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‘A sense of where you belong in the world’: national belonging, ontological security and the status of the ethnic majority in England



ABSTRACT. The significance of national forms of imagination and organisation has been increasingly questioned in an era of rapid globalisation. While theoretically stimulating, those who stress the importance of global mobility and sociability sometimes overlook what well-established, “thick” attachments to the nation offer to disparate individuals, notably in terms of anchoring subjectivity. This first part of this paper explores how debates around belonging in England continue to define certain “ethnic” groups as more or less national, because they embody certain traits, practices or norms. It is then suggested that those who claim, and are treated as if, they belong “without question” may be offered a key sense of material and ontological security that is underpinned through routine practices, symbolic forms and institutional arrangements. The second section looks to evidence this argument by exploring how challenges to this ontological order, which focus on the agency of “perceived” others in relation to everyday spaces, practices and material objects, are debated and resisted.

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