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Belonging

Comprehending Subjectivity in Vietnam and Beyond

Tine M. Gammeltoft

With this article I develop a set of propositions for an anthropology of ‘belonging’. In developing these propositions, I take my point of departure in ethnographic as well as theoretical observations. It is partly fieldwork experiences in Vietnam

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Belonging in a New Myanmar

Identity, Law, and Gender in the Anthropology of Contemporary Buddhism

Juliane Schober

practices construct religious, ethnic, national, and gender identity in order to formulate contemporary visions of belonging to a new Myanmar. Taking Foxeus’s (2016) observations about Buddhist formations in their encounters with modernity and print

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Michael R. M. Ward and Thomas Thurnell-Read

This special issue of Boyhood Studies considers how a group of international scholars have engaged with the concepts of boyhood and belonging as a complex personal and powerful process. In different ways, the authors highlight how belonging is an ongoing negotiation within one’s surroundings. The international research presented here compels us to conceptualize belonging and boyhood as something that is not only infused with individuals and collective histories, but also interwoven within different conceptions of place and space. These places and spaces are experienced in multiple ways within different social contexts. We contend that this special issue is positioned at an important time in studies of boys and young men. As boys and young men experience their transition into adulthood with increased precarity, it is time we take theories of boyhood and belonging seriously. These theories can open up new spaces and provide critical insights into young lives.

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Negotiations of Identity and Belonging

Beyond the Ordinary Obviousness of Tween Girls' Everyday Practices

Fiona MacDonald

Tween is a commonly used consumer-media label for girls aged anywhere between 9 and 14 years. The girls' desire to belong in friendship and peer groups has been considered by feminist and cultural studies scholars through their consumption activities and their negotiations of young, feminine girlness. Yet there is limited scholarship that explores the significance of their everyday practices in their own local, social worlds. Drawing on the findings from my year-long ethnographic study in a Melbourne Primary School, I consider the meaning behind the ordinary obviousness of the girls' everyday practices. I reflect on the often complex meanings of the girls' practices as they pursue their desire to belong. As I discovered, there is significant knowledge to be gained from exploring the girls' everyday considerations and negotiations of belonging. This article draws on two key examples of my ethnographic study to highlight the significance in understanding the girls' everyday practices.

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Belonging to Spontaneous Order

Hayek, Pluralism, Democracy

Stephanie Erev

Reading Friedrich Hayek’s late work as a neoliberal myth of the state of nature, this article finds neoliberalism’s hostilities to democracy to be animated in part by a romantic demand for belonging. Hayek’s theory of spontaneous order expresses this desire for belonging as it pretends the market is capable of harmonizing differences so long as the state is prevented from interfering. Approaching Hayek’s work in this way helps to explain why his conceptions of both pluralism and democracy are so thin. It also suggests that neoliberalism’s assaults upon democracy are intimately linked to its relentless extractivism. Yet the romantic elements in Hayek’s work might have led him toward a more radical democratic project and ecological politics had he affirmed plurality for what it enables. I conclude with the suggestion that democratic theory can benefit from learning to listen to what Hayek heard but failed to affirm: nature’s active voice.

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Belonging through Languagecultural Practices in the Periphery

The Politics of Carnival in the Dutch Province of Limburg

Leonie Cornips and Vincent De Rooij

In this article, we will present two case studies of language and cultural practices that are part of or strongly related to carnival, in the Dutch peripheral province of Limburg, and more precisely in the southern Limburgian city of Heerlen, which in turn is considered peripheral vis-à-vis the provincial capital Maastricht. We will consider carnival as a political force field in which opposing language and cultural practices are involved in the production of belonging as an official, public-oriented 'formal structure' of membership, and belonging as a personal, intimate feeling of being 'at home' in a place (place-belongingness) (Antonsich 2010; Yuval-Davis 2006). In the case studies presented here, we take seriously the idea that ideology, linguistic form and the situated use of language are dialectically related (Silverstein 1985). In doing so, we wish to transcend disciplinary boundaries between anthropology and (socio)linguistics in Europe.

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Conflicting Notions of Continuity and Belonging

Assisted Reproduction, Law, and Practices in Norway

Marit Melhuus

This article explores the interface between law, technology, and practices. More specifically, it addresses how biotechnologies—in particular, reproductive technologies—move people in different ways. Taking as its point of departure certain restrictions in the Norwegian biotechnology law, it explores changes in procreative practices and their implications for understandings of notions of belonging. This is tied to a gradual shift in meaning of the concepts of paternity and maternity, which in turn has ramifications for kinship and hence fundamental ideas of relatedness. Two premises underpin the arguments: first, that law is a cultural artifact productive of meaning, and, second, that as a social phenomenon, biotechnologies bring to the fore fundamental moral dilemmas.

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Tiffany Pollock

Fire dancers in Southern Thailand, almost exclusively young, intra-/international migrant men from rural Thailand and Myanmar, are paid to entertain tourists at nightly beach parties. An unacknowledged economy fueled largely by tips, fire dancing is fast becoming an iconic symbol of Thailand’s young backpacker tourism sector but is not considered an acceptable form of labor or a valued artistic practice, because tourist beach spaces are perceived as sites of immorality, excessive drinking, and sexuality. Male fire dancers, then, come to be known as young social deviants who do not belong in the national imaginary and thus must maneuver around a complex politics of belonging with vast differences in social and economic power. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, this article examines how belonging is negotiated among Burmese fire dancers working in Thailand, and how experiences of belonging are shaped by spatialized gendered moralities and masculinities that operate within the fire dancing scene.

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Jane H. Roberts

While Putnam's communitarian conceptualization of social capital has significantly influenced our understanding of community cohesion, the concept of social capital is highly contested. Questions have been raised about the ways in which agency and power operate in a community's sense of connectedness. Within this critique, little attention has been paid to the conceptualization of cultural identity when framed in dominant constructions of social capital. This paper contends that Bourdieu's critical perspective on social capital is better placed to examine the complex relationships between multiple, conflicting and overlapping positions of cultural identity with a sense of belonging. In addition, a Bourdieurian analysis acknowledges that the dynamic relationships of habitus, capital and field produce multiple identities associated with conflicting notions of connectedness which are contextually contingent. The paper argues that ethnography is best placed to offer a different perspective to de-contextualized data, and supports any examination of identity and belonging as best viewed within the context in which such concepts develop and are situated.

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Mythili Rajiva

In this article, I examine how second generation South Asian Canadian girls negotiate their racialized position in peer culture, through various strategies of accommodation, denial and resistance. I use feminist post-structuralist theories of discourse and positioning with feminist and narrative methods to analyze my interviews with ten subjects about their racialized adolescence. I argue that girls use certain strategies of accommodation—'passing', wannabe-ism, and strategic Otherness—to fit in without abandoning their ethnicized identities. Strategies of denial surface through girls' internalizing of dominant discourses of racism; this leads them to rationalize racism or invoke assimilationist narratives that hold minorities responsible for their own experiences of exclusion. Girls also use strategies of resistance in which they identify hegemonic discourses of belonging, speak openly about racism or criticize aspects of white culture in the context of South Asian community and family norms.