Accepted paper:

Place attachment, ascetic topophobia, and self-transcendence


Neil Thin (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will seek to enrich our analytical approaches to place-wellbeing links by exploring how place-transcendence is promoted as an implicit or explicit wellbeing strategy through ascetic theories and practices, collective rituals, and myths worldwide.

Paper long abstract:

Place attachment, the belief that our identity and wellbeing are rooted in a particular location, is a specific subcategory of topophilia. It has recently become a major theme in architecture and in social gerontology and in urban and rural planning, adding to its already long-recognized importance as an issue in planned migration and forced displacement. Wellbeing is often believed to require secure attachment to a particular home and to the associated community. Conversely, deracination and insecure place attachment are commonly assumed to be psychologically damaging. However, people can also become pathologically home-bound, just as they can be unhealthily attached to specific people or to material possessions. Place-transcendence, as an aspect of self-transcendence, is widely recognized as vital to mental health and to personal and ‘spiritual’ growth. In most cultures, although there are rituals that reinforce and celebrate place attachment, there are also ‘world renouncing’ or escapist cultural elements that deliberately disrupt it and question its value. No human grows up without being subjected to a variety of ascetic theories and practices, collective rituals, and myths, that encourage or celebrate at least temporary detachment by valorising excursions into the wilderness, permanent wilderness residence, and even permanent vagabondage. By analyzing these we can access a diversity of traditional beliefs and implicit theories concerning the costs and benefits of place attachment, and of how people should achieve balance or harmony between the will to localise and the will to explore.

panel P59
The place of 'place' in wellbeing scholarship