Walking, Emotion, and Dwelling: Guided Tours in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani

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Bendiner-Viani, G. (1). Walking, Emotion, and Dwelling. Space and Culture, 8(4), 459–471. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1206331205280144

affect , narrative , neighborhood , New York City , phenomenology , photography , walking

This article uses photography and ethnography to understand and represent residents’ emotional phenomenological experiences of walks through their neighborhood. It addresses how narratives of the personal and the social structure individuals’ experiences of familiar public spaces. A diverse group of residents gave the author their personal tours of emotionally significant neighborhood places. The author then continued these conversations with participants using photographs of these ordinary sites. The article addresses how these personal stories layer on public spaces and build aspects of psychologist Kurt Lewin’s situational, emotional and individual-specific life space, as well as constructing senses of dwelling and Heideggerian lifeworld. To consider ways in which people build senses of home in public spaces, the article looks at ordinary things to which people give little reflective attention yet that often support deep connections to place.

Main finding
By analyzing walking, emotion, and dwelling through the lenses of DeCerteau, Lewin, and Heidegger respectively, the author draws some non-generalizable conclusions about the relationship between people and their environment. Walking is understood as both performative and idiosyncratic as resident weave together narratives of the neighborhood that reflect myriad experiences and practicalities associated with getting around. Lewin’s concept of life space supports the contextual and phenomenal construction of emotion as experienced by an individual in a specific time and situation. Thus, social interactions create a multitude of different experiences existing in the same physical space. Lastly, the notion of dwelling or ‘letting dwell’ captures how people construct a sense of self through different physical spaces and places such that place and emotion are continuously intertwined.

Description of method used in the article
To understand how residents experienced and made meaning in their neighborhood place, the author began “Guided Tours: Prospect Heights” which utilized a documentary style method and photography by the researcher. Ten residents led the author on personal walking tours of meaningful places in the neighborhood while narrating stories of their memories and experiences of everyday practices and places. The photographs were used as part of a conversation with the residents and for author’s theorization about place.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Walking or Rolling
Field Observations
Physical types
Geographic locations