, which may be transcoded as part of other larger milieus” (Young, 2013). Attempting to give a particular place a given stability can also give us a diagram that establishes an order. Places do not always fit their frames and can slip in and out of them. This phenomenon of slipping out of the frame is analyzed in much of the critical scholarship on place and curriculum. There has been significant scholarship done on curriculum, place, autobiography, and politics.

Research on Place

There have been a number of significant works on concepts of place and the work continues. This article highlights a number of the significant works: Curriculum Intertext: Place, Language, Pedagogy (Hase-Ludt & Hurren, 2003); Pedagogy of Place: Seeing Space as Cultural Education (Callejo Perez & Schubert, 2004); Geographies of Girlhood: Identities In-between (Bettis & Adams, 2005); This Corner of Canaan: Curriculum Studies of Place and the Reconstruction of the South (Whitlock, 2007), and Queer South Rising: Voices of a Contested Place (Whitlock, 2013); The Autobiographical Demand of Place (Whitlock, 2007); A Curriculum of Place: Understandings Emerging through the Southern Mist (Reynolds, 2013); Critical Studies of Southern Place: A Reader (Reynolds, 2014); and Forgotten Places: Critical Studies in Rural Education (Reynolds, 2017). These authored and edited collections continue the scholarship on curriculum and place in a multiplicity of directions. Again, our situatedness (place) has personal, pedagogical, and political features. In particular, with the investigations of Southern place issues of race and racial identity evolve. These understandings of place are integral to our understandings of our autobiographies, and the historical and contemporary political milieu. An analysis of a number of the major works on place is integral to the continual development of the curriculum of place.

Curriculum Intertext: Place, Language, Pedagogy (Hasebe-Ludt & Wanda Hurren, 2003) is a text that tackles the notion of displacement within the context of place. In a collection of 27 essays, the many authors interrogate notions of place and space. The book addresses the spaces between disciples, theoretical perspectives, and research on place. A central notion in the text is the place of the “in-between.” As Aoki might write, not this side of the road or that side of the road, but in the middle of the road itself. The in-between, the middle way is a unique way to conceive place. It might also be a way to deconstruct the violent cartographies that exist concerning definitions of particular places. Deleuze and Guattari discuss the in-between, the middle, or the “and.” The middle spaces, perhaps another way of defining intertextuality is a space in-between. A theme that Aoki investigated as well as is evident in Curriculum Intertext:

This becomes a major point in Deleuzeand Guattari’s political philosophy. It is the “in-between.” Becoming new ways of thinking always proceed from the “in-between.” This is where lines of flight take shape. The possibilities for creative political thought for one lie on those multiplicities, which emerge in the “in-between.” This shows not what political thought [place] should be, but how AND can be productive for it.

(Reynolds & Webber, 2004, p. 31)

There is a connection drawn, in this text as in many texts dedicated to the study of place, among language, pedagogy, and place. Throughout the text, the echoes of Ted Aoki’s work are present much as William Pinar indicates in his “Afterword:” “Now, thanks to our ‘line in the centre’—the living pedagogy of Tetsuo Aoki—we have had our visions. May they reverberate—as our ‘after-words’—in ourselves and our students” (Pinar, in Hasebe-Ludt & Hurren, 2003, p. 294).

The concept of intertextuality and middle places and spaces is a major contribution to the discussions of curriculum and place. The ability of “middle” thinking can lead us away from the cementing of our thinking about place in terms of either/or and alleviate stereotyping.

Pedagogy of Place: Seeing Space as Cultural Education (Callejo Perez & Schubert, 2004) continues the emphasis on the study of place and its connections to cultural, social and political themes in curriculum studies with a focus on pedagogy and schools. As the editors, indicate in the beginning words of the introduction.

The focus of this work is about place, the embodiment of a purposefully created space that is a creation and enactment of the cultural and social conditions of participants. It is also about education, the purposeful creation of spaces that comprise learning environments, and the aesthetic dimensions of the created space called school. Our concerns are the forces that shape the space we call school and the ability of that public space to represent the needs and desires of the constituents it serves.

(Callejo Perez & Schubert, 2004, p. 1)

Following William H. Schubert’s lead, in his “Foreword” (Callejo & Schubert, 2004, pp. ix–xxv) to the text, I would like to re-emphasize his notion that this text reinforces the concept that place was, is, and continues to be a significant discourse in curriculum studies and education in general. In the varied discussions by the authors in the text, issues of place and identity are analyzed. There are strands denoted by the authors centering on social, aesthetic, political, and historical orientations to place. The text, unique, particularly at the time, was not only about critiquing places but creating them as well. The editors delineate that the authors are not against a type of science of curriculum development or schooling.

Rather, the purpose of this collection is to open conversations with persons interested in curriculum making and teaching and learning, which includes the issue of working at the act of creating the spaces and places, which release human potential and nurture the human spirit.

(Callejo & Schubert, 2004, p. 228)

In all of the areas of space considered in Pedagogy of Place: Seeing Space as Cultural Education (2004), there is a middle way. Readers are challenged to consider whether the reluctance to confront, challenge, or contest the instrumentalist view of curriculum development is a strength or weakness of this text. There are studies that also open up within the study of curriculum and place a strong focus on questions and issues of gender and place.

In Geographies of Girlhood: Identities In-between (Bettis & Adams, 2005), numerous authors discuss the ways in which adolescent girls develop an understanding of themselves as female in the 21st century and the interwoven nature of gender and place. The focus is on the voices of adolescent girls and their comments about themselves and the places in which they dwell. Most significant for the study of curriculum and place is the “Afterword: Girlhood, Place and Pedagogy.” In this section of the book, Bettis and Adams, after discussing the theoretical activity surrounding the role of place in education, elaborate specifically on girls and place.

What we learned from the words and actions of the girls and young women in these studies is that the in-between and supposedly mundane places of everyday life are central to their identity work. These mundane places are not always part of the “natural environment,” and they are not places that adults would consider significant. But in fact, we have learned about the importance of the bedroom and the backseat of the school bus, both places that girls use to tease out who they are and who they are becoming. (Bettis & Adams, 2005, p. 273)

The focus on “mundane places” in this work combines gender, identity, place, and autobiography. This work stands as a strong contribution to the work on gender and its connections to place.

Bettis and Adams, in their text, refer to the work of David Gruenewald (2003a, 2003b; Gruenewald & Smith, 2007). Although Gruenewald’s work is not immersed in curriculum studies, his work is significant in its discussion of place. He focuses on place conscious education. In that, focus he uses a multidisciplinary approach drawing ideas from phenomenology, critical geography, bioregionalism, ecology, ecofeminism, and critical pedagogy (Gruenewald, 2003a, 2003b). Gruenewald’s careful and thorough scholarship is crucial to developing understandings of placed from a multitude of perspectives, particularly the complexities of place and the environment. In Foundations of Place: A Multidisciplinary Framework for Place-Conscious Education (2003a), he discusses the purpose of his inquiry, which permeates his work.

The purpose of this inquiry is to contribute to a theory of place as a multidisciplinary construct for cultural analysis and to unearth, transplant, and cross-fertilize perspectives on place that can advance theory, research, and practice in education. The treatment of place in the present article, similarly, is preludial, and aims to address, through place-conscious educational thinking, some of the complexities that plague the world and our institutions of education.

(Gruenewald, 2003a, pp. 619–620)

These works, particularly Greunewald’s eco-language and concerns, can be linked to the text, EcoJustice Education: Toward Diverse, Democratic, and Sustainable Communities (Martusewicz et al., 2014), where the focus on place is given a distinctly ecojustice orientation. The authors emphasize the concept of “place-based” education and give it a new, ecological, social justice orientation and a manner in which education can be oriented to specific environmental issues in specific places. It strongly establishes that ecojustice and social justice interconnect with our situatedness.

This is an approach that attempts to make learning more relevant to students by getting them involved in their own communities, partnering with other adults and organizations that care deeply about identifying and solving real problems. When paired with the model of EcoJustice Education offered in this book, place-based education becomes a powerful tool.

(Martusewicz et al., 2014, p. 15)

EcoJustice issues and place are present in the everyday struggles in our world. Readers only have to think about the struggles at the Standing Rock Reservation in North and South Dakota. The fight against the Access Pipeline in the place that is home to Hunkpapa Lakota, Sihasapa Lakota (Blackfoot), and the Yanktonai Dakota demonstrates the fight over fossil fuels, but also how specifically place-oriented those struggles are. The study of place can also continually raise Southern place issues.

Three books that deal with the connections among place, history, and autobiography specifically tied to the South, as Morris (2015a, pp. 199–201) indicates, are: This Corner of Canaan: Curriculum Studies of Place and the Reconstruction of the South (Whitlock, 2007), The Autobiographical Demand of Place (Casemore, 2008), and A Delicate Dance: Autoethnography, Curriculum, and the Semblance of Intimacy (Jewett, 2008). These three texts deal with the ambiguity that Southerners have about the South, a type of love-hate relationship, which indicates the strong sense of place that dwells in the hearts of Southerners for the place they call home. Shirley Steinberg expresses this love-hate relationship in a tale of her first meeting with Joe Kincheloe.

One of the first questions I asked Joe, in Ohio on the October day we met, was: “who was right? Neil Young or Lynyrd Skynyrd?” Without a beat, he replied: “Neil Young.” As much as he loved the South, Joe was painfully aware of her ghosts, and Neil had seen their auras. He did, however, feel “ole Mr. Young” was uninformed as to the nuances of the South, and had Young spent time in the South, his Canadian dismissal of Southern Man, as simply barbaric and racist would have been more informed. That was one of the mysteries of the South: racism and hatred could be spewed by a working stiff, a redneck, yet that same man could be a daddy to his babies and twirl his own mama around a dance floor on Mother’s Day.

(Steinberg, in Reynolds, 2013, p. 2)

Morris (2015a) writes that the “South is an attraction and an aversion” (Whitlock, 2007, p. 19). All who study the South need to be wary of what is called Southern nostalgia (Morris, 2015a). That nostalgia manifests itself in the romanticism of the Lost Cause (Reynolds, 2013). This romanticism ignores the conflict and contestation with race and racial identity in the South. Of course, the beauty of the Southern landscape (place), with the azaleas, dogwoods, live oaks, and misty mornings as Morris and these authors suggest, has a way of clouding the hideous racial history of the Southern place. In addition, interestingly enough, Southern nostalgia has gripped not only Southerners but the rest of the United States as well. The reification of the “South” has, in our corporate consumer culture, turned all things and notions Southern into commodities. Even if we are not Southern, we can purchase everything from Southern heritage recipes to Dixie license plates and t-shirts. We can cook Southern food, buy any assortment of Rebel flags, don a reproduction Civil War uniform, and so on. The South becomes a multifaceted commodity for consumption. One can see Confederate symbols displayed from New York to Alabama (Reynolds, 2013). Casemore, Jewett, and Whitlock demystify Southern place, its history, culture and racial complexity according to various orientations.

“In the South, racism, misogyny, and homophobia come together in a convoluted—but not impenetrable—knot” (Casemore, 2007, p. 39). It is dealing with the racism that is part of the history of the South. That, according to Casemore, is a history of denial. It is reminiscent of discussions centering on the causes or reasons for the Civil War. In the South, even in the 21st century, there remains a denial that the main cause of the war was slavery. Of course, slavery remains, in the guise of the mass incarceration of black men (Alexander, 2012). Casemore discusses the history of white males in the South deftly using autobiography as part of the analytic process. Casemore states at the conclusion of his book:

As I’ve shown, the study of place can illuminate the way we inhabit simultaneously a subjective and social world. Our autobiographies of place can help us rethink and reintegrate divided spheres of experience: public/private, worldly/domestic, male/female, and black white .|.|. Within a social-psychoanalytic framework, we pursue social connectedness and self-communication not as social assimilation and self-adjustment, but in an effort to contribute to the progressive reconstruction of our private and public worlds.

(Casemore, 2007, p. 126)

For Jewett, the study of place is intertwined with race and gender and the fear and loathing of any type of relationship between black men and white women. In the text, she discusses teaching multicultural education to teacher-education students and her experience(s) dancing zydeco; these are intertwined to understand place and particularly to raise questions “about the curricular potential for intimacy across perceived otherness –specifically that constituted by the relationship between black masculinity and white femininity” (Jewett, 200, p. 2). Jewett discusses the use of autoethnography as way to interweave autobiography and ethnography. This combination of the self and other is a unique method to study the intimacies of place. Her book works through many difficult questions particularly within Southern place.

Whitlock’s confrontation of fundamentalist religion and queerness in the place of the South is a unique way to raise issues about place. Certainly, the South is recognized for its religious fundamentalism and its religiosity, or pretense of religiousness. Whitlock uncovers the ways in which white racism, home, family, class, and church intertwine. Whitlock, as William Pinar indicates in his Preface to the book, deals with home (the South), “where Whitlock asserts both her religious fundamentalism and her queer identity” (Pinar, in Whitlock, 2007, p. xi). The problematizing of the nostalgia of the South and the realities of the South are a major contribution to the study of place. Addressing autobiographically queer identity and religion in the South increases its impact.

I therefore want to reveal the complexities, paradoxes, anomalies of spirit and desire that I bear witness to as a queer fundamentalist—not a fundamentalist, not a lesbian woman void of other identity experiences, not a critic with an overdetermined attachment to one theoretical discourse, perspective, or ground for thinking—but as a person with truly problematic and contradictory identifications and desires.

(Whitlock, 2007, p. xii)

All three of these authors raise intriguing questions about the parameters of place and its connection to history, politics, race, class, gender, and sexual preference issues. They do this through an autobiographical and autoethnographic framework. These issues are raised outside the Southern context when discussed in the context of First Nation people and Canadian place.

In an article entitled Where Are We? Finding Common Ground in a Curriculum of Space (2008), by Canadian scholar Cynthia Chambers, the idea of a curriculum of place is investigated insightfully and thoroughly with a unique perspective.

By learning to do what is appropriate in this place, and doing it together, perhaps, we can find the common ground necessary to survive.

(Chambers, 2008, p. 125)

The author discusses her connections to the Kangiryuarmuit and their literacies as a center part of the background of the article (the notions of the knowledge and literacies of First Nation people and their devotion to land and place is an area in the curriculum of place that requires more research). Because of her work, Chambers develops “four dimensions of a curriculum of place” (Chambers, 2008, pp. 115–125). A curriculum of place calls for a different sense of time. Chambers, citing Wendell Berry, the Blackfoot, and the Kangiryuarmuit, indicates that knowing a place takes dwelling in that place for countless years—a long time. This does not negate attempts at understanding place but puts that understanding into a perspective. A second dimension of a curriculum of place is enskillment. “A person’s being is constituted through the tasks that he or she conducts as he or she dwells in a particular place within a region of places” (p. 116). Referring to The Perception of the Environment: Essays in Livelihood, Dwelling, Skill (Ingold, 2000), Chambers elaborates on four critical dimensions of skilled practiced in the article. A third dimension is that of an education of attention. Chambers discusses the notion that part of knowing a place is to learn to observe and pay attention to the clues of a place. “Through the education of attention each generation learns to notice the clues in a place, the clues through which each generation must learn how to live here, and the clues by which what it means to live here, may be revealed” (Chambers, 2008, p. 122). Finally, a curriculum of place is a wayfinding. Wayfinding is learning a place by learning about a place by dwelling in that place and traveling in that place or “knowing as you go” (Ingold, 2000). Chambers is able to add new insights to the notions of place.

Another set of investigations of place emerge in A Curriculum of Place: Understandings Emerging Through the Southern Mist (2013), Critical Studies of Southern Place: A Reader (2014), and Forgotten Places: Critical Studies in Rural Education (2017) edited by William M. Reynolds. This trilogy of books on place draws together scholars who discussed place (in the first two books) in terms of the South. The focus of the third book was initially on rural place and quickly expanded to rural place understood internationally. The author’s initial interest in writing about place and engaging other scholars to write about the South was a keen interest to understand the place come to as an outsider and lived in for twenty years. The love-hate relation with the South is a consistent theme in the books, and that love-hate relationship swirls within issues of race. The first book (2013) dealt with the ways in which understanding place, particularly Southern place, was important since the United States has gone Southern politically and culturally. The chapters focused on autobiographical experiences and political issues. The authors in this text discussed issues of politics, slavery, race, gender, class, power, and queering in the South. These chapters discussed the ways in which racial identity evolves in the South. The two volumes on the South expand the discussion of the South beyond White Southerners.

The 33 authors who contributed to the volume Critical Studies of Southern Place (2014) critically investigated and added to the analyses of the construction(s) of Southernness (place), Southern racial identity, and the South past and present. The text promoted and expanded the notion of a Southern epistemology first discussed by Kincheloe and Pinar (1991). Scholars from across the South wrote about diverse topics such as Southern working-class culture; LGBTQ issues in the South; Southern Music; Southern reality television; race and ethnicity identity in the South; religion in the South; sports in the South; and Southernness. The issue(s) of place focuses on the South, however, these multiple interpretations of popular culture within critical conceptions of place enhance our understandings of curriculum and education. This was an investigation of the connections between the critical analysis of place specific culture and its multiple connections with education, politics, culture, and pedagogy.3

Forgotten Places (2017) critically investigates and informs the construction of rural place, rural identity, and the understanding of the rural place internationally. The volume promotes and expands the notion of critical understandings of rural education, particularly in the areas of race, class, gender, and LGBTQ, with conceptualizations of social justice. While there have been many volumes written on critical issues in urban education, only a small number appear on place and rural education, and the majority of those are not critical. By contrast, Forgotten Places not only discusses “schools in the country,” but also expands conceptualizations of the rural beyond schools and place, beyond the borders of the United States. It also tackles the artificial duality between conceptualizations of urban and rural. The text includes scholarly investigations into the connections among the symbolic order, various forms of cultural artifacts and multiple readings of these artifacts within the context of critical and transformational pedagogy and curriculum studies. There is an attempt in the text to fill a significant gap in the scholarly work on the ramifications of the rural and place.4 This trilogy was an attempt to expand the notions of place with more criticality and add to the work that has developed historically.


The issues that Pinar discussed in his concluding remarks in Curriculum as Social Psychoanalysis (1991) remain significant in the continuing research on curriculum and place. Pinar was discussing place in terms of the South, but it applies to place in general and the work that continues.

Curriculum as a southern place is also the study of absence, the admission of denial, the integration of the culturally excluded (race), the denied (class), and the bifurcated (gender). Obviously, the obstacles are many and jagged; only an institutional effort generously supported could proceed with even modest expectations of success.

(Kincheloe & Pinar, 1991, p. 186)

The work in curriculum and place continues. It is significant work in the curriculum studies field as well as in the areas of foundations of education, ecojustice, social justice, and critical political analysis. Perhaps, further work in place will put more emphasis on problematizing stereotypical concepts or ideas of particular places and groups that live in those places in addition to work on demographic analysis, particular school descriptions, and plans for success in particular geographic areas. Additional work on international concepts of place is also essential. Moreover, much more work needs elaboration on the politically liberating potential of place specific research. Discussion would include not only the poor cool miners of eastern Kentucky and their representations in television programs like Justified (2010–2015), but also the historical force of the Cool Miner’s Unions and the struggles in which they engaged. Scholars will not only write about the tribal reservations, their schools, and the representations of Native American people in various forms of media, but also they will produce scholarship on Reservation Rap Music or Rez Rap, in the United States and Canada, which can be shown and discussed as disruptions to the erased history of native peoples and their places. Individual artists and groups such as Drezus, Red Eagle, Tru Rez Crew, and Wahwahtay Benis need discussion. These artists disrupt the frame constructed about Native Americans and their dwelling places, and they express a bold assertion of the genocide inflicted on Native Americans in North America. An analysis of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in these discussions of place requires analysis. In present discussions of the lived experiences of LGBTQ individuals in the South as well as other geographies (Whitlock, 2007, 2013), the work helps to clarify place and experiences of suppression and homophobia but perhaps also raises hope and awareness. Additional work is needed on African American existence, racial identity, and place—books such as The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America (Lemann, 1996), which discusses the South to North migration of blacks; The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (Wilkerson, 2011), and Call To Home: African Americans Reclaim The Rural South (1996). Call To Home involves research concerning the return of blacks to rural areas or what has been called reverse exodus, an analysis of places. Scholarship on the “place” of Black Lives Matter is also an essential part of the work on place. Of course, discussions of farm workers, and the farm workers union present a new view of a particular place and group, as in From the Jaws of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez (Garcia, 2012). Other ethnicities must be added to any discussion of place. Not just ethnicities, their narratives, and diagrams of places, but an analyses of social class and poverty need deconstruction. The connections between class and place need further scholarship. This article provides only a snapshot of the work done on curriculum and place. As research reveals more nuances of curriculum and place, more areas emerge as potential places for investigation. This work on curriculum and place, may be a type of disruption (Reynolds, 2017) to the violent cartographies of place, which always already portray certain places and people as other. This type of research is necessary given our present historical moment.

Further Reading

Chang, R. S. (2002). Critiquing “race” and its uses: Critical race theory’s uncompleted argument. In F. Valdes, J. M. Culp, & A. P. Harris (Eds.), Crossroads, directions, and a new critical race theory (pp. 87–96). Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Find this resource:

Cobb, J. (2011). The South and America since World War II. New York: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

Delaney, D. (2002). The space that race makes. Professional Geographer, 54(1), 6–14.Find this resource:

Drozdzewski, D., De Nardi, S., & Waterton, E. (Eds.). (2016). Memory, place, and identity: Commemoration and remembrance of war and conflict. New York: Routledge.Find this resource:

Farca, P. A. (2011). Identity in place: Contemporary indigenous fiction by women writers in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. New York: Peter Lang.Find this resource:

Gregory, J. (1998). Southernizing the American working class: Post-war episodes of regional and class transformation. Labor History, 39(2), 135–154.Find this resource:

Hoelscher, S. (2003). Making place, making race: Performances of whiteness in the Jim Crow South. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 93(3), 657–686.Find this resource:

Kincheloe, J. L., & Pinar, W. F. (Eds.). (1991). Curriculum as social psychoanalysis: The significance of place. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.Find this resource:

Kulnieks, A., Longboat, D. R., & Young, K. (Eds.). (2013). Contemporary studies in environmental and indigenous pedagogies: A curricula of stories and place. Boston: Sense Publishers.Find this resource:

Pinar, W. F. (2001). The gender of racial politics and violence in America: Lynching, prison rape, and the crisis of masculinity. New York: Peter Lang.Find this resource:

Schubert, W.H., Schubert, A. L. L., Thomas, T. P., Carroll, W. M., & Forsyth, A. H. (2002). Curriculum books: The first hundred years. New York: Peter Lang.Find this resource:

Somerville, M., Power, K., & de Carteret, P. (Eds.). (2009). Landscapes and learning: Place studies for a global world. Boston: Sense Publishers.Find this resource:


Alexander, M. (2012). The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. New York: The New Press.Find this resource:

Baldwin, J. (2000). Giovanni’s room. New York: Random House.Find this resource:

Bettis, P., & Adams, N. (2005). Geographies of girlhood: Identities in-between. New York: Routledge.Find this resource:

Birmingham, K. (2011). No name in the south: James Baldwin and the monuments of identity. African American Review, 44(1/2), 221–234.Find this resource:

Callejo Perez, D. M., Breault, D. A., & White, W. L. (2014). Curriculum as spaces: Aesthetics, community, and the politics of place. New York: Peter Lang.Find this resource:

Callejo Perez, D. M., & Schubert, W. (Eds.). (2004). Pedagogy of place: Seeing space as cultural education. New York: Peter Lang.Find this resource:

Casemore, B. (2007). The autobiographical demand of place: Curriculum inquiry in the American South. New York: Routledge.Find this resource:

Casemore, B. (2008). The autobiographical demand of place: Curriculum inquiry in the American south. New York: Peter Lang.Find this resource:

Chambers, C. (2008). Where are we? Finding common ground in a curriculum of place. Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies, 6(2), 113–128.Find this resource:

Chun, W-H. K. (2006). Control and freedom: Power and paranoia in the age of fiber optics. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Find this resource:

Creswell, T. (2014). Place: An introduction (2d ed.). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.Find this resource:

Garcia, M. (2012). From the jaws of victory: The triumph and tragedy of Cesar Chavez. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Find this resource:

Gruenewald, D. A. (2003a). Foundations of place: A multidisciplinary framework for place-conscious education. American Educational Research Journal, 40(3), 619–654.Find this resource:

Gruenewald, D. A. (2003b). The best of both worlds: A critical pedagogy of place. Educational Researcher, 32(4), 3–12.Find this resource:

Gruenewald, D. A., & Smith G. A. (2007). Place-based education in the global age: Local diversity. New York: Routledge.Find this resource:

Hasebe-Ludt, E., & Hurren, W. (2003). Curriculum intertext: Place/language/pedagogy. New York: Peter Lang.Find this resource:

hooks, b. (2008). Belonging: A culture of place. New York: Routledge.Find this resource:

Hurren, W., & Hasebe-Ludt, E. (Eds.). (2013). Contemplating curriculum: Genealogies/times/places. New York: Routledge.Find this resource:

Ingold, T. (2000). The perception of the environment: Essays in livelihood, dwelling, skill. New York: RoutledgeFind this resource:

Jewett, L. M. (2008). A delicate dance: Autoethnography, curriculum, and the semblance of intimacy. New York: Peter Lang.Find this resource:

Kincheloe, J. L., & Pinar, W. F. (Eds.). (1991). Curriculum as social psychoanalysis: The significance of place. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.Find this resource:

Lemann, N. (1996). The promised land: The great black migration and how it changed America. New York: Vintage Books.Find this resource:

Martusewicz, R. A., Edmundson, J., & Lupinacci, J. (2014). EcoJustice education: Toward diverse, democratic, and sustainable communities. New York: Routledge.Find this resource:

McClay, W. M., & McAllister, T. V. (Eds.). (2014). Why place matters: Geography, identity, and civic life in modern America. New York: Encounter Books.Find this resource:

Morris, M. (2015a). Curriculum studies guidebooks: Vol. 1. Concepts and theoretical frameworks. New York: Peter Lang.Find this resource:

Morris, M. (2015b). Curriculum studies guidebooks: Vol. 2. Concepts and theoretical frameworks. New York: Peter Lang.Find this resource:

Mitchell, M. (2011). Gone with the Wind (Re-issue edition). New York: Scribner.Find this resource:

Pinar, W. F. (2004). What is curriculum theory? Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.Find this resource:

Pinar, W. F. (2010). A southern treasure. Journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Curriculum Studies, 6(2).Find this resource:

Pinar, W. F. (2012). What is curriculum theory? (2d ed.). New York: Routledge.Find this resource:

Pinar, W. F., Reynolds, W. M., Slattery, P., & Taubman, P. M. (2006). Understanding curriculum: An introduction to the study of historical and contemporary curriculum discourses. New York: Peter Lang.Find this resource:

Reynolds, W. M. (Ed.). (2013). A curriculum of place: Understandings emerging through the southern mist. New York: Peter Lang.Find this resource:

Reynolds, W. M. (Ed.). (2014). Critical studies of southern place: A reader. New York: Peter Lang.Find this resource:

Reynolds, W. M. (Ed.). (2017). Forgotten places: Critical studies in rural education. New York: Peter Lang.Find this resource:

Reynolds, W. M., & Webber, J. A. (Eds.). (2004). Expanding curriculum theory: Dis/positions and lines of flight. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Find this resource:

Reynolds, W. M., & Webber, J. A. (2008). The civic gospel: A political cartography of Christianity. Rotterdam: SensePublishers.Find this resource:

Reynolds, W., & Webber, J. A. (2009). The civic gospel: A political cartography of christianity. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.Find this resource:

Selznick, D. O. (Producer), & Fleming, V. (Director). (1940). Gone with the Wind [Motion Picture]. Beverly Hills, CA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.Find this resource:

Shapiro, M. J. (1997). Violent cartographies: Mapping cultures of war. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Find this resource:

Shapiro, M. J. (2007). The new violent cartography. Security Dialogue, 38(3), 291–313.Find this resource:

Stack, C. (1996). Call to home: African Americans reclaim the rural south. New York: Basic Books.Find this resource:

Steinberg, S. R. (2013). Revisiting and reconceptualizing southern ghosts: Curriculum from the other side. In W. M. Reynolds (Ed.), A curriculum of place: Understandings emerging through the southern mist (pp. 1–15). New York: Peter Lang.Find this resource:

Whitlock, R. U. (2007). This corner of Canaan: Curriculum studies of place and the reconstruction of the south. New York: Peter Lang.Find this resource:

Whitlock, R. U. (Ed.). (2013). Queer south rising: Voices of contested place. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.Find this resource:

Wilkerson, I. (2011). The warmth of other suns: The epic story of America’s great migration. New York: Vintage.Find this resource:

Yost, G. (Creator). (2010–2015). Justified [Television series]. Los Angeles: FX Networks.Find this resource:

Young, E. B. (2013). The Deleuze and Guattari dictionary. New York: Bloomsbury.Find this resource:


(1.) All of these authors deal with place, in this case the South in all its complexities. James Baldwin is one example. “For Baldwin, the South was not a canonical monument because it was an ancestral realm of memory. Rather, it was a realm of memory because it was a monument. In the end, it was his critique of the region’s formalism that shaped his critique of ethnic identity” (Birmingham, 2011, p. 221).

(2.) See Reynolds (2013); Reynolds (2014) for specific discussions of these programs, media, and place.

(3.) See Reynolds (2014).

(4.) See Reynolds (2017).