Place versus Non-Place

Tim Cresswell’s Place: An Introduction highlights a binary between what can be defined as a ‘Place’ versus a ‘Non-Place’ or placeless-ness. I will analyse that the binary he creates in his chapter, ‘Place in a Mobile World’ is not necessarily one that needs to exist, due to the subjectivity and individuality of the phenomenology of places.

A ‘Place’ can be defined as a heterogenous, dynamic and lively space that is continuously shaped by our social practices and processes.1 He argues that Place is significant to people, and people are significant to the place itself. In other words, Places and people simultaneously create a sense of attachment and historical meaning.2 However, Cresswell discusses that Places have been increasingly homogenised due to increased mobilisation and a consumer society, creating a sense of ‘Placeless-ness’ or ‘Non-Place’3 He describes Placeless-ness as one of inauthenticity, where the average American changes home every three years, reducing the significance of a home. He also uses the example of tourism, where people would rather travel for the sake of it, rather than caring about the actual destination.4

However, Places don’t mean the same thing to everyone: a Non-Place can be seen as a place to someone else. Individuality is taken away in Cresswell’s readings as he over generalises what a sense of place is. For example, in Japan, there is a concept called famirii resutoran or famirsu, meaning family restaurant. These family restaurants are a selection of Japanese, Chinese or Korean cuisines, or even American chain restaurants such as Denny’s, as they “cater to diners of every age, sex and degree of affluence.”5 This seemingly ‘Non-Place’ of a Denny’s, homogenous as it is a chain restaurant, can be perceived as heterogenous due to its unique placement in Japan. A restaurant such as Denny’s is given cultural significance, due to its name and Japan’s history of multiculturalism forming from a “150-year history of industrialisation, nation-state formation and imperialist expansion,” as well as the economic boom in the 1960s.6 Therefore, Cresswell’s binary of Place versus Non-Place is not necessarily true as there are places that seem homogenous on the outside but are actually dynamic places that are imbued with memories and meanings for other people.

Cresswell further highlights this binary through the ‘Disneyification’ of Places. Disneyland is used as an example of a Non-place, where every park is recreated across the world, and thus give the same experience to everyone worldwide. However, even Disneyland can create a unique and individual experience for everyone. When Tokyo Disneyland opened in 1983, it was part of a plan to facilitate more cultural exchanges between Japan and the United States.7 Tokyo Disneyland can be seen as a different experience from American Disneylands because of its different rides, attractions and food. Additionally, due to its sister park, DisneySea. DisneySea is completely unique to Japan with its own theme and attractions that allow people, especially locals, to enjoy.

In summation, the binary of Place versus Non-Place that Cresswell highlights in this chapter does not necessarily exist in its entirety. This is due to individual and subjective experiences in seemingly homogenous places.

  1. Tim Cresswell, Place: An Introduction, 2nd ed., (West Sussex, 2015), p. 68. []
  2. Ibid., pp. 67-69. []
  3. Ibid., pp. 75. []
  4. Ibid., p. 76. []
  5. Katarzyna Joanna Cwiertka, Modern Japanese Cuisine: Food, Power and National Identity (London, 2006), p. 8. []
  6. Ibid., pp. 9-10. []
  7. ‘Grand Opening of Tokyo Disneyland (1980 to 1983)’, OLC: 50th Anniversary, <> [accessed 26 March 2022]. []