Study Session Report: “Place and Placelessness”

On January 19th and February 22nd, 2024, IDEAFUND Co., Ltd.(Founder & CEO: Naoko Okawachi, Tokyo) hosted study sessions on “Place and Placelessness” by Edward Relph (translated by Hiroshi Yamamoto), focusing on the attitudes and approaches to contemporary urban development. 

Book Summary
To live as a human being is to ascribe various personal meanings to the spaces and environments around us. Spaces segmented through our own direct experiences become places. In the modern era, characterized by mass production and commercialism, places lose the diversity of meanings and environmental adaptability they once had, becoming imposed and inauthentic, dominated by a placelessness. This book is a daring challenge in phenomenological geography that exposes characteristics of modern placelessness like Disneyfication, museumification, and futurization. It questions human attitudes and experiences towards place, employing literary and philosophical works from figures like Kierkegaard, Camus, and Lifton. (Chikuma Gakugei Bunko) – translated by Mio Taguchi 

Participants noted that while the existence of standardized “placelessness” leads to a loss of diversity, diverse human lives still persist within it. The book was seen to carry an essentialist tone throughout, differing from contemporary cultural anthropology, and because it emerged in the context of postmodernism, some felt its arguments were biased. It was shared that the essential qualities of places, which are difficult to understand and convey, could be clarified through cultural anthropological perspectives and fieldwork. 

A Word from the Presenter
The identities and attitudes towards places categorized in this book overlap significantly with the anthropologist’s approach of combining externality and internality, which reaffirmed the importance of such attitudes in thinking about place-making. The book discusses how place-making processes, methods, and harmonization with the surrounding landscape can potentially lead to “placelessness.” Additionally, I felt that regardless of the physical environment, the behaviors and interactions of the people present can significantly alter the nature of a place. Therefore, it is essential for anthropologists to not only observe from the outside but also engage as active members of the community, bringing about change with intention and capability, to transform “placelessness” into “place.” – Mio Taguchi 


IDEAFUND is a professional research company located in Tokyo.  With the corporate mission of “Accelerate Innovation with an Idea,” IDEAFUND Co., Ltd. brings together professionals in fields such as cultural anthropology. We are committed to deriving insights and creating new business needs through behavioral observation research. Since its foundation in 2018, its founder, Naoko, and her colleagues have applied the methodology of cultural anthropology to market/consumer research. Through this approach, we aim to gain a comprehensive understanding of consumers and users, thereby identifying opportunities for innovation.

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