Senses of place are the meanings and emotions humans attach to place. They are fundamental in both the expression of a sense of belonging and providing a locus for individual and collective identity. Master narratives of place seek to give coherence and authority to a desired dominant meaning or dominant sense of place. Master narratives often derive their authority from a traditional view of place that sees it as a bounded, fixed and homogeneous site of authentic identity. History and historiography have been employed to endorse and consolidate a particular meaning of place for the purpose of differentiating with others who operate outside of this meaning. At the same time, these dominant versions of history, identity and ontological security concerns may silence, disenfranchise and exclude non-hegemonic narratives which contradict or conflict with the desired master narrative of place. The creation, perpetuation and hegemonic status of a master narrative of place may therefore cause tension and, at times, conflict.
This dissertation seeks to problematise exclusionary master narratives of place by exploring the renegotiation of the master narrative towards a softer, more inclusive version. To do this, I contend that places, rather than exclusive sites of homogeneous identity, are instead invested with a multiplicity of diverse meanings and are ‘open’ to new meanings and therefore, to new narratives. I argue that countering narrative inequality must involve finding a new and imaginative avenue for the expression of alternative meanings of place. I therefore draw upon the notion of ‘narrative space’ as an epistemic framework through which the voice of the excluded may be heard. Narrative space can serve to soften difference by providing an opening for the expression of divergent narratives of lived-experience and meaning which may challenge the master narrative. In particular, I explore how place itself can provide a narrative space for the renegotiation of the master narrative of place.
I therefore examine two case studies where the master narrative of place has been renegotiated in a more inclusive way: the case of Egypt and Israel concurrent with the renegotiation of the meaning of Jerusalem and the Sinai Peninsula in the late 1970s; and the case of Berlin concurrent with the renegotiation of the Cold War master narrative in the late 1980s. These case studies are examples of the capacity of agents of place (both elite and grassroots) to make meaningful narrative concessions for the purpose of rapprochement. Furthermore, these case studies also demonstrate that whilst place is central to the formation of a master narrative of division and exclusion, it is also fundamental to the impetus for narrative change.
That is not to suggest, however, that the narrative space of place will always provide a useful epistemology for renegotiating exclusionary master narratives of place. Whilst a narrative space may serve to diminish Otherness, it may also exacerbate the sense of alterity and deepen conflict. I therefore briefly explore the cases of Kashmir, Tiananmen Square and Israel/Palestine, as examples where places filled with contradictory meanings reached a narrative juncture where agents were presented with an opportunity to forge a new place narrative, but lack of political will combined with historical circumstances intervened. These cases underline that the move toward a more inclusive narrative of place is dependent upon the political will and courage of agents of place who, at a moment in history amenable to such change, may re-imagine exclusionary narratives in a way that diminishes Otherness and serves to encourage a softer, more inclusive narrative.