The Underground Coffeehouse as “Place”

In Lynn A. Staeheli’s essay Place, she defines “place” as not just a physical location, but as a cultural location, as context, as a construction of time, and as a process. As a “place,” the Underground Café must embody all of these definitions.

The Underground Café takes on the most obvious definition of place, as a physical location, when it can identify as a material thing. For example, the Underground is somewhere one can “be in ” or walk through. But Staeheli makes the point that this definition of place is the doorway to many other possible definitions when she says “the examination of general patterns is merely the first step of an analysis, and a different understanding of place is involved in case studies in subsequent stages of the analysis.”

The Underground Coffeehouse can also be described in relation to the locations around it, such as the Viking Union building, the Western Washington University Campus, or Bellingham. In this way, its physical location is also affected by the locations around it.

The definition of place as culture probably stands in the starkest contrast with the definition of place as physical location, because of its metaphorical nature. According to Staeheli “The perspective is often associated with researchers who draw from feminist and cultural studies and who have a concern with the social locations of people and social groups. From this perspective, people are located within the social locations of people and social groups. From this perspective, people are located within webs of cultural, social, economic, and political relationships that shape their identities, or positionalities.” What this means is that place is often times associated with a certain social group or type of person. In the case of the Underground Café, its being on a college campus means it must be frequented by students. We can also make the conjecture that those student like coffee.

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