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Caring for Place? Possibilities for a compassionate sense of place among environmentalists

A place-conscious ethos of care - what I have called "a compassionate sense of place" - was co-explored with people involved in environmental organizations in a specific geographic locale. Data was collected through ethnographic methods and interviews using "living in place" and "caring" as heuristics. Both place and caring are practice-based logics that challenge universalizing tendencies in modern discourse. Environmentalist discourse and practice attempted to extend the discourse of "social" relations beyond social space, that is, to the socio-ecological entirety of "place"(understood here to be socially constructed but distinctly material, the site of the performance of practice and experiences, with porous boundaries and multiply scaled). Caring was conceived as deeply authentic and disposed to action, yet was considered discursively and politically ineffectual. Nevertheless, if caring can be politicized, as recent theorists have argued, a compassionate sense of place could serve as a logic to orient contemporary practice in an ecologically embedded society.

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Randy Haluza-DeLay