Subprojects | Project Area A | Knowledge of Space

Geographic Imaginations: People’s Sense of Security and Insecurity in a Cross-Generational Comparison

The project “Geographical Imaginations: People’s Sense of Security and Insecurity in a Cross-Generational Comparison” focuses on the extent in which the increase in complexity and re-figuration of spaces is expressed in security-related geographical imaginations. We proceed from the assumption that perceptions of space have changed dramatically among all social groups due to processes of globalisation, shifting borders, demarcation, de-anchoring, re-embedding and mediatisation. These processes give rise to great uncertainties, as current public debates on the Brexit referendum in the UK or the election results in the USA show. At the same time, identities and group affiliations are almost always established with reference to space, for example by symbolically contrasting “our space” to “the space of others”. The social and cultural contexts of individuals also significantly influence their subjective knowledge of space, specifically in relation to their experience of security and insecurity. Against this background, the project looks at the following research questions: Which geographical imaginations are relevant for subjects’ sense of security? What role do ideas of “home” play in contrast to perceptions of “the foreign”, of “what is distant”, or even in contrast to ideas of the city, the nation and globality altogether? How are these ideas connected? And how do such geographical imaginations differ across different age groups and in different national and cultural contexts? Subjective spatial knowledge will be empirically examined by conducting group discussions and problem-oriented interviews (both based on photo-elicitation) at three different places (Vancouver, Berlin, Singapore). We will analyse the geographical imaginations of 15-30 year-olds, 35-50 year-olds and 55-70 year-olds. The aim is to derive ideal-typical geographical imaginations according to age, social background and geographical positioning. Using the visual methodology of photo-elicitation, we want to particularly shed light on the emotional and affective dimension of security-related spatial knowledge. It is for the first time that a research project investigates the subjective spatial knowledge of different age groups in a polycontextural way at three different study sites, thus allowing for a comprehensive analysis of the contours of a global re-figuration of spaces.


Castillo Ulloa, I., Schröder, D. J., & Helbrecht, I. (2021). Subject(ified) strategies for spatial(ised) ontological security in refigured modernity — Working Paper No. 7.

Helbrecht, I. (2021). Place-based urban social geography – learning from David Ley. The Canadian Geographer, 64(4), p. 461-464.

Helbrecht, I. (2019). Produktive Konflikte. Zum Verhältnis von Arbeits- und Stadtgesellschaft. Stadt denken. Deutsche Akademie für Städtebau und Landesplanung (DASL), p. 162–170.

Helbrecht, I. (2019). Urbanität – Ruralität. Der Versuch einer prinzipiellen Klärung und Erläuterung der Begriffe. dérive – zeitschrift für stadtforschung, 76, p. 6-13.

Pohl, L., Genz, C., Helbrecht, I., & Dobrusskin, J. (2020). Need for shelter, demand for housing, desire for home: a psychoanalytic reading of home-making in Vancouver. Housing Studies.

Weber-Newth, F., & Helbrecht, I. (2019). The Production of Housing Policies through Performativity: Understanding the Emergence of new State Interventions in Berlin. In Wehrhahn, R., Pohlan, J., Hannemann, C., Othengrafen, F., & Schmidt-Lauber, B. (eds.), Housing and Housing Politics in European Metropolises: Jahrbuch StadtRegion 2017/2018 Wiesbaden: Springer VS, p. 93-116.

Helbrecht, I., Pohl, L., Genz, C., & Dobrusskin J. (2021). Imaginationen der Globalisierung. In Löw, M., Sayman, V., Schwerer, J., & Wolf, H. (eds.), Am Ende der Globalisierung Bielefeld: transcript, p. 307-335.