How to Understand Custodial Belonging

Ann Game, Demelza Marlin, Andrew Metcalfe

Abstract

Debates about ecological responsibility are interested in different forms of belonging. This article develops an understanding of a custodial form of belonging based on the logic of relation, which we distinguish from a proprietorial form of belonging based on the logic of identity. Theorists working on questions of belonging use a language of custodianship when describing a sense of responsibility and care that arises through connection or relation. We argue, however, that the full significance of custodial belonging cannot be appreciated when understandings of connection are derived from within the terms of identity logic. In other words, when belonging is understood in terms of identity and identification, custodianship is inadvertently reduced to a proprietorial form of responsibility and care. We develop this argument by addressing Australian research on custodial belonging. Focusing on the influential work of Deborah Bird Rose, we argue that there are tensions between, on the one hand, her attempts to recognise connected forms of belonging, and, on the other, her conceptual reliance on the assumptions of identity logic. Our primary concern here is to indicate relational possibilities in her work precluded by the language of identity. In particular, we suggest that the concept of ecological being allows for a specificity and inclusiveness that are not recognised by Rose’s concept of the ‘ecologically emplaced self’.

Keywords

ecology, belonging, Rose, Buber, custodial belonging, responsibility

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