Heimat – A German concept of regional perception and identity as a basis for coastal management in the Wadden Sea


The German concept of Heimat is closely related to ideas of place, place attachment and sense of place. Despite its difficult history, it is currently experiencing a renaissance in public interest and also in geographical, ethnological and psychological research. This paper explores the perception of Heimat by residents on the German North Sea coast. It traces the specific values the concept embodies, asking whether these particular values can ultimately be tapped to engage people in the process of preserving and developing their Heimat. Survey results reveal that Heimat is constituted by social values, such as feeling connected to family, friends and the wider community. Heimat is also a distinct place linked to a wide range of intangible values such as the aesthetic value of the seascape or the symbolic values assigned to the sea. Heimat can also be regarded as a practice, as it represents a conscious or subconscious act of putting one's surroundings into meaningful order. Identification with Heimat is strong, and there is demonstrable willingness to become involved in preserving it which springs from people's connectedness to place and their felt responsibility for Heimat. Viewed from this perspective, Heimat is an interesting concept in the context of decision-making processes and regional management.
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