Place attachment and negative places: A qualitative approach to historic former mental asylums, stigma and place-protectionism

Carolyn Gibbeson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Research exploring place attachment, place identity and people-place relations often adopts a quantitative approach and focuses on positively perceived places with negative or ambivalent places being largely omitted. This study investigated patterns of attachment of former staff members from three conventionally stigmatised places: historic mental asylums in the north of England. Semi-structured, qualitative interviews were conducted with 16 former staff from the three sites that were in the process of being redeveloped into residential use. Firstly, the study demonstrated that strong, positive attachments were present for the former staff members, created through length of time spent working within these institutions and the sense of belonging and community experienced. Secondly, these attachments were linked to strong senses of individual identity born of the personal and career developments that these sites had offered. Thirdly, the findings expand on the literature exploring both place-protective action and negatively perceived places and demonstrate the value of employing qualitative methods in investigating these.Furthermore, the article demonstrates that strong positive place attachments can support place change as a way of preserving and retaining a place. This challenges the existing assumptions within literature concerning place-protective action, that assumes this occurs primarily in opposition to place change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101490
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
Early online date22 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


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