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Belonging

Comprehending Subjectivity in Vietnam and Beyond

Tine M. Gammeltoft

In this article I explore how a ‘belonging’ perspective can contribute to anthropological reflections on subjectivity and agency. On the basis of two ethnographic cases from Vietnam, I show how people tend to find their bearings in existentially difficult situations by placing themselves within concrete communities of others. Distinguishing between intersubjective, territorial, and political forms of belonging, I discuss anthropological approaches to belonging practices, highlighting the shared analytical assumptions that have underpinned anthropological use of the concept. By placing mutuality and responsiveness at the center of attention, I show that a belonging perspective can help us to think more carefully about the complex ways in which freedom and constraint intertwine in human lives.

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Hadley Z. Renkin

Violent attacks on gay and lesbian activities in the public sphere, coupled with verbal aggression against sexual minorities by right-wing politicians in Hungary and other postsocialist countries, illustrate the centrality of sexuality in questions of postsocialist transition. This article discusses the limits of current scholarly interpretations of homophobia in postsocialist countries. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork on LGBT activism in Hungary, it argues that by undertaking public projects that assert multiple forms of identity and community, LGBT people, although often portrayed as passive objects of the changing configurations of power of Hungary's transition, have raised a radical challenge to traditional imaginings of the boundaries between national and transnational meanings. It is this challenge—the proposal of a “queering” of belonging—to which right-wing, nationalist actors have responded with public violence.

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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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Undoing Traceable Beginnings

Citizenship and Belonging among Former Burundian Refugees in Tanzania

Patricia Daley, Ng’wanza Kamata and Leiyo Singo

This article examines the sense of insecurity experienced by former Burundian refugees following their acquisition of legal citizenship in Tanzania. Using the concept of ontological security, it explores the strategies devised by the new citizens and their former refugee selves to negotiate a normative and stable identity in Tanzania, a country with a postcolonial history of contested citizenship and depoliticized ethnicity. Our argument is that the fluidity of identity, when associated with mobility, is vilified by policy-makers and given insufficient attention in the literatures on ethnicity and refugees in Africa, yet is important for generating a sense of belonging and a meaningful life away from a troubled and violent past. This fluidity of identity offers a significant mechanism for belonging even after the acquisition of formal citizenship.

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Articulating 'Home' from 'Away'

Cultural Identities, Belonging and Citizenship

James Oliver

This article is a discussion on cultural identity and belonging, focusing on some examples of people who are articulating or 'doing' identity in the Scottish Hebrides. In particular, it explores a re-articulation of cultural identity and belonging, not as the essential root or representation of social inclusion but as an ongoing production or creation of social relations, processes and practices, including rootedness and connectedness. In doing so, the paper underlines the need to negotiate cultural identity forwards, as open, with practical political consequences for our understanding and articulation of social inclusion, belonging and citizenship.

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Valerio Simoni

Building on current anthropological literature on intimacy, this article focuses on the way intimate relations mediate different narratives and experiences of belonging. It explores conflicting interpretations of intimacy as they emerge in Cuban tourism and migration and enable or obstruct different allegiances. Based on ethnographic fieldwork among Cubans and tourists in Cuba, and among Cuban migrants in the city of Barcelona (Spain), the article examines the role of intimate relationships in reasserting or transforming lines of commonality and separation between and among Cubans and non-Cubans. Globalized ideals of 'true' intimacy, and their 'fake' or instrumental counterparts, appear as the two main frames of legibility that people deployed to evaluate relationships with friends, lovers and family. We see the competing demands and possibilities to which these interpretative frames responded, and their implications.

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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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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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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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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.