2019-20: Making Place Matter

Wednesday, September 11, 2019
making place matter

If you ever stop to think about it, there seems to be an unlimited number of phrases and expressions that include the words place or space. My place or your place, all over the place, out of place, no place like home. Cyberspace, headspace, accessible space, safe space, brave space, personal space. Place and space are essential to knowing who we are. They are directional in the sense that they serve as points along pathways determining where we are at any given moment. But places and spaces are much more than directional, they can be definitional – defining who we are, setting boundaries and borders for where we can go physically – and perhaps more important, psychologically. The phrase “know your place” exists for a reason – to establish a hierarchy of positionality. But how do places and spaces get created – and who decides what characteristics and values those places and spaces will have?

Each academic year – in an effort to focus our work and to learn with and from our communities, Duke Service-Learning chooses a theme. Throughout last year – “My Year of Listening” – we offered opportunities for faculty and students to listen and we worked to deepen our understanding of the listening process.

In 2019-2020, Duke Service-Learning continues our focus on building communities by focusing our efforts on cultivating greater critical consciousness about the places and spaces which both create and are created by community engaged teaching and learning. Our hope is to move away from “default perspectives” of place and space – to foster greater intentionality as we interrogate, interrupt, trouble, and problematize our often unexamined assumptions and views of the places and spaces that we exist in and exist within us. As Megan Snider Bailey asserted in the essay Why ‘Where’ Matters: Exploring the Role of Space in Service-Learning, “To neglect the places in which education occurs is to render invisible the geographic orientation of power and privilege.”

We are designating our efforts in 2019-2020 as Making Place Matter; intentionally choosing the active word “making” to suggest that places and spaces are created and constructed by people – and as such they are neither neutral or values free. The ways spaces are structured and defined can separate or unite communities, limit or enhance awareness, diminish or expand power differentials.

Throughout the year, Duke Service-Learning will be offering opportunities to critically examine how we see, how we create, and how we are created by, the places and spaces we encounter and inhabit.

CONTEXT & CONNECTIONS: An Immersive Experience for Duke Faculty & Staff in Durham, is our engaged bus tour that offers an opportunity to faculty and staff to deepen their knowledge of and connections to the Durham community by learning about the spaces and spaces of Durham and Duke’s past, present, and future collaborations in downtown and local neighborhoods.

Our 2019-20 Faculty Fellows cohort will explore how our community partnerships sometimes integrate, sometimes frustrate intentional spaces and thoughtful places in our community-engaged courses.

In Fall 2019, there will be a student-centered conversation with Duke students, faculty, staff, and neighborhood leaders to explore the challenges all of us face as we try to cultivate a greater critical consciousness about the places and spaces which both create and are created by community engaged teaching and learning.

Lastly, here are a few ideas for #MakingPlaceMatter in S-L / C-E courses.

We hope you’ll join us on this journey,

David, Kimmie, Joan, Amy & Ruth

The Duke Service-Learning Team