Geographien | doing geography

Räumlichkeiten & Zeitlichkeiten, Personen, Dinge & Tun | Notes on the creation of social space

People & Practices

„Knowing who you are means knowing the moral space that surrounds you. In such a space questions arise about what is good and bad, about what is worth doing and what is not; and about what makes sense and is important to someone and what seems trivial and unimportant to him..“

(Taylor 1996, 56)


The portraits under the keyword PEOPLE are always the result of a longer stay with others.These others were willing to share something: The horizon in which they live their lives.This horizon can be described as a kind of frame of orientation. Within this frame they give an answer to the question of who they are by explaining how they understand each other.

What is going on in this world? How do things relate to each other? What is important? What is the meaning of things, especially the opportunities for being and acting? According to Taylor (2009, 59), we assume „the basic premise that an active individual exists in a universe full of questions, questions to which our framing definitions provide answers, which form the horizon in the light of which we know where we stand and what the implications of things are. Accordingly, stable identities are only possible if people „can define the horizons of the important and the unimportant, the valuable and the noble or the trivial and the ugly etc.“ Such landscapes represent substantial ethical conceptions (‚frames‘) that contain a (…) blueprint of what matters, what is important“ (Rosa 2016, 227). They are ethical because they contain moral value judgements that form entire ethical systems within which the perception of all things in space is determined.

Moralische Lanfschaften_Titel_Kamil Mr Bleck

So when we speak of a moral orientation or a value orientation, we always assume something analogous to the orientation in a space: We know where we stand and for what reasons. We are disoriented and seek the way. We avoid certain paths and prefer others, see mountains of what we are striving for in front of us and fail or conquer them. And we pass through valleys full of what we actually wanted to avoid.

But all these interpretations of ourselves do not belong to us alone – they have always been materialized in institutions of society and what people do: Freedom, self-realization, dreams of the future, the distribution of roles between men and women, ethnicity & nationality, openness to the world or fear of being overwhelmed by foreigners „do not exist in the world per se – they only exist in the corresponding cultural worlds“ (Rosa 2016, 226).

Accordingly, people of different cultural influences also perceive real spaces differently, are quite inevitably and directly attracted and repelled by the things surrounding them, also by other people, because all things in their inner maps are connected with their own strong qualitative judgements, which refer to bonds and identifications.

Text: © Stefan Applis (2018)

Photography: © Stefan Applis (2017)


Taylor, C. (2016). Quellen des Selbst. Die Entstehung der neuzeitlichen Identität. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.

Rosa, H. (2016). Resonanz – Eine Soziologie der Weltbeziehung. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp.

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