Conceptualizing ‘sense of place’ in cultural ecosystem services: A framework for interdisciplinary research

Last modified: 
March 15, 2019 - 12:21pm
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2019
Date published: 04/2019
Authors: Frances Ryfield, David Cabana, John Brannigan, Tasman Crowe
Journal title: Ecosystem Services
Volume: 36
Pages: 100907
ISSN: 22120416

In this paper we aim to establish a conceptual and practical framework for investigating sense of place as a category of cultural ecosystem services, drawing upon transdisciplinary research on assessing cultural value and ecosystem change in the Irish Sea. We examine sense of place as a material phenomenon, embedded in and expressive of the relationship between determining ecological conditions of particular locations and the determining social and cultural conditions of human habitation. Our emphasis on sense of place as a material phenomenon contrasts with the prevailing tendency in ecosystem services literature to treat cultural ecosystem services as ‘non-material’, ‘immaterial’, or ‘intangible’, and builds on a call to conceptualize cultural ecosystem services in ‘a more theoretically nuanced approach’ which yields practical means of researching and assessing cultural benefits (Fish et al., 2016a, p. 215). The paper emerges from a transdisciplinary project on ‘The Cultural Value of Coastlines’, which seeks to define a mechanism for integrating materialist research on cultural benefits into the ecosystem services framework. We demonstrate the need for a more significant role for sense of place as a category of cultural ecosystem services, and for research practices which can account for the material and socially-produced nature of sense of place.

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