Meaning of Place: Exploring Long-term Resident's Attachment to the Physical Environment in Northern New Hampshire

Laura A. Alexander (2008)

This study explores the meaning of place and the role of the physical setting, relative to sociocultural elements, for long-term, year-round residents of northern New Hampshire for two dimensions of place: attachment and identity. Resident-employed photography was used to prompt research participants to think about how they are attached to place and how it shapes their identity, and their photos served as a way to enter quickly and deeply into a conversation about place meaning. Data was analyzed according to the tradition of grounded theory and five themes of meaning emerged as follows: The physical setting is stable, restorative, where people experience spirituality, provides sustenance, and fosters development and expression of ecological identity. These themes were revealed as instrumental to maintaining resident's well-being through attending to the needs of the self. Conceiving of the physical setting in this way expands our understanding of the relationship between people and place. This research has potential value related to attending to the well-being of residents and for guiding land management policies, particularly in communities where traditional ways of interacting with the land are undergoing change in land use and economic base.

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