More Than Words: Place, Discourse and the Struggle over Public Space in Barcelona

Di Masso, Andrés and Dixon, John (2015). More Than Words: Place, Discourse and the Struggle over Public Space in Barcelona. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 12(1) pp. 45–60.



The social construction of human-environment relations is a central concern of an emerging tradition of research on place, which extends the so-called “discursive turn” in social psychology. This research highlights the primary role of everyday linguistic practices in the production of place meanings, challenging the prevailing tendency among environmental psychologists to treat place meanings mainly as an expression of individual cognitions. By the same token, in this article we argue that research on human-environment relations also has the potential to enrich the field of discursive psychology, tempting discursive researchers to move beyond their customary focus on verbal and written texts. Specifically, we propose an analytic framework thattranscends the dualism between the material and discursive dimensions of human-environment relations. In order to develop this argument, we outline the novel concept of place-assemblage and illustrate its utility by conducting an analysis of a recent conflict over a public space in Barcelona. This analysis shows how discursive constructions of the development of this public space over time were inextricably entwined with other kinds of material and embodied practices—practices through which place meanings were actively performed, reproduced and contested.

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