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    Gifted places: the inalienable nature of belonging in place

    Bennett, Julia (2015) Gifted places: the inalienable nature of belonging in place. Environment and planning D: society and space, 32 (4). pp. 658-671. ISSN 0263-7758


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    This paper focuses on the importance of historic, social, and material connections in belonging to place. Mauss’s anthropological concept of a ‘gift’ is deployed to understand how places are cared for by a community over time. The development of tangible and intangible connections between past, present, and future people and places is explored. On the basis of in-depth, qualitative research with a group of people who have long-standing connections to their local place, memories and life-narratives are unravelled to explore the social and material relationships that place embodies. An understanding of place as an inalienable gift may create a moral duty to nurture and pass on places to subsequent generations. The research takes a phenomenological approach in order to illuminate the largely unconsidered associations between personal biographies and material places. After a brief discussion of the data collection methods used, notably photo diaries, some empirical examples are put forward to demonstrate how the research participants act as current custodians of places. The paper concludes by bringing together the different aspects of belonging in place illustrated by these vignettes and shows how they contribute to belonging in place as a moral way of being-in-the-world; that is, what I term ‘an ontological belonging’.

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