Session 5: Belonging and the Need to Belong

Session 5: Belonging and the Need to Belong
Chair: Janette Edwards

Socio-cultural Belonging in Legal Limbo
Ana Bravo-Moreno
Department of Social Anthropology, University of Granada, Spain

This paper is concerned with two interrelated dynamics, the formation of identities and the shaping of those identities by structural powers and colonial discourses in Madrid and in Miami where there is an important presence of Latin-American immigrants. It examines how the forces of colonial discourses continue to operate ideologically to legitimate hierarchies of difference in both countries.
The paper attempts to draft a conceptual approach that relates concepts of citizenship, socio-cultural belonging, legal and political exclusion and other forms of inequality to the attention and expose how these differences have been linked. These divisions are invariably intersected with others organised along culturally and politically constructed lines of difference the most pertinent in the contexts of the USA & Spain being those of national origin, processes of racialisation and gender.
A conflation of factors shape the structure of power, which in turn help the legislators of immigration policies determine a variety of social relations including who is permitted to enter the country, what family members can be reunited with their families and what niche in the labour market they will occupy. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to bring the articulations of inequality more clearly into view and to comprehend the socio-cultural, political and legal construction of difference. Moreover to illustrate how the local, national and trans-national interact and bring out the tensions of identity formations historically situated.

Download Draft Conference Paper – pdf

Ariel Dorfman Writes Home: Literary Citizenship and Transnational Belonging
Jonathan Rollins
Department of English, and Arts & Contemporary Studies, Ryerson University, Canada

In a conversation I had last week with Chilean writer-in-exile Ariel Dorfman, he declared that “home” is multiple, and potentially anywhere. He also mused that this must be the case for many if not most writers, and not simply for those writing so-called exile and immigrant literature.  Dorfman, whose own life has been characterized by a kind of serial exile, suggested  that we belong to multiple overlapping communities, and that where they meet, where we are most comfortable or a sense of belonging in those overlapping spaces – that’s where “home” is. Moreover, those home-places aren’t necessarily physical. While home for Dorfman has alternately been Argentina, Chile, the Netherlands, and the United States, it has also been constituted as a transnational place located in the texts that he has read and written. These various textual homelands – portable, pocket-sized patrias – which I discuss under the aegis of textual or intertextual communities, provide a sense of belonging to individual readers and writers and transgress or defy the physical limits of national borders.
Using the transcript of my interview with Dorfman, in conjunction with an analysis of his memoir Heading South, Looking North: A Bilingual Journey (1998) and his recent documentary A Promise to the Dead(2007), I explore the hypothesis that texts read and written by displaced individuals often function as surrogate homelands. These texts may include but are not limited to narrative attempts to reconstitute the lost home. This paper also examines the relationship between nationally and textually oriented identities and allegiances. In A Promise to the Dead, for example, one can see Dorfman’s loyalties shift from patria to the printed word as he describes the consequences of Chile’s critical reception of his play Death and the Maiden. I argue that text and textual communities are a critical part of the answer to many of the question posed in the call for papers regarding post-national realities and transnational cultural interlacing.

Download Conference Paper – PDF

Longing and Belonging in Real Time: How Chagossian Children in Mauritius See Themselves and the Chagos Islands
Sandra J.T.M. Evers
Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, VU University Amsterdam. The Netherlands

This paper focusses on how Chagossian children attending primary school integrate their current living conditions in Port Louis with their perceptions of their ancestral homeland. Since their forced expulsion from the Chagos archipelago, Chagossians have been engaged in a campaign advocating their right of return, largely driven by high profile litigation before the British Courts. However, due to the length of their exile, the displaced generation may never see the day of the longed-for homecoming. The memory of the past and the dream to return has now been transmitted through two generations to the grandchildren of those forced to relocate. This paper discusses perceptions and representations of these children by using reflexive drawing techniques and other methodologies. These ideas will be measured against their integration into present-day Mauritian society, and how they see themselves in relation to their peers from other ethnic origins. The study examines these findings within the practical framework of day-to-day survival and hopes for the future entertained by the children.

Created Kin – New Support Networks for HIV Positive Children in Tanzania
Marguerite Daniel
Research Centre for Health Promotion Christiesgt. 13 5015 Bergen Norway

HIV positive children may experience debilitating stigma and discrimination at school and in their neighbourhoods. In some cases their own mothers add to their burden of shame. This paper explores support networks for HIV positive children in Tanzania.
The study uses the concept of resilience as the broad theoretical framework and examines how a new support network – an NGO providing medical, material and psychosocial support –  strengthens  the children’s perceived closeness and competence and enhances their ability to cope with adversity.
In-depth, qualitative research with HIV positive children in Iringa, Tanzania, explored possible close relationships and networks to which the children had access. Extended family and kinship networks have been undermined by death but are still operational to some extent. In families affected by HIV/AIDS, children suffer severe stress due to poverty and economic hardship, their parent’s and their own illness, stigma from the community, relatives and even their own mothers. Such children face isolation and rejection.
The participating children described the NGO’s monthly session of psychosocial support as a two-hour haven of recognition and inclusion. Although the milieu is hardly conducive to sharing confidences (classroom setting, more than forty children, age range of 2 to 18, etc.) they experienced a greater sense of acceptance and belonging with other children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS than in their own families. Created kin were perceived to be more supportive than extended family.

Download Draft Conference Paper – pdf