University of Tasmania
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Raising Evelyn : an analysis of parenting through the lens of relational environmental scholarship

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posted on 2023-05-28, 09:53 authored by Cook, CN
The start of this project coincided with the birth of my first child, Evelyn. Becoming a parent revealed the connectivity in and among the relationships that were being made in, and often extended beyond, our home. This connectivity is analysed here in terms of relationality, or a focus on the complex aspects of engagement among self and other. In this research project, I reflect upon my own experience using the lens of relational environmental scholarship. I propose that parenting could be a praxis informed by such scholarship. Dualism is a central antagonist of relational environmental scholarship. This mode of relating is typified by the physical, emotional, cultural, and/or instrumental domination of one group of people, beings, or entities over another, usually to the long-term detriment of both. The Australian environmental and relational philosophers Val Plumwood, Freya Mathews, and Debora Bird Rose critique dualistic and dominating modes of relating to others, while conceptualising connective and dialogical alternatives. The philosophies and insights of these three authors become a scaffold for nurturing my own understanding of relationality. My methodology draws upon the practices and philosophies of autoethnography, phenomenology, and hermeneutics. I narrate several revealing parenting experiences (as they pertain to particular relational themes), and textually and reflexively analyse the messy nuances of such encounters to build upon the scholarly work of Plumwood, Mathews, and Rose. To begin my analysis, I examine Plumwood's five qualities of dualism and demonstrate the presence of dualistic logic in the parenting practice of sleep training infants (Chapter 5). In the proceeding chapters, I build an understanding of the fine line between domination and leadership in caregiving by reflecting upon undemocratic parenting decisions (Chapter 6), unveil the ontological and epistemological grounding of relational dynamics by analysing forms of judgement in parenting (Chapter 7), and examine panpsychism in response to my daughter's friendship with a jar of lentils to question whom we value as relational kin and why (Chapter 8). In the final chapter, the synthesis, I utilise understandings gained in the previous analysis chapters to bridge the gap between theories and practices of relationality. I conclude that deep and felt engagement, motivated by love and anxiety, plays a key role in connecting concepts of relationality with relational praxis. Praxis, in this case, is not about achieving ideal outcomes with ideal concepts, or about rejecting dualism in favour of its opposite, but rather, to embrace the complexity and imperfection of relationality and to fight for connectivity, awareness, engagement, dialogue, and reflexivity through the dynamics of relational life. Parenting, a rich and intense part of many people's lives, offers an accessible means of embodying relational ontologies and epistemologies for both parents and children. Equally, the philosophies of Plumwood, Mathews, and Rose can extend the depth of parenting philosophy (which is predominately practice focused) through their deeper analysis of the politics, metaphysics, history, ethical frameworks, and power relations which colour relationships of care.


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Copyright 2017 the author

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