Skip to navigation
Skip to content

Insider and outsider perspectives on place

Insider and outsider perspectives on place.

• “To be inside a place is to belong to it and identify with it, and the more profoundly inside you are the stronger is the identity with the place”

• “Outsideness involves the alienation from place which is the antithesis of an unreflective sense of belonging that comes from being an existential insider” Relph, 1976, p491

We have already established that a key idea in Changing Places is that of sense of place. Different people view places in different ways. Our level of EXPERIENCE of a place changes our perspective of it. The events that happen to us in a place could also influence our opinion of it, a good event will evoke happy memories, a bad experience could result in people not liking a place. Demographic factors could come into play;

  • Will women view places in the same way as men?
  • Do the elderly view places in the same way as the young?
  • Do ethnic or religious groups view places in the same way?
  • What of people of different sexual orientation?

Those factors will result in subtle and sometimes large differences in how people perceive places. This is known as positionality, the factors such as race, gender, age, politics, socio-economic status, religious views, that influence how people perceive places. What may be a happy place for one person could be a place of fear for someone else. Perspectives on place

The 2 main areas to focus upon are insider and outsider perspectives of place;

1. An Insider perspective – is a viewpoint from an individual within a place/who lives there and has an experience of the place.

Consider where you live now. You may have lived there a long time; the environment is familiar. It is easy to use transport to get around and you understand the customs and norms (or unspoken rules) of the people who live around you. You have lots of family connections and friends. You may not even notice the finer details of your environment they are that familiar to you (you take them for granted!). You have a lived experience of the pace and an insider perspective of it. You may identify as a “local” and feel safe and secure in the place. Insiders would also understand the local language and dialect.

For Relph,1 this lived intensity is identity with place, which he defines through the concept of insideness—the degree of attachment, involvement, and concern that a person or group has for a particular place. He suggests that the more profoundly inside a place a person feels, the stronger will be his or her identity with that place.

2. An outsider perspective – is a viewpoint of someone who is not from the certain place/doesn't live there/has little or no experience of that place.

You will have been an outsider many times in your life. Perhaps going on holiday to a totally new place where you did not speak the language and had never tasted the food. Where the customs are alien to you? You may have emigrated to a new country, leaving behind emotional connections such as friends and family.

“Outsiders” may misunderstand social interactions and the norms or unspoken rules in the place. They may be a temporary visitor, hold a foreign passport or not be born into that place. Their understanding of language may not be fluent and they might not understand the local dialect or idioms. At times, being an outsider could mean feel homesick or alienated. The term “out of place” could apply here. Out of Place means to feel uncomfortable in a particular situation or place, or that you do not belong there.

According to Seamon “The strongest sense of place experience is what Relph calls existential insideness—a situation of deep, unself-conscious immersion in place and the experience most people know when they are at home in their own community and region. The opposite of existential insideness is what he labels existential outsideness—a sense of strangeness and alienation, such as that often felt by newcomers to a place or by people who, having been away from their birth place, return to feel strangers because the place is no longer what it was when they knew it earlier.2

Insider perspectives of place can be represented in art and even merchandise. As shown in the People’s Republic of Heaton merchandise in the Crack Magazine from Newcastle upon Tyne.

Heaton Merchandise


Norms are informal understandings that govern the behaviour of members of a society. In other words, norms are regarded as collective representations of acceptable group conduct as well as individual perceptions of particular group conduct. They can be viewed as cultural products (including values, customs, and traditions) which represent individuals' basic knowledge of what others do and think that they should do. Some British Norms;

  • Queueing
  • Shaking hands
  • Talking about the weather!

This website,, advises foreign students on British norms so they can integrate more quickly. Norms are not universal across the globe. What may be considered a norm in one place might be unusual behaviour in another. Burping is a good example, in many countries it is considered taboo to burp, and in others it is not. These variations in societal norms can result in people feeling either as insiders or outsiders.


These concepts of having an insider or outsider perspective on a place link to ideas on identity. The longer we live in a place the more we identify with it and the more we feel like a local, we develop an insider perspective on place. Indeed, we can develop a sense of belonging, where people have a close or intimate relationship with a place, i.e. a sense of belonging.

Social Exclusion

Social exclusion is a state where people are forced outside of the prevailing social system and its rights and privileges, typically as a result of poverty or the fact of belonging to a minority social group. This forces people to be outsiders in their own community. An unfortunate example of this is anti-homeless measures such as spikes and anti-homeless benches – also known as Hostile Architecture. Anti-homeless benches include a bar in the middle to prevent rough sleeping and all of these measures are deeply controversial. 3

Anti homeless spikes

NEXT TOPIC - Categories of Place



1 – Edward Relph (1976), Place and Placelessness, Pion Limited

2 - Seamon, David & Sowers, Jacob. (2008). Place and Placelessness, Edward Relph. 10.4135/9781446213742.n5. Accessed on 27th April 2020 at

3 – BBC (2018) Bournemouth anti-homeless benches 'a council cop-out', Accessed 27th April 2020 at



Hot Wired IT Solutions Logo