Deconstructing place identity: a socio-spatial exploration of contemporary Ballarat, Australia

Kim Crameri

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    In contemporary geographical literature, the concept of place is understood as a social construction. Meanings, values and identities are ascribed to place based on people’s lived experiences in places. People also identify themselves and others based on place-experience. Today, with a globalised economy, the spatial mobility of people, changing technologies, and so forth, some scholars question the authenticity of place identities. Other scholars suggest that global changes can help increase the perceived meanings, values and identities ascribed to places.
    This study deconstructs ‘place identity’ by exploring local discourses of ‘everyday life’ in contemporary Ballarat, Australia. It approaches place from a social constructionist and descriptive perspective, and is grounded in a socio-spatial dialectic. By exploring the concept of ‘place identity’ the study provides insight into the way: (i) people accord meaning and value to place; and (ii) people ascribe identities to themselves, others and place. A mixed method approach was used to generate quantitative and qualitative data, with this being generated between 2006 and 2010. The research methods included: a questionnaire-survey (1017 respondents); interviews (n = 94); observation and documentary analysis. Data were analysed thematically using a combination of SPSS, NVivo and Microsoft Access software programs.
    The study’s findings highlight a plurality of identities ascribed to Ballarat. Five main themes emerged from the findings: (i) rurality and the rural idyll: where Ballarat’s rural hinterland is accorded meaning and valued in both aesthetic and accessibility terms; and where Melbourne’s urbanity influences notions of a rural idyllic Ballarat; (ii) community: where there is a valuing of the idea of community and civic engagement – matching other community studies; (iii) birthright status rhetoric: where personal and place identity are enmeshed – aligning with other community studies; (iv) Ballarat’s internal history being fundamental to its distinctive contemporary ‘place identity’; and (v) the insider/outsider dualism: where this underpins formations of both personal and place identity. The study makes an original contribution to social and cultural geographical literature, as well as to the domain of Australian rural community studies.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Publication statusUnpublished - Dec 2014


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