Place is a word with several definitions. It can even be a noun or a verb. For this occasion, we will focus on two definitions proposed by the Oxford dictionary: place is a “person’s rank or status” or “a right or privilege resulting from someone’s role or position”. We are dealing with a definition, then, which depends on an individual’s relationship with a group.
Being in a group can be a factor that generates uneasiness, fear, and even anguish. We are faced with ideas, perceptions, and desires, some still unknown to us, and possibly different.
Taking up Sartre’s principle that “it is first of all in the gaze of the other that each person grasps their identity“, we can consider that there is a kind of contradiction in this double movement of attraction and fear in the group. We are afraid of others if they threaten our identity, we have “the fear of being drowned in the mass“, the fear of judgement, “the fear of the gaze of others” and yet this gaze is structuring because through it the subjects discover themselves the object of points of view of appreciations which escape them. In other words, the group gives us information about ourselves that we could not find anywhere else.
The term “place” can also refer to our position in society: From the moment we are born, and according to characteristics that we do not control (our parents’ social class, our assigned gender, our skin colour etc.), society assigns us a place.
References to go deeper:
La société comme verdict : classes, trajectoires, identités », by Didier Eribon.