Edward not as a static point in

Edward (Ted) Relph found that “the history of the noun place is traced
to the adoption in the 10th century of the French word place – an open space in
a city or a square” (Relph, E., 2015). The Oxford English Dictionary has four
definitions of place as a noun: “a particular position, point, or area in
space; a location”, “A portion of space designated or available for or being
used by someone”, “A position in a sequence or series, typically one ordered on
the basis of merit”, and “in place names A square or short street”. (OED,

If we move forward to academic definitions of place, it is possible to
say they can have something in common, they depart from a non-static meaning,
that goes beyond a geographic reference. For Arturo Escobar place is the space
that the community use for living and for their social, cultural and economic
development, (Escobar, A., 1999: 263). 
For Roy Huijsmans “Places are not bounded areas, but rather porous nodes
in networks of social relations” (Huijsmans, R., 2017). For Andrew Benjamin “If
human being is defined by place, then it follows that place is precisely what
exists in common. Place, in the context of polis, becomes the locus of
commonality.” (Benjamin, A., 2010 p 5). But also, we can find some academics
that think that there is still need a more specific definition of place, like
Edward Relph who stated “place is not just a formal concept awaiting definition
but also a naive and variable expression of geographical experience (Relph, E.,
1976: 4) and Tim Cresswell “No-one quite knows what they are talking about when
they are talking about place…It is wrapped in common-sense.” (Cresswell, T.,
2004 p 1).

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Addressing places not as a static point in a geographic localization is
recognizing its complexity, as a space socially constructed, that is,
historically, economically, socially, culturally and politically (Velásquez,
M., 2012:7). This complexity is an important tool for development studies, to
be aware of the multiple relations that create place, can be a key source of
information not only for the construction of the context but also to be more
conscious about the implications of the study or the project within social

But at the same time, this complexity implies greater efforts, moving
forward from place to place-making, we should take into account more variables.

Those variables can be seen as layers of that place, and it is possible to go
as deeper as we want.

To be aware of the multiples relations that are involved in a place
socially constructed, a place that goes beyond borders and homogenization, a
place that is alive, that changes and it is changed by people, context, and
history. Is to move to a more humanistic approach of place, and its implication
in development practitioners will represent a complex reality that will broaden
the scope of studies and projects.

“Stemming from the combined crisis of food, energy, climate, and
poverty, transitions discourses-particularly prominent in the areas of ecology,
culture, and spirituality-can be seen as markers for postdevelopment” (Escobar,
A., 2011: viii), those discourses are closely related with people and places,
and because of that, places are the space where alternatives to development
must be conceived, applied and evaluated.

I will look to a specific case of a develop-oriented project in
Colombia, and try to identify how the social relations of place where
affected.  In 2002 was inaugurated a
hydroelectric power station called Urrá, framed in the Energetic Expansion Plan
of the Colombian government. Place as a geographic location can be recognized
here, as the requirements for this particular type of energy is attached to
natural resources and hydrographic characteristics play a main role. The place
selected was where the Sinú river begins, the territory of the Embera Katío del
Alto Sinú. “Questions of development, identity, territory, and autonomy have
become important for the case of indigenous peoples (Escobar, A., 2011: xi).The Embera Katío del Alto Sinú is an indigenous community that has
ancestral roots in the Amazonas region, they migrated to the Pacific coast of
Colombia, and then with the Spanish colonization they settle down in the Nudo
del Paramillo National Natural Park. Embera means “people” and katío was a
recognition of another indigenous community that falls upon the colonization
(Domicó, 2001). Figure 1 shows the
temporal and spatial localization of the community. The estimated population
was about 2.266 according to the DANE (National Administrative Department of
Statistics of Colombia) census in 2004, they have their own language called
“emberá norteño”, and use the Roman alphabet for writing. The context of the
territory is influenced not only by private interests, because of the richness
of the soil for massive plantations and livestock, but also by the violent
conflict that the country is suffering for more than 50 years now.

It is possible to identify the strong relation that the Embera Katío del
Alto Sinú has with their territory, especially with the river. It is also
evident in the composition of the name of the community, they are part of the
Embera nation, but the location differentiates them from other Embera groups.

Territory is a constitutive element from their social, economic, and cultural

 Stressing on the cultural dimension of place defined by Mario Velásquez
as “a process of the symbolic representation, organization and appropriation of
a place” (Velásquez, M., 2012: 99), I will focus on the cosmovision of the
Embera Katío del Alto Sinú, as a way to explore the link between people,
places, and community. They believe in three worlds, the upper, the lower and
middle, and the way they travel between those worlds is through the water.  A strong part of that cosmovision rest in the
symbolic representation of the reality of life trough myths. Related with
territory they have a myth about the origin of water, that tells the story
about the creation of the Pacific Ocean, the rivers –Sinú river as one of them-
and swamps. A personal interpretation of the myth, aware of the challenge to be
part of a western perspective, could help to know more about this process of
changes during a specific encounter with development. This is the case of the
construction of the hydroelectric power plant Urrá proposed as a development
project for the country, aimed to produce hydroelectric energy cheaper than
fossil fuels and justified by the benefit of the majority. As part of it was
planned the diversion of the Sinú river needed for the construction of a dam.

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