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Searching for Belonging – An Analytical Framework

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Abstract

Belonging is a notion both vaguely defined and ill-theorized. Scholars in various social disciplines often take this notion for granted, as if its meaning is somewhat self-explanatory. Others tend to equate it with the notion of identity, citizenship, or both. By relying on a critical reading of an extensive literature across academic disciplines, this study aims to offer an analytical framework for the study of belonging. I argue that belonging should be analyzed both as a personal, intimate, feeling of being ‘at home’ in a place (place-belongingness) and as a discursive resource that constructs, claims, justifies, or resists forms of socio-spatial inclusion/exclusion (politics of belonging). The risk of focusing only on one of these two dimensions is to fall in the trap of either a socially de-contextualized individualism or an all-encompassing social(izing) discourse. The open question is whether the increasing cultural and ethnic diversification of contemporary societies can lead to the formation of communities of belonging beyond communities of identity.

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